Grand Rapids Golf Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

From the Pines to the Mines

Just played the front nine of The Mines yesterday, on my birthday, and was wowed--this is the most scenic area course this side of Thornapple. Extraordinary terrain for a course this close to the city. Perfect fall day for it, too. Report coming soon.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pines Summary

After a miserable first 6 holes, I started actually making consistent contact. The short length of the course and some very lucky putting kept my score low as I made the turn. A sharper short game would have knocked another 3 strokes off. I'm relieved to shoot an 89 after a 104 at Kaufman last time out, though I wonder how much yardage has to do with it; the Pines is some 800 yards shorter than the white tees at Kaufman, and my yards-per-stroke is identical: 61 at Kaufman, 62 at the Pines.

Score: 44-45=89; Putts: 16-18=34; Woods D/B-; Long irons C-; Short game C; Putting C-/B


Pines 18

Par 5, 501 yards

After a back nine with three par-3's, the finishing hole has some distance. The tee shot is blind but the landing area is generous. Bunkers surround a stubborn humpbacked green.

I try my 4-wood--a vintage Bob Charles wooden club--off the tee and place it well, though short of the bend, leaving me a blind second shot. My 3-wood wraps around the trees and finds the left rough, from which I leave an 8-iron just short. I loft my sand wedge onto the ridge of the humpback on the green, some 7 feet from the hole, and wheel my pullcart towards the path leading back to the clubhouse. I turn around and am horrified to see that my ball did not, after all, stay on the ridge; it's rolling down to the front fringe. I'm lucky to two-putt from there for a bogey 6. In in 45.

Pines 17

Par 4, 260 yards, sharp dogleg right uphill

I never know what to do off the tee on this hole. The water isn't a factor, but the landing area lies well uphill, and a tree is smack dab where I want to place it.

I take 5-iron this time and send it right for that tree, which kicks it left and gives me a testy approach. I take a half-9-iron under the branches and land 10 yards short. I two-putt for a bogey 5.

Pines 16

Par 4, 308 yards, slight dogleg left

Another narrow fairway with punishing trees. The green is elevated and undulating, and the day I played, the pin placement was front edge.

I shank my 3-iron and then land a 7-iron at the foot of the elevated green. My sand wedge carries me only to the front fringe, from which I two-putt. A sharper sand wedge today would save me some strokes. 5.

Pines 15

Par 4, 360 yards, dogleg left

A tee shot through a chute in the trees opens up to plenty of landing area.

My 3-wood lands behind a tree in the left rough, where I punch out with a 6-iron to within 10 yards of the green. I can't get my sand wedge closer than 20 feet, and I three-putt from there for a 6.

Pines 14

Par 3, 162 yards

An elevated tee overlooks a green that sits angled slightly to the left and slopes downward from behind, allowing you to either plant it on the back of the green and roll it down, or leave it short for an uphill putt.

My mid-irons are flying short today, and sure enough, my 5-iron misses short. I flub my sand wedge and have a 12-footer. My dumb putting luck continues as the putt rolls right to the cup, but it stops on the lip, without a blade of grass between it and the rim. Another par-3 bogey, 4.

Pines 13

Par 4, 361 yards

A short, straight, but narrow hole that reminds me a lot of 7th hole at Fellowship Greens. No room for shot shape off the tee.

I manage to keep my 3-wood in play in the left rough, come up short on the 9-iron, and two-putt for a 5.

Pines 12

Par 3, 159 yards, uphill

This is the only series of two short par 3's I recall ever playing on a course. You wonder if the better layout move would have been to combine 11 and 12 into a testy uphill par 4, and squeeze in a par 3 somewhere else. Still, the uphill slope is severe, making this no cupcake.

I land a 5-iron even with the green but left, and blow my 6-foot par putt to make another 4.

Pines 11

Par 3, 147 yards

This is where the back nine starts to get secluded and scenic. This hole goes over water on the right that isn't really in play if you strike it cleanly. The only problem is the motors of the two fountains in the pond are making some distracting noise. The hole is fairly short but this is the most precise landing area on the course--trees infringing on the left and water and other trouble right.

I place a thin 6-iron short and left, luckily away from the trees. My sand wedge leaves me 15 feet, and I nearly hole the this putt too. 4.

Pines 10

Par 5, 460 yards, dogleg right

After a hole that was set up well for my lefty slice, here's one that isn't.

