The Arthur Hills Course At Boyne Highlands Review
The Arthur Hills Course At Boyne Highlands
Teacher’s Comments: Imaginative Design; Terrific Conditions
I have seldom played a golf course with as much creativity in its design as The Arthur Hills Course At Boyne Highlands. The holes are so varied; the problems so interesting that I think I could play this course a dozen times in a row and not get bored. Once finished, I immediately wanted to play it again.
To be fair, architect Arthur Hills had a remarkable canvas upon which to paint his masterpiece. The topography is rolling, with forest, expanses of sandy soil, marsh, and water. With many hundreds (thousands?) of acres at his disposal, Hills surely felt unrestrained.
One measure of the creativity in Hills’ design is that the course is one of those rare par 73s. There are five par 5s: two on the front, and three on the back.
My reaction on the first hole was “this is interesting.” A large sandy waste on the right seems to create a tight landing area off the tee, but is largely an illusion. There is plenty of room on the left.
As I often do, I hooked the ball on the first shot. Fortunately, there is enough room that I was just off the fairway.
It seemed like a solid start to the day.
The second flipped that script, with a sandy expanse on the left. Again, while it looks pinched, there’s more than enough room on the right. The green is slightly elevated, and pinched between two bunkers.
By the third, I was hooked on the design, with what might be my favorite hole on a course with eighteen outstanding holes. This 541 yard par 5 has a massive landing zone to the left of the sand, From there, the fairway hooks around a large hundred yard long bunker on the left side like a question mark. The landing spot for a second shot is also receptive.
Starting at around 100 to the green, the fairway pinches to a narrow stripe between three bunkers. Hills makes that third shot a nailbiter. One of those bunkers is between the player and the skinny green.
The first three holes all were emblematic of the entire layout. Holes get tougher the closer you get to the green. Nearly every tee shot gives a player confidence that they can get the ball into play — if you can get past what often is a seemingly dire but usually illusionary threat.
On the other hand, approaches are tough — even when the fronts of the greens are open.
Then, just when I thought I had seen the sort of thing Hills was going to offer, the fourth unveiled itself. An open expanse, with sandy waste in front, a pond to the left, and mounding on the right.
The back nine becomes slightly hillier, climbing a bit to the thirteenth. The twelfth was a favorite on this nine. There’s a large bunker on the left that threatens the tee shot, but it’s easy enough to avoid. From the landing zones, however, the hole rises while tightening.
The green is long and narrow, with two large bunkers on the right hand side.
No discussion of the Hills can be complete without mentioning the spectacular thirteenth. Measuring 570 yards from the tips, it starts from the top of a mountain, then dives precipitously downward, bending left all the while to the green.
The view is easily worth half the price of admission.
Am I gushing? Yes, I am.
From the tips, the Hills stretches to 7, 312 yards and plays to a 75.4/144. The Blue tees, which I played from are in at 6, 127 yards and play to a 69.3/128. In all, the Hills has six tees, at 7, 312 / 6, 919 / 6, 352 / 6, 127 / 5, 615 / 4, 811 yards.
As with all of the Boyne Courses, the tees are in “non-traditional” colors: Brown, Purple, Orange, Blue, Green and Silver. The purpose is to keep players from just heading to the tees that are the same color as their home course. Instead, the hope is that player will take a serious look at the scorecards to determine the best tee to play.
With the Hills, I’d suggest playing a tee shorter than your usual yardage. This is a difficult course.
Conditions on the day I played The Arthur Hills Course were terrific. There was some wilting in places from a recent heat wave, but a good night and day’s rain would rectify that. As I was playing early in the morning, I saw the care with which the crews were treating the course.
Another note about the employees. Boyne’s employees — from the pro shop to the bag kids to the grounds crews to the rangers — are among the friendliest and most helpful I have ever encountered. They didn’t know me from Adam — I don’t have golf writer tattooed on my head — but treated me as though I were a rock star.
The one negative to the course is that it’s not walkable. Or to be more precise, one hole makes it unwalkable: the 13th. I would be fine on foot until I got to the path after 12, when the path heads straight up a mountain.
What I’d love — and it’s totally economically unfeasible — is for there to be “a guy” there after 12 to take me up. Since it’s also a ski resort, maybe they could install a lift. Again. Unfeasible. Or perhaps there could be a rope tow that would pull the push cart up while players walked along side. Can’t see that either.
Of the ten courses on the Boyne properties in Northern Michigan, I think this just might be my favorite. I am certain that it is in the conversation for a top ten course in Michigan. Still, my memory of Robert Trent Jones’ The Heather at Boyne Highlands looms large. It’s hard to choose. I’ll have to play each a couple of times more to make that decision.
The Hills Golf Course Review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on July 20, 2020 from a round played July 2020. You can find all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course Reviews at the link.
A photo tour of The Arthur Hills Golf Course at Boyne Highlands follows: