Lakes of the North Golf Course Review
Lakes of the North
Teachers’ Comments: Two starkly different nine produce an enjoyable eighteen.
The term “hidden gem” is clichéd and overused, but to my credit, I have used it just once in 12,000 articles on this site: describing Crooked Tree as Boyne’s Hidden Gem.
That said, Lakes of the North is a hidden gem. A thirty-minute drive from Gaylord, it is not quite in the middle of nowhere, but is at least adjacent to it. The odds of accidentally finding Lakes of the North are slim.
And yet, Lakes of the North is worth the drive.
As with many Michigan golf courses, Lakes of the North has two distinct nines. In this case, it is the result of two architects working some twenty years apart.
The original nine at Lakes of the North was designed by Bill Newcomb in 1968. As the course now is routed, the original nine is the back nine.
The Newcomb nine is a traditional parklands design, with back and forth holes separated by thin lines of trees. Ten through twelve here are very flat; the remainder are a little more hilly, with some interesting play, such as the downhill shots on thirteen and fourteen and the long uphill fifteenth.
That nine is pleasant, but not otherwise particularly memorable.
The new nine — the front nine — is a Jerry Matthews design that dates to the late 1980s. This nine is more woodlands-and-hills and often has the “wow” factor that golfers look for in Northern Michigan.
The opening hole on this nine is fine, but beginning with the second, it becomes special. I think this nine ranks among Matthews’ best.
My favorite hole on the course was the par four fifth. Beginning on an elevated tee, the fairway on this 343 yard hole dips down, tilts left and then rises again to a well-protected green.
I am curious as to why the course decided on the arrangement of the nines. After playing the Matthews nine, I found the Newcomb nine to be slightly disappointing in comparison. My preference would be to warm golfers up on the original nine and then have them walk away with fresh memories of the more exciting side.
This is not to say that the Newcomb nine is bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. But it just doesn’t leave the memorable impression of the Matthews nine.
From the back tees, Lakes of the North is a tough course, stretching to more than 7,000 yards and carrying a rating/slope of 74.4/139. I played the White/Gold tees and had a really good time.
Conditions on the day I played were very good. Tee boxes were in good shape, the fairways were lush and the greens smooth. They really know how to grow grass in Northern Michigan.
If you’re up to the Gaylord Golf Mecca and have played out the usual suspects, consider a side trip to Lakes of the North.
The Lakes of the North Golf Course Review was first published December 27, 2021, from notes and photos taken on a round played in the Summer of 2021. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course Reviews, follow the link.