Teacher’s Comments: Very difficult, but quite scenic.
The last Michigan design by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the Masterpiece is—in his own words—his “crowning glory.” It is an often visually spectacular design, but I honestly would hate to think this is his best work.
My problem with Treetops’ Masterpiece is that it is so darn difficult. It is long, and even from the appropriate tees, the carries required in many spots are probably at the outer edges of the ability of bogey golfers. Further, a great many of the fairways slope down to the perimeter. Balls on the edges thus bound in undesirable and unexpected directions. I lost a couple of tee shots that hit the fairway, and then kicked out.
My angles to the green on second shots often were awkward and occasionally nigh near impossible. With a second playing, I’m sure I would get better placements. First timers need to play with a veteran or pay very close attention to the tips on the scorecard.
Then, there are the elevation changes. Up hill and down, Treetops’ Masterpiece requires much thinking about which club to play. The several blind shots don’t help either.
I have been playing very well this summer, but this monster ate me for lunch.
Treetops measures 7,007 from the black tees, and plays there to a 75.0/143. The next sets stretch to 6,377 and play to a 71.4/134. From the whites, it’s 6,377 and 71.4/134. From the forward tees, it measures 5,799 at 68.8/130.
Given the carry requirements and the distances, only single digit handicappers have any business playing this course from the tips—and they might not enjoy themselves much. The whites are more than enough course for bogey golfers. Golfers who routinely score over 100 on ordinary courses might want to consider playing from the way forward tees, which at 4,980 still play at a 70.4/126.
If you can embrace the difficulty, however, the vistas are amazing. Treetops Masterpiece plays in and around the Pigeon River Valley, and is as pretty a course as you will want to play. I’d love to see what this looks like in autumn color.
The signature hole is the par three sixth, which features a 120 foot drop from tee to green. It’s an oft-imitated but seldom duplicated hole, much like the 17th at Sawgrass. Your mileage will vary, but for me it was three club difference. My first shot with a two club shift blew over the green into the woods.
Play the sixth from the back tees, just to get the full effect. Then go back to the forward tees on the next hole.
Conditions on the day I played were not as good as you’d hope for from a high-end resort course. There was a great deal of wilt, and the golf course superintendent I played with (not from Treetops, but vacationing there) said that the course was over-watering. You will notice areas of grass death in the photos.
Play was quite slow—a condition that I attribute to the difficulty of the course. For most golfers, playing from the blues will result in a very long day. The resort should somehow have a system that requires a valid handicap card to play from the back two tees. They could put a flag on the cart, and if a player without a flag was caught on the wrong tees, the Rangers should eject them.
If you are at Treetops and have time for just a couple of rounds, I’d suggest the Fazio Premier and the Tradition. I’ve not played the Signature, but that might also be a good option. If you have time to play all, then by all means take on the Masterpiece.