I recently had the chance to play Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, site of the LPGA’s Volvik Championship. The course was set up for the Volvik Championship, with three inch rough and greens running at 11.5 on the Stimp meter.
The course is long, coming in at 7, 326 yards from the back tees. The LPGA players likely will play it between 6,100 and 6,500 yards, according to Travis Pointe PGA Pro Mike Areddy.
Architect Bill Newcomb (who has designed two of my favorite southern Michigan courses, The Medalist and Calderone) said that his goal was to create a course that “gives a comfortable look off the tee, but is challenging on the green.” That’s a good description of the feel of the course. The fairways are generous, and facings on the bunkers keep everything in front of the player. I was very confident the entire round from the tee, and from the fairway. Open fronts on nearly all the greens played into my ground game strategy: land the ball in front and let it roll back.
The greens, on the other hand, were fast and subtle. I am a good putter, but it took eight holes for me to adjust to the speed. Fast greens amplify every small error, turning small bends into big misses. I think I missed more five footers on this round than I have in a year on my home muni. I would do much better on a second playing, with the proper adjustments.
The trickiest green was the thirteenth, which has a large mound in the center. Newcomb said that was where he “buried the elephant.”
The primary grasses are Penncorss Bentgrass/Poa Annua. Average green size is 6,500 square feet. Course Superintendent John Seefeldt and his crew have the course in top shape — a not inconsiderable task, given this year’s cold, wet spring.
Travis Pointe has 83 bunkers and fifteen water hazards. I found lots of the bunkers, but none of the water hazards. I am proud to say I finished the round without losing a single ball.
Travis Pointe is a development course, but unlike many, the homes are set back far enough from the playing areas to prevent visual or physical intrusion. There should be plenty of room for the crowds at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
The course, Newcomb said, was originally a cattle farm. When laying out the course, Newcomb says he was given the “first run” at the land. In this instance, the homes were sited to fit the course, rather than the other way around (as is sadly the case with so many claustrophobic development courses).
Newcomb, an Ann Arbor-based architect, built the course in 1977. He said that Travis Pointe is unusual in that it hasn’t changed much over the years. Only the addition of a some new tees have strayed from the original design.
The Volvik LPGA is the first time a professional tournament has been held on one of Newcomb’s designs. His courses have, however, hosted a number of amateur championships. Travis Pointe has hosted the PGA Northern Club Professional Championship, the Michigan Amateur Championship, the Women’s Western Amateur, the Women’s Michigan Open and numerous US Open and US Senior Open qualifiers.
In addition to being an architect, Newcomb is an accomplished golfer. He has won the Michigan Amateur and Indiana Open, and once played in the Masters. From 1969 to 1979, Newcomb was the University of Michigan golf coach. While in graduate school at Michigan, Newcomb did the routing for the Radrick Farms GC, a University of Michigan property. This project led to a three year apprenticeship with Pete Dye. Newcomb established his own architectural firm in 1968.
Newcomb’s other Michigan designs include the Mountain Ridge Course at Crystal Mountain; the Alpine and Monument courses at Boyne Mountain; The Donald Ross at Boyne Highlands; Polo Fields in Ann Arbor; the Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe in Grand Rapids; The Medalist in Marshall; and Calderone in Grass Lake.
A photo tour of Travis Pointe Country Club is below: