Treetops Tradition Golf Course Review

Treetops Tradition
Gaylord, Michigan

Grade: A
Teachers’ Comments: Fun and unique

The Tradition is one of five courses at the Treetops Resort in Northern Michigan. The resort now boasts Tom Fazio’s Premier, Robert Trent Jones’ Masterpiece, and three Rick Smith designs: Threetops, the nations’ top par 3 course, the Signature and the Tradition. That puts the Treetops Resort—now owned by Rick Smith— in striking distance of founder Henry Melling’s dream of a course for every day of the week.

Sporting a wild, natural look, the Tradition is said to pay “homage to golf’s origins” and is described as a “links style layout.” Wild grasses and flowers border the amoeba shaped fairways, bunkers have ragged edges. The look is made complete with old style wood rakes and wood flag sticks.

Treetops Tradition (1 of 1)
Treetops Tradition (3 of 10)

The Tradition was designed as the Treetops’ “walking course,” with tees just a short distance from the preceding greens. Even so, the holes can be a bit of a hike, given the rolling terrain. With the hills, however, come some beautiful vistas. Combined with the lack of manicuring along the edges and sight lines The Tradition has a look unlike most other resort courses.

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Although it is perhaps an “homage” to links courses, Treetops Tradition’s design does not feel forced. Smith fit his holes to the varied terrain, rather than trying to recreate specific links feature. There is, for example, no “double green” and no redan (a par three with an angled green wider than it is deep). No burn crosses a fairway. It all has a nice, natural feel.

Treetops Tradition (1 of 10)

The resort calls it a “links homage,” but what Rick Smith has really done is to create something unique—something wild and wonderful.

The Tradition has four sets of tees. The black stretches to 6,357 and plays 70/130. The blues come in at 5,834 and play 67.8/18. From the whites, The Tradition measures 5,530 and plays 66/4/115.

Treetops Tradition (2 of 10)

As probably befits a design from a man known as a golf instructor, I thought The Tradition was a very fair course. There are no forced carries and the wide fairways offer a variety of options. Holes have lots of safe places to play to (if with less chance of reward). All of the moderately small greens have open fronts, encouraging shots that land short and release across the green. A glance at the scorecard will also reveal that a majority of the greens are left of the center of the fairway. That means a slicer will find themselves falling away from the green. Often falling short, slicers will need to employ more links style pitches.

Treetops Tradition (4 of 10)

Conditions on the day I played were somewhat under par for a high end resort course. There was some damage to the fairways, the teeboxes and even on some of the greens. I’m no agronomist, but it looked to me like heat stress.

Rates at the Tradition are a reasonable $59. You can also occasionally get coupons and deals online.

When arriving to play the Tradition, be sure to factor in five minute golf cart drive to the course. It is well away from the main clubhouse. If you’re walking someone will take you out and pick you up. Not realizing this, I almost missed my tee time.


Treetops Tradition (1 of 1)
Treetops Tradition (8 of 10)
Treetops Tradition (9 of 10)

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