Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course Review – Boyne Highlands

Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course Review
A view from the fairway on the eighteenth at the Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands

Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course Review

The Donald Ross Memorial Course At Boyne Highlands
Grade: A
Teacher’s Comments: Not just a “greatest hits” course, but one that stands on its own.

I have never thought much of the idea of a “tribute course.” A collection of eighteen holes assembled from other courses — however great — strikes me as contrived, at best. I envisioned tribute courses as the golf equivalent of a “Greatest Hits” collection for a band known for its concept albums. Individually, each of the songs are fine, but are diminished without the surrounding tunes.

That turns out not to be the case at all with The Ross Memorial Course at Boyne Highlands. The Donald Ross Memorial stands on its own, and would be an excellent golf course even without the Ross connection. Architect Bill Newcomb did a terrific job of combing through Ross’ vast catalog of holes (400 courses x 18 holes = 7, 200 to pick from) to find ones which fit the Northern Michigan landscape. Just as importantly, Newcomb’s selections flow naturally from one to the other, creating a seamless and unified whole.

I have played just one of the courses whose holes are emulated at the Ross Memorial: Oakland Hills. That legendary club has two holes represented: The Memorial’s third mimics Oakland Hills’ seventeenth; the finishing hole at the Donald Ross Memorial channels Oakland Hills’ sixteenth.

You can see in the photo below how the bunker placements and curve of the green are similar. The rock facing on the pond at Oakland Hills is a more recent development, coming after the Boyne Highlands’ course was constructed.

A view of the green at the sixteenth at Oakland Hills South. Compare this to the photo at top of the finishing hole at Boyne Highlands’ eighteenth.

Comparing the photos for Oakland Hills’ sixteenth, and the Donald Ross Memorial’s third, you can also see the resemblance. The difference in perspective distorts the image somewhat (at Oakland Hills, we were playing the brutal championship tees ahead of the US Amateur), but the similarity is there. Slight visual differences in the bunkers can be accounted for in this, and also in that both courses naturally have change over the years.  It is also worth noting, however, that in general, while the Ross Memorial holes are quite similar, they are not slavishly identical.

The seventeenth at Oakland Hills South is a 237 yard par 3.
The third at Boyne Highlands’ Ross Memorial is a 196 yard par 3 emulating the seventeenth at Oakland Hills.

From the back tees, the Ross Memorial Course at Boyne Highlands stretches to 6, 814 yards and plays at a 73.9/143. I played the middle tees, at 6, 233 yards and 71.1/136. In all, the Ross Memorial has five tees: Brown, Purple, Orange, Green and Silver. The unusual tee colors are deliberate. The feeling at Boyne Highlands is that without the “stigma” of playing from Blues, Whites and Reds, players will more likely play from an appropriate yardage. On a similar note, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in South Carolina uses species of ducks to mark the tees.

The eleventh at the Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands is a 339 yard par 4 that channels the thirteenth at Salem Country Club.

My favorite hole was the 339 yard par four eleventh. Emulating the thirteenth at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massachusetts, it  is a dogleg right that turns slightly downward before heading back up again to the green. That green complex is notable because Ross said it was the finest he had ever designed. A bunker on the inside right is 180 from the tee. On the first shot, players must decide how much to cut off the dogleg to shorten the hole, while avoiding that trap.

There are, however, eighteen really good holes here. That is as you would expect, given that each of the holes has been specifically selected from the catalog of holes from the legendary Donald Ross. The courses from which the Donald Ross Memorial borrows 14 US Opens, 11 PGA Championships, eight US Amateurs, and three Ryder Cups.

Conditions on the day I played were terrific — exactly what you would expect of a high-end resort course.

An nice amenity to the course (and indeed all of the Boyne Courses) is a specialized phone app, which offers a variety of services, including on-course GPS and a really nice 3D hole flyover function. Play the flyover before teeing off on each hole the first time you play. It will put your mind at ease over any potentially unseen pitfalls. The app also has scoring, weather, tee times and other useful information.

The Donald Ross Memorial is one of ten courses belonging to the Boyne Resorts, which include Bay Harbor, The Heather, The Moor, The Alpine, The Monument and Crooked Tree Golf Course Review (reviews at the links).

“Ross Cottages” along the edges of the couse are the perfect place for a stay-and-play.

Boyne’s ten courses are spread across three properties (Bay Harbor, Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain) within a short drive of one another. The resort actually offers transportation between the resorts. With tons of lodging and food options, Boyne would be an ideal stop for a golf trip. While time is running a bit short now (although there still are some great fall options), you should start planning next summer’s buddy or family trip now. Boyne’s Director of Golf Sales and Marketing, Ken Griffin explained some of the golf-lodging-food-recreation options that had me scratching my head as to how Boyne actually manages to turn a profit. One item for avid golfers to put on their activity list is a trip to the Boyne Golf Center’s Gears facility. There, the tour-and-manufacturer-grade body tracking system combined with a Trackman system can help to fine tune the contents of your bag, or offer a fix for a long-standing issue. Prices again seemed quite reasonable, even for this school teacher.

In addition to golf, Boyne has tennis, fishing, hiking, biking, zip lines, carriage rides, spas and other great things to do. Northern Michigan also has other things on the agenda such as wine tours, excellent dining, boating and other lake activities. It would be very easy to convince the family to take an adventurous trip to Northern Michigan as cover for a series of golf outings.

The Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course Review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on September 21, 2017 from a round played in September 2017.

More photos and a Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course Review Tour follow:

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