Rackham Golf Course Review
Rackham Golf Course
Huntington Woods, Michigan
Teachers’ Comments: A sad shell of a classic Donald Ross course. Extra points for historical significance.
Rackham is one of four courses owned by the city of Detroit, although it weirdly is not in Detroit itself. Rather, Rackham is located in Huntington Woods, two miles north of the border, next to the similarly oddly situated Detroit Zoo.
Rackham is a Donald Ross design that was built in 1923 on land donated by Horace Rackham. Throughout its history, Rackham was one of a few courses open to play by African Americans. Boxer Joe Louis was a regular, and course golf pro Ben Davis was the first African American member of the Michigan PGA.
Unfortunately, only a little more than half of Ross’ design remains. Parts of the course were commandeered for the construction of I-696 in 1983. The back nine is apparently as Ross intended, but on the front, only the seventh and ninth remain untouched.
The amazing Albert Kahn – designed clubhouse, however, is still there. Kahn, known as the “Architect of Detroit” designed many of the city’s iconic buildings and factories, including the beautiful 18 story art-deco Fisher Building. Unfortunately, the clubhouse also had seen its better days.
Rackham is tightly packed on a flat piece of land with lots of straightforward holes running in parallel. It is frankly not particularly interesting. The one saving grace for me was the positioning of fairway bunkers on twelve of the eighteen holes. These bunkers offered something to think about on holes with otherwise were simply hit-it-as-far-as-you-can-then-hit-it-again affairs. Sixteen of the greens were hemmed in by bunkers of varying sizes, shapes and placement. Thankfully, the fronts to all of the greens were open, allowing me to play my usual pitch-and-putt game on shots which fell short (I play to be short, rather than long, right or left.).
I would be very interested in seeing how Donald Ross’ original design compares to Rackham’s current state.
My favorite hole was the par four fifteenth. Measuring 387 yards, it is a dogleg left that plays ever so slightly uphill from the tee to the midpoint. The tee shot could be characterized as blind, thanks to the slight rise and scrub pines on the left. An out-of-place trap is situated not terribly far from the tee box on the left. I doubt that anyone falls afoul of the trap, but it does make a godo aim point for the drive. Hit it over the trap.
From the midpoint, the fifteenth falls slightly downhill to the foot of a large mound upon which the green is perched. A huge bunker is to the right of that mound. Smaller sand traps are to the left and center of the green’s mound.
Conditions on the day I played (and on other playings) were substandard, even for a muni. While not even close to the worst I’ve seen in Southeastern Michigan, it was still enough to give me pause. Management company Vargo needs to invest in some grounds keeping, and perhaps they have since I last played.
The Rackham Golf Course Review was first published February 7, 2018 from notes taken on a round played in the spring of 2017. Please leave your comments on current conditions below.
More photos follow. I apologize for not having photos of every hole, or of course conditions. My SD card failed and these were all I was able to recover.