New Tee Boxes At Washtenaw

A new tee box on the second hole at Washtenaw Golf Club.

New Tee Boxes At Washtenaw

Added Length Should Bring Championships, While Forward Tees Welcome Casual Players

My home course, Washtenaw Golf Club, is adding some new tee boxes, both to make the game more accessible for shorter hitters, and to challenge the longer.

Washtenaw Golf Club, which dates to 1899, comes in at just over 6, 500 yards in its current regular configuration. Bedeviling greens and surrounding bunkers have always been Washtenaw’s primary defense, but the added length will give the old course some added punch.

A new, longer tee box on the seventh hole at Washtenaw.

Owner Dave Kendall, a Michigan Golf Hall of Famer, says that the new tees are not intended for everyday play, but for championships and top competition.

I’m glad. From the current back tees, the course can play hard enough as it is, especially if the prevailing winds are up. Some of the course’s hardest holes are usually directly into the wind; and there nearly always seems to be wind.

Still, Washtenaw has a lot of highly skilled players as regulars, including US Amateur Champion and LIV golfer James Piot and Donnie Trosper, who has played PGA TOUR events. They may appreciate the additional yardage.

The new tee box on the par four second at Washtenaw under construction.

The new tee boxes, as well as the restoration of the course to its classic 1920s lines is being supervised by noted architect Ray Hearn. The longer tees are currently on the second, fifth and seventh holes. A new two-tiered tee is being constructed on the fourth. Additional tee boxes are planned in the near future. Work also is being done to flatten and improve existing boxes.

With the new tee boxes, I think the Golf Association of Michigan could make a nod to history by awarding Washtenaw the Michigan Amateur in 2027. That would be the 100th anniversary of the last playing of the championship at Washtenaw Country Club. The 1927 Michigan Amateur was won by Ann Arbor’s John Malloy.

I think Washtenaw offers a great design for match play.

Construction of a new tee box on the fifth at Washtenaw.

Or how about a Michigan Open?

The 1955 Michigan Open was held at Washtenaw and featured three professional Major Championship Winners: Horton Smith, Chick Harbert and Wally Burkemo. So were Future Michigan Golf Hall of Famers Chuck Kocsis, Al Waltrous and John Barnum.The Michigan PGA could commemorate the seventieth anniversary of that tournament (and that fascinating confluence of talent) by scheduling its premier championship at Washtenaw in 2025.

Washtenaw is one of the founding members of the “Michigan State Golf League,” the first Michigan state golf association. That league ran the Michigan Open from at least 1906 to 1944.

Bringing the Michigan Open back to Washtenaw would be a grand gesture.

A new forward tee box on the first hole at Washtenaw.

Washtenaw’s new tees are not all about championship level players, though. In addition to the tees adding length, Washtenaw also is building some new forward tee boxes.

On the first hole, a new tee box has been installed some 200 yards from the hole. Others are planned.

Since 2020, Washtenaw has experimented with more forward tees in flat spots in the fairway to make the course friendly to shorter hitters. Until now, the spots have been more “teeing grounds” than formal tee boxes. The experiment must be working,

Washtenaw Golf Club owner Dave Kendall (a Michigan Golf Hall of Famer) said that the suggestion for the new grounds came from his wife. She noticed that while male players can move to more forward tees to compensate for distance loss, women typically don’t have that option. If you were playing the forward tees at age 25, you were still playing the same tees at age 55 thirty years later.

The most forward tees appear popular with juniors, especially those out with their families.

A side view of the new tee box on the first at Washtenaw.

Building and maintaining new tee boxes isn’t cheap. In addition to the materials and labor, a new tee box is an ongoing expense; it requires more care than surrounding areas.

Still, I think more forward tees offer a number of benefits.

First, they can make a round more enjoyable for shorter hitting players. Having to hit three shots to get to every par four — or needing to play a driver followed by a wood or long iron — is frustrating and drives up scores. It also slows play.

Shorter hitters, especially juniors and women, need to be encouraged to enjoy a course.

There’s also the psychological effect on men. If there are just three tees — as many courses have — male players will gravitate to the middle tees, ignoring the yardage, slope and rating on the card. Add a fourth and fifth tee, however, and male golfers can play it a little more forward without the testosterone fueled “embarrassment” of playing from the “women’s” or “old man’s” tees. That will increase their enjoyment and speed up play.

One of the best things about having a regular home course to play is that I can observe how a golf course changes — not just with the seasons — but over the years. That helps me to better understand and appreciate the courses I might visit just once or twice as I work on my Michigan golf course reviews. I’ll be paying close attention to the continuing evolution of Washtenaw Golf Club.

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