Lake Forest Golf Course
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Overall Grade: B
Teacher’s Comments:This is a fun course, but too short and not particularly challenging from the whites. Even the bogey golfer should play the blues.
Lake Forest bills itself as a “championship quality” course—and indeed, it has hosted a couple of LPGA Futures Tour events. But if you’re a bogey golfer, don’t let that monicker scare you. Lake Forest is eminently playable—even by high handicappers.
Laid out across a former dairy farm, Lake Forest features about half the holes are prairie style, and the other half wooded. On two of the holes, you are required to take shots over swampy areas. The swamps are present on other holes, but shouldn’t come into play. With a number of large ponds, it’s quite a pretty course, especially on sunny days, with the light reflecting off of all that water.
The routing of the course leaves a bit to be desired. In the designer’s desire to have both 9 and 18 feed back to the clubhouse in parallel, he had to resort to a confusing layout. When you come off of eight, the first tee that you see turns out to be 16. New golfers to the course may very well unknowingly play this hole. If you follow the path past the fifth green, down a hill and back up again, you find another tee—the 18th. You have to go past that to get to nine.
That said, the 9th and 18th have a neat design feature. They run parallel, and for some length, the fairways are actually connected.
The course begins reasonably enough, with a wide open par 5 that meaures just 449 from the whites and 512 from the tips. A water hazard that runs the length of the right side will catch slicers. It’s a good warm up.
That’s followed by a short downhill par 3 (139 from the whites) and a reasonable par 4 at 376 from the whites. The challenge on the 349 yard par 4 fourth is a big tree in the middle of the fairway.
Then Lake Forest shortens appreciably (all of these distance are as measured from the whites). There’s a 273 yard downhill par 4, and a 280 yard uphill par 4. The other par 4s on the course also are relatively short. In fact, on the whole course, only two of the par 4s measure 375 or more.
Even for the bogey golfer, I think that the course would be more enjoyable from the back tees, where it plays to 6,265. It plays just 5933 from the whites. The rating and slope from the whites are 69.2/127; from the back tees, it’s a 70.8/129; from the tips, it’s 72.8/135.
The difficulty of Lake Forest lies in the strategically placed, bunkers, trees and water. On two of the holes, large trees force you to take your tee shot to either the left or right. On others, trees block the most reasonable path to the green, forcing a player to adhere to the dogleg as designed.
Bunkers are often found exactly where a slightly errant shot will land.
The most interesting hole on the course is the par four 12th, which requires two judicious, well played shots (photo on leftt, third from top). From the tee, you must carry a swamp and land on a narrow strip of land. A shot of 180 to 220 should be safe and offer a good chance at the green. Any longer or shorter and you risk being in the swamp. The second shot on that hole also must carry a swamp to the green. Too far left and you won’t carry the swamp. Go right and you’re in a bunker.
The most fun is the 495 yard par five 11th (fourth from top). Wide open at the tee, it quickly narrows through a line of trees, bending slightly right to the green. Your tee shot will be uphill, and then it’s back down to the green on shots two and three. Unless your tee shot is perfectly placed, the bend will prevent you from going for it in two. The hole gives me a real sense of speed and motion. I shot par both times I played.
Course conditions on the several occasions I have visited Lake Forest were good, but not excellent. The fairways had some brown patches, and there was a lot of hard, exposed dirt in the rough areas. The greens, however, were in top shape.
Course personnel are very friendly, from the girl behind the pro shop counter, to the starter and the rangers. In fact, I think I saw more of the rangers here than I have at any course in quite some time. It’s good to have rangers around—just their presence, I think, helps to speed things up.
Lake Forest also boasts a large practice facility, including a full-sized range, and practice greens. They have a pro on staff and seem to give a lot of lessons. They also run junior programs.
The clubhouse is built around a hundred year old farmhouse. It’s not fancy, but nice. I was surprised at how small and understocked the pro shop was, though. For a facility that hosts as many leagues, clinics, and lessons as it does, I would think that that the pro shop would have more in it.
Overall, I really enjoyed the course and would go back again with no hesitation. From the whites, it’s the perfect place for a fun outing with some friends, or to get your game back in shape. From the blues or blacks you’ll get more of a challenge.
The Lake Forest Golf Course Review was first published June 21, 2006