Teacher’s Comments: Unkempt.
Underneath the shaggy and unkempt conditions at Willow Metropark there may actually be a good golf course. It is unfortunately hard to see the gem in the rough.
Conditions on the day I visited were not good. With much of the course in low lying areas among swamps and tributaries connecting to the adjacent Huron River, Willow clearly suffers from standing water. There were large dead, wet and muddy areas in all but a few fairways.
And all that water made the course quite buggy.
Those areas aside, the course is also not particularly well trimmed. Shaggy is about the best word I can use to describe it. While I have an appreciation for courses that incorporate natural areas, I expect the playing areas to be well maintained. I just didn’t get that sense at Willow. Willow reminded me of a creepy southern gothic abandoned plantation in an old black and white horror film. All it was missing was long strands of spanish moss.
To be fair to the greenskeepers, the low-lying areas upon which most of the course is built have got to be tough to maintain, especially if the architect did not install proper drainage to begin with, but there’s no excuse for the rest.
Willow is a relatively easy course. It is a par 71, measuring just 6,384 from the back tees. There, it plays to a 70.2/124. From the white tees, it comes in at 6,042 yards and plays to a 68.5/121.
My favorite hole on the course was, not surprisingly, one of the ones on the ridge overlooking the flood plain: the par five 14th (above photo). Starting with an elevated tee, it has a gentle left to right curve. A bunker on the right is perfectly placed to catch wayward tee shots, while bunkers around the green allow an approach from the front, but punish anything left, right or long.
The rest of the holes are a good mix of straightaways and doglegs, with most of the danger coming from encroaching growth and overhanging branches. Some twenty traps spot the landscape; all but five are around the greens.
Oddly enough, for a course that plays through so much swamp, water never really came into play. Water is there in the fairways (unintentionally), just under tee boxes (intentionally) and to the sides (naturally), but not operating as a hazard (sadly).
In the end, I cannot in good conscience recommend this course. There are better public courses in general and better Metropark courses in particular.