Shadow Ridge Golf Course Review

Seventeen at Shadow Ridge is a 396 yard par 4

Shadow Ridge Golf Course Review

Shadow Ridge Golf Course
Ionia, Michigan
Grade: C- / B
Teacher’s Comments: a Donald Ross with nine modern holes grafted on.

Originally known as the Ionia Country Club, Shadow Ridge boasts nine holes designed by Donald Ross. The Ross nine dates to 1916, during which time the master was working on a number of Michigan projects (Oakland Hills opened in 1918).

In 2019, the club bought the adjacent (although across a road) Rolling Hills golf club, bringing Shadow Ridge’s total to eighteen. A tunnel was built under the road to facilitate safe travel.

Seven at Shadow Ridge is a 415 yard par 4.

The front nine — Rolling Hills — is a 1975 Warner Bowen design. Bowen has done work on a number of courses in Michigan, including one of my favorites: Indian River Golf Club.

That said, the Rolling Hills nine is mostly unremarkable. Holes one through four take advantage of a nice little river valley for dramatic elevation changes. After that, it’s a straight back-and-forth affair across open fields.

That nine gets a C minus, avoiding the D only because of the opening set.

The sixteenth at Shadow Ridge is a 348 yard par 4.

The original Ross nine now is the “back nine” starting and ending at the clubhouse.

Overall, the back nine is a better piece of land for golf. The routing has elevation changes on every hole and often multiple changes. The fairways are tight and tree lined. I imagine that’s a later development. It likely was all very open when Ross laid it out.

One thing I’ve noticed about Ross’ routings is that they maximize the use of notable terrain features. At Shadow Ridge, the slope of a hill on the far side of of the property contains — in order — a green, a tee box, a green, a tee box, a green and another tee. A knob near the clubhouse enables a downhill par four, an uphill par three and a sharply downhill tee shot on a par five.

It is really a neat economy of design.

The twelfth at Shadow Ridge is a 453 yard par 5.

I’ve closed my eyes and tried to imagine other ways to do the routing on that nine — always to the worse. I’ve also imagined other ways to do the routing on the Rolling Hills nine and think it could have used the slope down to the river gorge more often.

The Ross nine was to me very interesting with its routing and thus gets a B.

The fourteenth at Shadow Ridge is a 360-yard par 4.

My favorite hole was the 360-yard par four fourteenth. It begins on the hill on the far side of the course, diving down to the midway point, then rising again to the green. Along its length, it has a slight dogleg right.

A view from the fairway on Shadow Ridge’s fourteenth

The green is on the hanging edge of a ride that curves around to encompass the uphill third green and elevated third tee. Shallow bunkers guard the right side of the green.

The fourteenth is one of those holes, though, where taking a chainsaw to a couple of trees would really improve the situation. Trees too close to the lines of play really impede the shot values.

Seventeen at Shadow Ridge is a 396 yard par 4

Another enjoyable hole was the par four seventeenth. This starts at the top of the far side hill, sloping down to a green with a steep downhill slope on the left.

A view of the green from the fairway on Shadow Ridge’s seventeenth

On the front nine, the highlight was the dogleg right par five fourth. That hole begins with a shot over the river. The right side of the second shot and approach abut a slight slope.

The fourth at Shadow Ridge is a 440 yard par 5.

Conditions on the day I played were good in some spots and poor in others. The Rolling Hills nine was at times dank, and at others, dry. The Ross nine could use some serious tree trimming. There were spots where I am convinced that lack of light created sparse fairways.

If I was taking a trip to Shadow Ridge, I’d see if I could make arrangements to play the Ross nine twice.

The Shadow Ridge golf course review was first published March 5, 2024 from notes and photos taken on a round played in the summer of 2023. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course Reviews (as well as golf course reviews from other states), follow the link.

A photo tour of Shadow Ridge Golf Course follows:


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