Sanctuary Lake Golf Course
Sanctuary Lake Golf Course
Teacher’s Comments: An average muni, with confusing routing.
Sanctuary Lake is one of two municipal courses managed by the City of Troy, Michigan (the other is Sylvan Glen). Built on a former landfill, Sanctuary Lake is largely treeless and from a height looks an awful lot like a links course.
However, while the course looks like a links, the “heather” turns out to be marsh grasses. The ground — rather than playing hard-and-fast — is as soft as one would expect from a course built on marshland.
The centerpiece of the course is what presumably was the apex of the landfill’s trash mountain. The summit serves as the teeing ground for both the first and tenth holes. The sixth and eleventh play back up the hill. Par three shots on the seventh and twelfth tee off from the trash mountain’s sides.
It is worth noting at this point that other than the hill, there are no obvious signs of Sanctuary Lake’s landfill roots. The Woodlands of Van Buren Golf Course in Wayne County is much more evidently a landfill course, with an active and highly visible trash mountain in the immediate background.
Sanctuary Lake does, however have a weird vista of the tops of lights from a nearby athletic field.
Mount Trashmore aside, Sanctuary Lake’s most prominent features are mounding and marsh. In tight layout, architect Douglas Treadwell skillfully used those mounds in lieu of trees to separate and delineate the holes. The bogey golfer will find a challenge in balls that skip off the mounds down the fairways into difficult lies.
Marsh and water offers another challenge at Sanctuary Lake. Several holes require carries over marshy areas or lakes. Deep marsh grasses, including large patches of phragmites — an invasive species — will nonchalantly swallow balls.
Sanctuary Lake is a relatively short, tight layout. From the tips, it stretches to 6, 554 yards and plays to a 71.9/133. The blue tees come in at 6, 123 yards and a 69.6/127. The whites measure 5, 341 and play at 65.7/111.
The tight layout created a somewhat confusing routing. To get from the first to the second, players are routed past the sixth, fifth and seventeenth. Going from the third to the fourth requires going around the seventeenth. From fifteen to sixteen players will pass the second green and the third tee box. And so on. I was unclear on a couple of occasions which path I should take to the next hole. I’m not even certain that I would get it right on a second playing.
The trash mountain and the bizarre routing make walking here a non starter. The first hole is a significant distance from the clubhouse.
My favorite hole at Sanctuary Lake was the short par 4 seventeenth. Mounding conceals the green and reveals only a sliver of the fairway some 200 yards distant. If you hit the right spot on that fairway, there’s a decent chance that the ball will kick right down to the green (with an assist from the cart path that weirdly separates the fairway from green. There’s no real strategy here — just target golf — but the potential thrill of putting for eagle on a par four is real.
Conditions on the day I played were just ok. Several areas were marked as unplayable, and the fairways were unevenly cared-for. On a couple of holes, the carry areas beyond the tees were so overgrown that I had no idea what I was aiming at … or even if there was a fairway there to hit.
If Sanctuary Lake was my local muni, I would not object to playing whenever I could get a deal. Ultimately, though, I can’t see making a return trip.
The Sanctuary Lake Golf Course Review was published January 6, 2020 from notes and photos take on a round in the summer of 2019.
A Sanctuary Lake Golf Course Gallery Tour follows: