Radrick Farms Golf Course Review
Radrick Farms Golf Course
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Teacher’s Comments: Challenging and well kept. Pete Dye’s first 18 hole course design.
Radrick Farms is one of two golf courses maintained by the University of Michigan. Both are the work of legendary architects. The University course across from the stadium is an Alister Mackenzie design. Radrick Farms is the first 18 hole course designed by Pete (and Alice) Dye.
Located just outside of Ann Arbor, Radrick Farms is built on land donated to the University in 1957 by UM alumnus Frederick C. Matthaei. The property was named in honor of his sons, Konrad and Frederick. The donated land also encompasses the nearby Matthaei Botanical Gardens and other University natural areas.
While Radrick Farms is essentially a private course for University of Michigan employees, it is really not that difficult to find a way to play. University employees, retirees and staff are eligible for daily fee. Alumni and staff can purchase season passes. With the large number of eligible people in the Ann Arbor area, however, you likely can find someone to host you. Eligibility requirements at the link.
Radrick Farms has an interesting history. In the early 1960s, Michigan women’s golf coach Barbara Rotvig — a friend of Matthaei — was slated to design the course. Rotvig tragically died of cancer, however, and the University assigned landscape architect graduate student Bill Newcomb the job of routing 36 holes. As part of his project, Newcomb was tasked with making a list of possible architects for the project. Among others, Newcomb suggested Robert Trent Jones, Dick Wilson and Pete Dye.
Newcomb — who knew Dye through their amateur playing careers — suggested that University of Michigan President Harlan Hatcher play Dye’s nine-hole Indiana course. Hatcher was impressed and Dye was hired for the job. (Newcomb would go on to a career in architecture himself, as well as coaching the Michigan golf team).
Dye’s design for Radrick was completed in 1965, but the course was not actually finished until 1967.
Radrick Farms is by-and-large a parklands style course, although several of the holes are cut through outright forest. As the course is located in the Huron River watershed, it features quite a bit of elevation change. In fact, only two holes are really flat: the sixteenth and seventeenth along Fleming Creek on a flood plain.
Routing on the course is notable. Dye took advantage of every hill and dale to create challenge and interest. At the same time, he managed to keep the course walkable by having tees follow closely after the greens.
For example, the first rises up to a ridge. The second’s tee box is just a few yards away, plunging down from that ridge and then up another hill to a green. The third starts to the right of that green and heads back downhill again. The par three fourth starts just beyond the third green and runs up toward same ridge that holds the first green, second tee (and incidentally the sixth green, the seventh tee and eighth tee). And so on.
None of these “hills” and ridges are severe. It is just not in the topography. But Dye played what he had for all it was worth. The ninth, for example (pictured above), has a pretty steep downhill tee shot., as does the par three fifteenth.
From the tips, Radrick stretches to 6, 967 yards and is a tough 73.9/136. (the Maize tees). The Blue tees are 6, 442 and play 71.1/129. Silver comes in at 6, 253 and 70.3/128. The whites are at 5, 787, which for the men play at 68.3/124 and 74.4/135 for the women. Another set of tees is at 5, 241 yards.
This is a Pete Dye course. It is tough. Play it forward.
My favorite hole at Radrick is the 334 yard par four eighth. From an elevated tee, the fairway dips gently down, jogs left around a very large bunker, cuts back and then rises back up again to the green.
A straight path to the open front of the green goes directly over the fairway bunker, forcing players to either lay up or power on. It is unlikely that you’ll get to the green from the bunker — or from the rough around it.
The safer tee shot is to play left of the bunker, where there is plenty of space. That, however, means that the uphill shot into the green brings the left greenside bunker into play.
The eighth is all about what you want from your second shot.
As his career in golf architecture blossomed, Dye became famous for his use of railroad ties to shore up surfaces and just generally bedevil players. The fifth at Radrick (below) has ties supporting a hill behind the green.
Conditions on the several days I have played Radrick have been excellent. It is essentially a private club and limits traffic. That undoubtedly helps to keep the conditions well above average.
As a University of Michigan alumni, I have had my name on the waitlist for a membership at Radrick Farms for a number of years. It’s the sort of course that I would be happy to play every day of the week.
The Radrick Farms Golf Course review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on February 29, 2020 from notes and photos taken on a round in the spring of 2019. For more Michigan Golf Course Reviews, follow the link.
More photos from Radrick Farms follow: