West Branch Country Club Golf Course Review
West Branch Country Club
West Branch, Michigan
Teachers’ Comments: Pleasant, but the two nines are mismatched
West Branch Country Club is one of a triumvirate of courses in the mid-Michigan town known mostly for being a way station to and from “Up North” along I-75. The other West Branch courses under the same ownership umbrella are The Nightmare and The Dream.
As with so many courses in Michigan, the two nines at West Branch Country Club have distinct characters. The front nine is a classic back and forth parklands course that dates to 1928. The mostly wooded back nine was added in the 1970s. Jerry Matthews, John Robinson and Bill Newcomb all are credited with the new nine.
Had I not see it in writing, I would have guessed Jerry Matthews.
Not only is the terrain on the two nines different, so too is the design style. They really didn’t feel to me as though they belonged together. Even the level of grooming seemed different to me.
Overall, I enjoyed the front nine the most. I’m a devotee of courses of that era. Back and forth holes are separated by a smattering of trees. On mostly flat terrain, the architect took advantage of a rise in the northeast corner that adds elevation to either the start or the finish of the first four holes. There also is some elevation change on the sixth, where the final third of the hole heads down toward a creek.
A good score is waiting here. You are not going to lose any balls and all but the worst shots will have some sort of recovery available.
The back nine feels comparably tight, as trees loom close to the fairways. I watched players ahead of me looking for wayward balls in the undergrowth. Twice I was waved through by players on a ball hunt.
As with the front, the back nine is mostly flat. The tenth plays slightly downhill from the clubhouse; the eighteenth heads back up. A small hill also creates a downhill shot on fifteen.
None of the elevations changes on the course are going to make a player think much about club selection. And unlike a great many courses in the Northern half of Michigan, West Branch Country Club is eminently walkable.
From the back tees, West Branch Country Club comes in at 6, 479 yards and plays to a 70.8/128. The middle tees are at 6, 163 and a 69.2/124. The more forward tees are 5, 825 and play 67.5/12.
My favorite hole was the par 4 eighteenth. This 352 yard hole starts in a wooded cove, then opens up as it rises and turns left.
The landing zone is generous, but the fairways narrows again as it approaches the green.
The eighteenth seemed to me to be a nice blend of the course’s two personalities: the classic parklands front nine and the woods back nine.
Conditions on the day I played were mixed. On some holes, the fairways and greens were in great shape. On others, not so much. The entire back nine felt to me as though it could use a trim. Branches encroaching on lines could be cut and the underbrush cleared.
I don’t think West Branch Country Club is worth a special trip, but it could be a nice warmup or end cap for a weekend stay-and-play that involved West Branch, The Nightmare and The Dream.
The West Branch Country Club Golf Course Review was first published January 12, 2021 from notes and photos taken on a round played August 19, 2020. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course reviews, follow the link.
A photo tour of West Branch Country Club follows