Timberstone Golf Course Review

Timberstone Hole 14, a 384 yard par 4
Timberstone Hole 14, a 384 yard par 4

Timberstone Golf Course
Iron Mountain, Michigan
Grade: A
Teacher’s Comments: Interesting, well-kept and beautiful

I played Timberstone Golf Course in a steady, if not driving, rain. It was so wet that at the turn, I ran back to my car to get another pair of “waterproof” shoes, more towels and another rain jacket.

When I finished, the cart boy just shook his head and said “Man, you are a warrior.”

What he really meant to say was “you are an idiot, and I can’t believe I had to wait here while you — the only person on the course — finished.”

It is a measure of just how good Timberstone is that — in spite of the physical misery — I thoroughly enjoyed my round and would love to give it another go.

Timberstone Hole 6, a 414 yard par 4
Timberstone Hole 6, a 414 yard par 4

Timberstone is a classic “Up North” Michigan golf course. It is cut through impressive stands of trees; has significant, but not overwhelming elevation changes; runs past the occasional marsh and; exudes a sense of isolation and serenity. The fairways are generous; the layout challenging but fair, provided it’s played from the correct tees.

Designed by popular Michigan architect Jerry Matthews, Timberstone stretches to 6,938 yards and plays to a 74.5/150. If that’s beyond your capabilities (and for most mere mortals it is), do not despair. Timberstone has six sets of tees, with a middle tee measuring 6,038 and playing to a 69.6/137. A little ahead of that is a tee that measures 5,836. Either of these will work well for the weekender who typically scores (honestly) in the 90s.

Timberstone is just one of two Jerry Matthews courses outside of the lower Michigan peninsula. A story told by course pro Joe Rizzo is that when Matthews first arrived to scout the site, he trudged into the woods with the owner, expecting to find clearings around which to lay out the course. Instead, all he saw were trees, rocks, trees, rocks and more trees. Matthews apparently balked, thinking that the cost would be prohibitive, but was assured that cost was not an obstacle.

It is fortunate for golfers that ownership decided to go ahead with the project. The trees stand as walls guarding the edges of the fairways. Tons of rock are incorporated into paths, retaining walls, “dry” ravine beds and so on. It is a very beautiful course — and in rain, haunting.

The first at Timberstone, a 359 yard par 4
The first at Timberstone, a 359 yard par 4

I find it hard to think of a favorite hole on the course because I really enjoyed all of them. The first is a perfect opening hole, measuring 339 from the middle tees, with a generous landing area to the right. The hole then dips down, affording most players the opportunity to use a short iron and start the day on a high note. The eighteenth is a 521 yard (from the middle) par 5 that races downhill like a ski slope, broken only by a terrace in the middle to make a player ponder a layup of sorts. It’s a great hole to end on, forcing players to think of either going for the gusto to improve on a score, or playing with caution to preserve one.

All things considered, though, I think my favorite was the par 5 third. Measuring 455 from the middle tees and 506 from the tips, it starts on an elevated tee, dips down, and then climbs gracefully back up to a plateau green. The fairway narrows to a small strip in front of the green, so the uphill final shot needs to be precise.

An interesting feature of the course is the huge double green for the ninth and eighteenth holes. Both are downhill rides from the tee box. The ninth is a 405 yard par 4; the eighteenth is a 521 yard par 5.

Conditions on the day I visited were very good, considering the persistent rain. Fairways and greens were lush and the tee boxes were in good shape. Everything was wet, but standing water was present only in a couple of spots. Just one of the greens had puddles. In all, I found that pretty amazing, considering the volume of water falling from the sky.

Timberstone is with a doubt in the GolfBlogger’s Top Ten In Michigan List.

Pastie From Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

One last note before signing off. If you have never been to the upper reaches of Michigan, you owe it to yourself to sample the local dish, which is called a pastie (pronounced PAST-EE). It’s a Cornish style meat and potato pie which reportedly served as a handy all-in-one meal for miners in the area.

The clubhouse staff at Timberstone recommended Jean Kay’s in Iron Mountain for my first foray into the pies. It was delicious.

The Timberstone Golf Course Review was first published July 21, 2015.

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