I land a 3-iron in the fairway but shallow, leaving me a blind approach around the trees at the bend of the fairway. I take 3-wood and then 8-iron and chip on with a sand wedge to set up an 18-foot uphill par putt with a slight leftward break. My putting has been nearly clueless all day so I strike it solid and hope. It bends toward the hole but is veering left. About one foot from the cup it hits a spike mark that diverts it straight into the hole. My fortunes have turned 180 degrees. Three straight pars; another 5.

Pines 9

Par 5, 442 yards, dogleg left

For some reason I've always played this hole well--and not just because its layout is ideal for my slice. I do wonder what slicing righties do here. The fairway bends sharply left at less than 200 yards.

My 3-wood is clean and the slice places it well. Another 3-wood leaves me just short and left, but I pitch on and two-putt from 8 feet for my second straight par, 5.

After a shaky -- and shanky -- start I'm starting to play faster and get in a rhythm. I'm out in 44.

Pines 8

Par 3, 135 yards

A piece of cake par 3, even with bunkers along the front and no place to go in back of the green.

My 8-iron is just off the front fringe, and I chip with another 8-iron to set up a makeable par putt for my 3.

Pines 7

Par 4, 288 yards, slight dogleg left

Another blind tee shot, with the green obscured this time by trees. It's so short that you'll kick yourself (as I often do) for not reaching in two.

I send my tee shot to the trees, where I get a good kick back out to the rough. I plow an 8-iron from there to within a couple paces of the green. But I can't get my sand wedge closer than 10 feet, and another two-putt gives me a bogey 5.

Pines 6

Par 4, 302 yards, dogleg left, blind tee shot

This blind tee shot goes uphill to a narrow landing area. Once you're there, a broad greenside bunker gives you something to think about on the approach.

The hole is shaped well for my slice but I land it on the 10th fairway. My blind approach with a 9-iron is short, and then my sand wedge rolls back to the front fringe. I two-putt for a 5.

Pines 5

Par 4, 341 yards

Another sign warning golfers of their liability for poor play; this hole stretches along the backyards of several houses. I hear children playing and for a second worry I'll injure them; though the houses along the landing area are guarded well by trees. The proximity undermines a sense of seclusion, which won't set in until the back nine.

I play iron but still manage to slice it under those house-guarding trees. I blast an 8-iron even with the green, but this green is a humpback and there's no good place to put it. I chip on and two-putt from 12 feet for a 5.

Pines 4

Par 4, 378 yards

Another plain layout, although the green is set snugly at the foot of a patch of trees.

I get the serious shanks and reach in 4, where I two-putt for a 6.

Pines 3

Par 3, 225 yards

The longest par-3 on the course, this hole bends slightly left. Average players will need a high wood to reach it.

The layout and length are perfect for my 5-wood, but I slice it more than normal and end up 20 yards left of the green. From there, I launch a sand wedge and nearly hole it. I make par, 3.

Pines 2

Par 4, 340 yards

This hole is straight but hugs Byron Center Ave. A sign at the tee should get the jitters going, reminding players that they are liable for any damage to cars. There's a thought to have while you're standing over your ball!

My 3-wood is OK but I shank my 7-iron and then place my pitching wedge just shy. Two putts for a 6.

Pines 1

Par 4, 373 yards

A straightaway hole to start the course, but a severe slope on the left side of the fairway leaves me no room to land my lefty slice.

I land a 3-iron on an uphill lie on that slope, leaving me a 6-iron to the slightly elevated green. I miss it short and then have no read on the speed of the green when I finally get there. A three-putt leaves me with a 6.

Pines Intro

The Pines Golf Course
5050 Byron Center Avenue SW
Wyoming, MI 49509
18 holes, 5542 yards
Scorecard/Map Review

The only thing this golf course lacks is length. The fairways are well-maintained, the greens are fast, the landing areas are precise, and the trees are often a factor. But there's only room for 5500 yards of playing length. That's plenty to test my shaky game, of course. 9/15

The area is lucky to still have this course; a report in the Grand Rapids Press this summer quoted the co-owner as saying, "I'm getting one or two calls a week from developers. Does it make sense for us to keep it as a golf course? No." He said he was committed to keeping the course from going condo, but The Pines' days are probably numbered.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Slice Solutions

I have a severe slice. I've been tempted not to worry about it because 1) I never hook, which is a case of reassuring reliability and 2) if I aim far enough right (as a lefty) I can more or less accommodate the fade. The problems are when 1) my release of the club is too slow through the impact zone, and I start the ball straight or left instead of right, or 2) the hole is too narrow to accommodate shot shape, as with 14 at Kaufman, for example.

So I need to shoot straighter. Here are some of the standard solutions for correcting a slice.

1) A one-plane swing. Slide your back foot under your back shoulder for an extreme correction.
2) Keep shoulders closed at impact (and head down to enforce this).
3) Release wrists through impact zone so that the club face is square at impact.

I think there's one more. But the thing is, in my round at Kaufman, one of my partners thought my solution was 1, the other thought it was 3, and I thought it was 2. With 1, I'm worried about over-compensating and starting to hook; with 3, I'm worried about having too "handsy" of a swing and flopping the club over to produce more shanks. But I don't think 2 is enough to straighten my slice. So what do I do? And how do I keep from trying to do too much with my swing, and think too much when I'm over the ball? Questions to keep me up at night...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Major winners of the last 10 years


2005 Tiger Woods Michael Campbell Tiger Woods Phil Mickelson
2004 Phil Mickelson Retief Goosen Todd Hamilton Vijay Singh
2003 Mike Weir Jim Furyk Ben Curtis Shaun Micheel
2002 Tiger Woods Tiger Woods Ernie Els Rich Beem
2001 Tiger Woods Retief Goosen David Duval David Toms
2000 Vijay Singh Tiger Woods Tiger Woods Tiger Woods
1999 Jose Maria Olazabal Payne Stewart Paul Lawrie Tiger Woods
1998 Mark O'Meara Lee Janzen Mark O'Meara Vijay Singh
1997 Tiger Woods Ernie Els Justin Leonard Davis Love III
1996 Nick Faldo Steve Jones Tom Lehman Mark Brooks
1995 Ben Crenshaw Corey Pavin John Daly Steve Elkington

Saturday, September 03, 2005

U.P. Gem at

Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club

The Greywalls course at Marquette Golf Club
is today's Featured Course from the editors of Golf Magazine.

Two links to flush from the right navbar:

Epinions - GR courses

TwoGuys - Michigan courses

Kaufman Summary

I'm glad the weather was Michigan-fall-perfect today, because other than that I want to get this round out of my system. I had nothing off the tee--I would have been better off overhand throwing the ball, and I had bad mind games going when I couldn't get the feel for my swing anymore. I take solace in the fact that my short game was quite sharp around the green and my putting was shaky but not disastrous. And I relish the fact that this is one of the most beautiful courses I've ever played, on one of the most beautiful golfing days of 2005.

Score: 55-49=104; Putts 22-14=36; Woods E; long irons D-; short game B; putting B-.


Kaufman 18

Par 4, 372 yards

The creek is in play at the 240-250 mark, but the cart path up a slope on the left side forces you to play it right--closer to the creek.

Another thin 4-iron--I don't want to flirt with the creek. I carry it with my 5-wood and take to pitches to get on. A two-putt for a 6.

But at least I broke 50 on the back. My swing wasn't much better but my short game was far sharper coming in.

Kaufman 17

Par 3, 193 yards

A tricky tee shot to a narrowly-bordered green. Better to leave it short, with no bunker in play and a wide green to work with.

My 7-iron is still off-duty and I don't even carry the little canal. My pitching wedge flies on me and I'm off the back fringe. From there, with the front pin placement, I have enough green to work with to take out my sand wedge, and just hope to leave myself a makeable putt. My sand wedge pops and lands 6-7 feet in, and I don't think it will release. But it does, and starts rolling toward the cup, lazily, and just keeps going. There's more of an incline than I thought. It casually approaches the cup and darn near drops. Heckuva bogey 4.

Kaufman 16

Par 5, 505 yards

This hole is miserable for my lefty slice. A long branch just past the ladies tee won't let me shape it, and no-person's-land long grass waits to the left. Up ahead, a fairway tree obstructs most second shots.

I slice my 3-wood into the long stuff and hack out with a 5-wood. The hackwork is just beginning. After another 5-wood and a 7-wood I pitch into a bunker, then slam my sand blast so hard the ball actually catches the tall lip and caroms sideways onto the apron. I two-putt for my second snowman of the day. 8.

Kaufman 15

Par 4, 346 yards, dogleg left

A complicated tee shot, with trees and fairway bunkers waiting at the 210-220 range, and then more bunkers guarding the green.

I hit my driver thin and then power a good 3-wood to within pitching distance. My pitching wedge is short and I two-putt from 12 feet for a 5.

Kaufman 14

Par 4, 389 yards

The signature hole at Kaufman, as far as I'm concerned, but also one of the most treacherous. Armies of pines stand at attention on either side, leaving no place to lose your tee shot. If your tee shot is straight down the chute, the approach should be ordinary, but if not, plan on a punch.

