One of five courses at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, MI, the Fazio Premier is a picaresque and challenging adventure.
In his design, Tom Fazio took full advantage of the rolling, forested terrain, producing a course in which the holes appear to have been “found” rather than created. Nothing felt forced. In fact, there was a moment on the hole routings (where 6, 7 and 10 loop back across each other) at which I thought that perhaps some aggressive bulldozering might have been in order to straighten things out.
Fazio had a tremendous piece of land to work with. Dramatically elevated tees are the signature of this course. On hole after hole, players are treated to glorious views and fairways that spread invitingly below. As with many “Up North” Michigan courses, tree- and hill-lined fairways give the player a sensation of peace and isolation (with the exception of the 6,7,10 loop mentioned above). On the teebox, in the fairway or on the green, you simply can’t see the other holes, and often only distant glipmses of other players.
Measuring 6,832 (134 slope) from the tips and 5,837 (125 slope) from the whites, the Fazio Premiere is also I think an eminently fair course. Even on my first run through, I was able to score well (I played from the whites). The fairways are wide and often sloped on the edges to help slightly errant balls come back to a playable lie. Still, a player who just bangs the ball around will get into a lot of trouble (as my playing partner did that day). There are strategically placed traps for the unwary, and the elevation changes require serious consideration. I see this as a thinking man’s course—not a bomber’s. Driver off the tee is often the wrong club, for it will leave you with an awkward distance or lie.
It is also important to know where the hole locations on the greens. I actually recommend that you pick up a yardage book in the clubhouse—or make sure you have a gps with a good greens function. The greens are well protected by bunkers (although all have open fronts), and in turn are unexpectedly deep, or narrow, or wide. Even with the GPS, on the first playing, my reaction upon arriving at the green was: “Wow .. if I had known it was shaped like this, I would have aimed for a different spot.”
It is hard for me to pick a favorite hole. When Faio was asked which was the signature hole, he replied “all of them.” I agree with that assessment. There were, however, a couple where I simply had more fun. One of these was the par 4 third (above). It starts on a dramatic height, drops down to a valley, then climbs back up gently to the green. The par 5 twelfth is another (below). It actually starts at a low point, then climbs up through a “chute” of trees and hillocks to a green well protected by bunkers on the right. I know it is well protected because both my partner and I ended up in that bunker on my first round.
Conditions at the Fazio were outstanding. The fairways were pristine and the greens smooth and quick. The only blemish was a ground-under-repair area at the bottom of the hill on the first hole.
With two dozen courses (and many more within a hour’s drive), Gaylord MI has been dubbed “America’s Summer Golf Capital.” You could spend many summers vacations here and never repeat an experience (as have I). Treetops’ Fazio Premier is one of the great monuments of that Capital.