Teacher’s Comments: Management was inconsiderate. The routing strains credulity. But the course was fun.
I’m going to get my gripe with Timber Trace’s management out of the way right now. On the day I played, I was sent out onto the course with nary a mention that in two hours I would find myself in the middle of a shotgun start, league scramble. I was the first person out that morning, and was cruising along when all-of-a-sudden the course was buzzing with other carts, including groups clogging up the holes immediately ahead. Fortunately, I play fast enough that two hours in, I was on the fifteenth hole. If I was a slower player, or in a foursome, I might have had half a course to play behind a glacially slow scramble.
Timber Trace Hole 17: 142 yard par 3
When I took the photo above, in addition to the group putzing around on the green, there was another foursome waiting behind me. Management created an instant traffic jam with me in the middle of it.
In my mind, neglecting to mention the outing is a major management lapse. Someone should have mentioned it before I teed off.
The layout of Timber Trace is also one of the worst examples of a development course routing I have seen, with holes spread absurdly far apart to accommodate housing. Frequent cart rides down residential streets are necessary (at least they marked the route with yellow stripes), and twice the course requires a mile long cart ride to get to the next hole. The only saving grace is that the homes aren’t lining every inch of fairway. At no point did I feel as though I was going to put a ball through someone’s patio window.
The story I heard is that Timber Trace originally was designed as a 27 hole facility. One of the landowners, however, backed out of the sale and left the course in a disjointed mess. The four holes that are situated a mile away were supposed to be part of the third nine. Still, I am certain that the architects could have found space for four more-connected holes if not for the desire/need to sell home sites.
The ironic thing is that quite a bit of the project is still seems undeveloped some fifteen years after the course opened. That’s probably due to the a variety of factors related to Michigan’s fading economic prospects over the last decade. Pinckney, where the course is located, was particularly hit by the loss of a big pharma/tech company from Ann Arbor. A real estate agent from Pinckney I once talked to said that when Pfizer left Ann Arbor, that company essentially gave their employees cash to pack up immediately and sell their homes below market prices. That crashed the local real estate market (Pinckney was a bit of a bedroom community for Ann Arbor), left a lot of unused housing, stalled development projects, forced the closure of schools, left communities in a property tax bind and other related disasters.
The problem that I had with Timber Trace’s routing is that it seemed to me to be more than a little bit … disjointed.
All that aside, Timber Trace has a nice collection of holes. The fairways are generous and while there are trees on the edge, it is really a pretty wide open course. Some three dozen fairway bunkers seem designed only to catch the worst of shots. The terrain is gently rolling, so there are no significant up- or downhill shots, or severe lies. There are a couple of tee shots that need to clear a ravine and elevated tee boxes and greens. Even when elevated, the greens are accessible to a variety of shots. I played well there in large part because I could pitch shots to the open fronts of the greens.
The greens themselves are of moderate size, and not terribly hard to read. I putted well, too.
From the tips, Timber Trace stretches to 7,020 yards and plays to a 72.5/129. I played from the blue tees, which measured 6, 180, and played to a 69.4/129. I shot one of my best scores of the summer there with an 84.
My favorite hole was the very short par 4 eleventh. Measuring just 298 from the back tees, and 266 from the blue, it’s a hole that lets pretty much everyone leave the driver in the bag. The green is elevated, and protected by some fairly sinister bunkers to the front. The key to this hole is to decide what club you will want to use on the second shot to lob the ball over those bunkers. Once you’ve figured that one out, do the math and choose your club off the tee. A big hitter could drive the green, but that brings those bunkers into play. My feeling is that an attempt to get on the green in one could just as easily result in a couple of lost shots trying to get out of those bunkers.
The thirteenth, a 380 yard par 4, offers a similar strategic option. From the blues, it measures 292 yards. A driver is not necessarily everyone’s best option here. A decent 220 yard drive leaves what could be an awkward second shot. Figure out a good distance for a nine iron shot to the green, and then work backwards to the club you want to start with. I hit a six iron-nine iron combination.
Conditions on the day I played were good. The greens were very smooth, but segments of the fairways on more than a few of the holes didn’t look healthy.
I paid $40 for my round at Timber Trace, including the cart (the course is cart-mandatory, due to the distances between holes). That’s a pretty good price for a fun and well-kept course.
The Timber Trace Golf Course Review was first published August 27, 2015. More photos follow: