Treetops Signature Golf Course Review

Treetops Signature Golf Course Review
The third at Treetops Signature is a 467 yard par 4.

Treetops Signature Golf Course Review

Treetops Rick Smith Signature Golf Course
Gaylord, Michigan
Grade: A
Teacher’s Comments: A prime example of the best of Northern Michigan golf.

Treetops’ Rick Smith Signature golf course has all the hallmarks of the best of Northern Michigan golf, with its isolated holes carved through hilly, boreal forest. In it, Rick Smith, the celebrity teaching pro, created a course that fits the classic “easy bogey, difficult par” mantra. The fairways are wide, and the green complexes accessible, but strategic ball placement is necessary to turn a good score.

I bogeyed my way around the course and had a lot of fun. I missed just one fairway, but often felt as though I really should have tried to place the ball “over there.” Narrowing fairways approaching the green often strengthened that conviction. It was nice to be in the fairway, but not all landing zones are created equal. Nor are all quarters of a green. I found myself in a couple of green positions where I wondered how I was supposed to finish with a two-putt. I am certain that on a second playing I would do much better.

The first at Treetops Signature is a 447 yard par 4.

The Rick Smith Signature golf course is visually striking — among the most dramatic and pretty courses I have yet played. Views from hilltop tee boxes often stretch for many miles across the northwoods. Other holes are aligned to take advantage of a distant pinnacle (see the photo of the tenth, below). Smith also incorporates visual interest into the fairways, as with expanses of sand that are highly unlikely to come into play, but which serve to frame a hole. Irregularly shaped fairways give an organic look to the whole affair.

I have come to respect Rick Smith’s skills as a golf course architect. His work at Treetops, at and at the Shenendoah and Sandstone Hollow courses at Turning Stone resort in New York are on my list of favorite golf experiences. Smith’s Arcadia Bluffs is on the short list of every conversation about the best course in golf-rich Michigan (note to self: I really need to get back to Arcadia for a second playing).

The tenth at Treetops Signature is a 556 yard par 5.

From the back tees, Treetops Signature stretches to 6, 653 and plays to a 72.6/136. The blue tees measure 6, 285 yards and play at 71/1/133, while the white tees are in at 5, 863 and a 68.9/129. As with several courses I have encountered recently, Treetops Signature also has combination tees, which provide additional yardage choices.  On my round,  I played the Blue/White Combination, which came in at 6071 yards. With the combination tees, Treetops Signature has nine separate yardages from which to choose.

The fifteenth at Treetops Signature is a 485 yard par 5.

My favorite hole was the par five fifteenth. With a slight turn to the left, it plays relatively flat for the first two thirds of the hole, becoming quite steep on the approach. The green is narrow but deep, two tiered and flanked on three sides by steep slopes. Playing this hole well requires placing the second in position for a straight shot into the green. Working backward, that, in turn, requires strategic placement on the tee shot. You’re not likely to miss the fairway here, but where you are makes a huge difference in the end.

A view from behind the green on Treetops Signature fifteenth.

Picking a favorite hole was tough. An argument for nearly every one is possible. The one weak spot, I think was the par three eleventh. Compared to the expansiveness of the other holes, it felt constrained.

Conditions on the day I played Treetops Signature were excellent — exactly what is expected from a high-end resort course. Greens were smooth and fast. Fairways were lush. And considering the late summer date, the tee boxes were in good shape.

Because the course makes the turn at a great distance from the clubhouse, a well-stocked halfway house is a welcome stop.

Treetops’ Rick Smith Signature is one of five golf courses at the Treetops Resort. The others are the Tom Fazio-designed Premier, the Robert Trent Jones Masterpiece, and another Smith design, the Tradition. Treetops also has its renowned “Threetops,” a par-three course that is unlike any other I’ve played.

In addition to golf, Treetops has lodging, dining, a spa, horseback riding, fishing, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, tennis and more. In winter months, Treetops features skiing and other snow sports. I have not had the occasion to stay at any of Treetops’ facilities, but from a glance they look quite nice.

The Treetops Signature Golf Course Review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on October 2, 2017, from a round played in August 2017.

See all of GolfBlogger’s Northern Michigan Golf Course Reviews.

A photo tour of the Treetops Signature Golf Course follows:


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