LochenHeath Golf Course Review
LochenHeath Golf Course
Teachers’ Comments: A top tier Northern Michigan golf course.
LochenHeath has a bit of a checkered history since it was founded in 2001. It has been private, semi-private and public. It has been in and out of bankruptcy. As of 2021, LochenHeath is once again making the transition to a private course.
What has not changed is the exceptional property over which Lochenheath is routed. Once a 300 acre cherry orchard, LochenHeath has many challenging elevation changes and some terrific views of Grand Traverse Bay.
LochenHeath bills itself as a “Scottish style links” course, and in the sense that it’s mostly open with lots of native grasses, there is some resemblance. But it really doesn’t look like any links course I’ve seen in photographs. The course also deviates with its bent grass fairways, rather than using fescue which would run firm and fast.
As an aside, I can never understand why courses feel the need to make such tenuous comparisons. In other parts of Michigan, courses billed as “links” would more properly be called “prairie courses.” And among the several Northern Michigan courses on heights overlooking Lake Michigan “lakeshore” or “headlands” is a more apt description.
Own your identity. Don’t try to be someone else.
LochenHeath was designed by Steve Smyers, an architect perhaps better known for his extensive work in Florida. Taking full advantage of the terrain, Smyers’ routing offers significant elevation changes on nearly every hole, as well as views of the bay on fourteen of the eighteen.
Playing from the middle tees, I had no trouble finding good spots on the fairways. I actually don’t think I missed a fairway all day long. The second and third shots, however, ratcheted up the difficulty. The greens are large, but generally well protected, and often elevated.
The par five tenth is a prime example. From the tee, it plays uphill, but has a wide landing area that should be hard to miss. The second shot plays over a crestline and down a vale pinched on two sides by trees. Finally, players are faced with a severe uphill shot to a green protected left and right by steep sided bunkers.
If you hit the front side of the green (as I did), there’s a very good chance your ball will roll all the way back down the hill (as mine did). A long shot will end up in a collection area behind the green.
The par four ninth is another good example. With a severe downhill tee shot, there’s lots of room for a landing.
The green, however, is angled away from the fairway, and protected by a moonscape of bunkers on the right, and a massive bunker on the left.
My favorite hole was the par four fourth. It’s one of the few relatively flat holes on the course, but had a really neat organic feel, as the fairway snaked left around a massive fairway bunker, then back right around another massive bunker leading to the green.
From the tee, the two bunkers create the illusion of an exceptionally narrow landing area. However, like most of the holes at LochenHeath, there is plenty of room. It’s the second shot that offers all the difficulty.
From the back tees, LochenHeath boasts an impressive 7, 239 yards, and plays to a 76.6/147. The middle tees are at 6, 024, with a rating and slope of 70/137. In all, there are five sets of tees, at 7, 239 / 6, 770 / 6. 319 / 6, 024 / 5, 219.
Conditions on the day I played were excellent save for on one hole, where the fairway had inexplicably been savaged. There also was a stretch of holes starting with eleven that played through a desolate area that was clearly intended for a housing development. Stakes in the ground, abandoned hookups, and what looked like utility roads detracted from the pleasant feel of the rest of the course.
Now that LochenHeath has gone private, opportunities for ordinary golfers such as myself to play likely are few and far between. If you get a chance, though, don’t hesitate. While it is oversold as a “links course,” LochenHeath stands up well on its own as a good example of Northern Michigan lakeshore golf.
The LochenHeath golf course review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on February 2, 2020 from notes and photos taken on a round played July 24, 2020. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course Reviews, follow the link.
A photo tour of LochenHeath follows: