University of Michigan Golf Course Review

University of Michigan 18th Hole (1 of 1)

University of Michigan Golf Course
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Grade: A+
Teacher’s Comments: A must play for Southeastern Michigan.


What do Augusta National and the University of Michigan Golf Course have in common? Both were laid out by master course designer Alistair MacKenzie.

I’m never going to get to play Augusta… but the UM “Blue” course is a terrific substitute.

Located right across the street from the UM Football Stadium (the course is used for parking on football Saturdays—something I consider an abomination), the “Blue” is one of two owned by the University. The other, Radrick, lies just outside town.

While the course ostensibly is limited to play by students, alumni and employees of the University, it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to get on. Practically everyone in Ann Arbor fits into one of the three above categories—or knows someone who does. They have also never checked when I told them I was an alumni.

The course is included in a listing of the top holes designed by MacKenzie—whom Sports Illustrated calls “Golf’s Greatest Course Architect”.

The signature hole is the number 6, a short (310 yard) par 4 (photo, above). It plays from an elevated tee down into a valley, and then back up again to a two-tiered, boomerang shaped green. Four bunkers line the sides. If you miss the tier on which the flag resides, it’s a three putt minimum.

The hole was selected as the second hole on SI’s Alistair MacKenzie Dream 18 by a panel which included Nick Faldo and architect Tom Doak.

“MacKenzie created boomerang-shaped greens at every course he designed,” reads SI’s description of the U-M’s sixth hole. “Set into a hill with many compartments, this remains the wildest of them all.”

The course also recently was rated #3 among collegiate courses.

I’ve played the “Blue” a number of times over the last few years, and have found it to be a stern test of my golfing skills. Clocking in at 6,687 yards from the blues, it has a rating/slope of 72/135.

The difficulty of the course lies in it’s strategically placed bunkers, complex greens and hilly terrain.

The terrific par 5 third is a good example of all three. The hole begins with an elevated tee, from which you must carry your shot across a valley and uphill further still to a ridgeline 220 yards out. A fairway bunker on the right lurks to catch slicers. The front edge of the bunker is physically 180 yards out, but because of the hill, it plays farther.

From the crestline, the hole sweeps down and to the left around a tall stand of trees. From the bottom, you must hit a high shot back up to green, which is perched on a terrace hanging from the side of the hill. (photo second from top, on right) To make matters worse, the curvy green is surrounded by some truly evil bunkers.

My favorite hole is the aforementioned par 4 sixth. It’s short, measuring just 309 from the blues, but the green and bunkering make it devilish.

But to be honest, I really like every hole on the University of Michigan course—and this is the only course I’ve played that I can say that about.

Course conditions at the “Blue” have always been very good. Fairways, tee boxes and greens all were top notch. The course is well-manicured, and has lots of the little extras—flower plantings, benches, etc.

The Blue also has some spectacular vistas of Ann Arbor, overlooking much of the city and campus.

Overall, I think that this is the premier golf experience in Washtenaw County—and that’s including some of the private and more exclusive clubs that I’ve had an opportunity to play.



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4 thoughts on “University of Michigan Golf Course Review”

  1. I just played the Ohio State Scarlet course for the first time a couple weeks back.  It also is a MacKenzie course, and was renovated last year by Nicklaus.  His goal was to restore some of the original design that was lost in the last 75 years of use. 

    What a fantastic course there as well.  Same thing as the Blue course it sounds- the bunkers pretty much make for a rolling entry onto a green nearly impossible.  I stood in a few bunkers and had trouble seeing over the edge to the surface of the green.  I don’t know if that is more MacKenzie or Nicklaus, because the Nicklaus course I play in TN regularly have bunkers which are 6-7 foot drops from the greens as well. 

    MacKenzie also put some interesting hills in place on Scarlet, I would assume that he did… because there are not many hills in Columbus.  It looks like all the surrounding land to the Ohio State couses used to be cornfield, like much of mid-Ohio is now.

  2. I know that it would be considered heresy here in Ann Arbor, but I really would like to play the Scarlet and Grey sometime.

    As for the hills, I dont’ think that MacKenzie did a lot of earth moving. It’s more likely that he just happened on the only hilly stretch in the area.

  3. I don’t know if that is more MacKenzie or Nicklaus, because the Nicklaus course I play in TN regularly have bunkers which are 6-7 foot drops from the greens as well

  4. We play U of M every week at twilight.  I agree with the Golf Blogger that each hole at the Blue course is unique and well designed.

    The course is responsible for my competent bunker play.  If one plays the Blue course frequently, either your sand game will improve or the course will eat you alive.


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