Playing An Alister MacKenzie Course

A view of University of Michigan Golf Course’s 18th.

Yesterday, I got out to play the University of Michigan Golf Course, which is an Alister MacKenzie design dating to 1930.

It is a wonderful course that was recently ranked number one in the Detroit Metro area by the Detroit Free Press. I have some quibbles with their other choices, but the University’s Mackenzie is undoubtedly in the conversation for the best in the area.

Depending upon the source, MacKenzie either gets full credit for the original design, or is co-credited with Perry Maxwell. The University of Michigan course was laid out about the same time as the pair were working on Crystal Downs (located near Frankfort, Michigan), which is consistently rated as one of the top courses in the world.

If there are any Crystal Downs members reading this, I’ve never played, and would love an invite. It’s on my bucket list.

Mackenzie also is credited for the original designs of — among others — Augusta National, Pasatiempo, Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne.

The University Course is on hilly terrain of which Mackenzie took full advantage in his routing. The first hole is flat; after that, it becomes a roller coaster ride. Every other hole has elevation changes. While the course is not too long by modern standards at 6, 730 yards, the elevation changes make constant club selection assessments necessary.

A view of the University of Michigan Golf Course’s third hole.

Visually, the University of Michigan’s course is quite beautiful. The University has done a great job of mixing in areas of natural grasses with the fairways. Trees lining the fairways are kept in check; white flashings of sand mark the edges of hills and greens.

The sixth at the University of Michigan course.

Perhaps the most talked-about hole on the course is the sixth, with its two-tiered, boomerang green. If your ball lands on the wrong tier of the green, there is practically no chance of two putting. Fortunately, the hole is short enough that the second shot likely is a wedge.

The final hole (photo at top) also gets a lot of press, because of its spectacular view of the Ann Arbor skyline.

If you live in Southeast Michigan, the University course is a must-play. Students, Faculty, Alumni and their guests will pay $50 or less to play this outstanding design. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you can still play, but it gets expensive. An unaffiliated guest will pay $135 M-F, and $160 on the weekends. That is offset a bit by a welcome gift and concession stand voucher.

An alum, walking at twilight pays less than $30. That’s a steal.

Be aware that on home game weekends, the course — which is located directly across the street from the football stadium — is used for parking. As far as I’m concerned, using a MacKenzie for parking borders on the sacreligious, but they seem to be able to do it with little harm caused.

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