I catch a 4-iron well but on the right side of the fairway, where the branches are in play. Sure enough, my 7-wood catches them and thuds straight down. Then my 6-iron is soft and I'm lying 4 with a 50-foot pitching wedge, which I catch too strong and place on the back left fringe. I have a tricky downhill putt from there and am glad to get out with a 6.

Kaufman 13

Par 3, 154 yards

One of the most scenic par-3's, at the doorstep of the gorgeous 14th hole. The pines lining the 14th tee are the backdrop here. Bunkers on each front edge demand you carry them, and there's green to catch a long tee shot in the back.

My 7-iron is off-duty today; I hit it 100 yards. I choke my sand wedge, then leave another sand wedge within three feet for a bogey putt, which I sink for a 4, and a 6-4-6-4 start.

Kaufman 12

Par 5, 507 yards

Despite paralleling 52nd Street--an unwelcome reminder of the outside world--this hole is scenic, with a slight decline in the fairway bending back up toward the green with a belt of fairway bunkers (they look greenside to me, but there's 20 yards between them and the green.

I hit a controlled slice short and power my 3-wood to within mid-iron approach range. I choose 7 to carry the bunkers, but catch it flat and land in the left-most trap. I shovel out with my pitching wedge, then take another pitch to get on the green. I have a tremulous 20-footer coming down the hill with slight break to the left, and hope somehow to leave it within 3 feet of the cup. I send it and worry that I've given it too much oomph. The break is good and the ball curls toward the cup. It's either going to sink or roll off the green. It crawls in the cup. 6.

Kaufman 11

Par 4, 327 yards

A blind tee shot up a hill forces me to go iron again, and again I catch it thin. A 7-wood gets me to within three paces of the green, and I play a perfect sand wedge to within a few fee and sink the putt. After my lousy front nine, it feels good to sink par. 4.

Kaufman 10

Par 4, 364 yards, dogleg right over a creek

After a handful of par-4's on the front with few frills in their layout, this tee shot will make you think. The creek is from 210-220 yards from the tee, so the play for the average player is to leave it short with a 5-wood or low iron, then cross the creek with a mid-iron to get to the green.

I flub my 4-iron off the tee, and worry my front nine swing woes have made the turn with me. I cross the creek from the back edge of the fairway with a 7-wood, but don't get much farther than that. I leave my 9-iron short and chip to within 10 feet, then two-putt for a 6.

Kaufman 9

Par 4, 425 yards, dogleg left

The tee shot must be placed to the right, free of the steep hill and fairway bunker to the left (the water hazard to the right, 275 yards away, isn't in play.

I need GPS to locate my swing, which disappears on this hole. I hack my way onto the green in four and then three-putt for a 7.

I'm out in an ignominious 55. But worse, I've lost the feel for my swing.

Kaufman 8

Par 3, 200 yards

The terrain is intimidating here--the hole lies low over a hill and to the left, with a sizeable bunker grabbing misses to the left. The rest of my foursome all leaves it right and makes a mess coming back; I leave it short and left and am OK.

I take 7-wood off the tee and curl it perfectly over the hill and to the front edge of the green next to the bunker (nearly in it). But my sand wedge is too strong from there and I launch it to the bank fringe. But I save a good 20-foot lag coming back and come out with a bogey 4.

Kaufman 7

Par 4, 453 yards

The tee shot is blind over a hill and the trees tight along both sides. The green is quite elevated, so the tee shot has to be far enough to leave an approach with loft. Bunkers guard the front, but the green is huge so there's room to land it towards the back if you can stomach the possibility of a putt of up to 40-50 feet.

This is where my swing disintegrates. I slice it way to the left and have to punch out with an 8-iron. Only I can't commit to a punch--I try to carry a tree along the left side of the fairway, but leave it under that tree. I launch a 5-wood from there and pop a good 9-iron well onto the green. But the 40-footer gives me the creeps and I 3-putt for a 7.

Kaufman 6

Par 4, 386 yards

An out-of-bounds fence around a broadcast tower juts into play off the left rough. The right rough has a forgiveness area from about 210 to 225. The green is wide and guarded on the front right by a bunker, but don't lose it off the back.

I catch my 3-wood thin and then borrow a 7-wood from my neighbor, a fellow lefty I'm playing with today. I strike it true and am left with a three-quarter 9-iron, which I scuff and send off the back of the green. This is the worst possible place to be today because the pin is back left, and I have no landing area to work with. But I strike a good 8-iron chip and sink the 5-footer for a bogey 5.

Kaufman 5

Par 4, 390 yards

I slice my 3-wood left, but find a forgiveness area, from which I power a 5-wood back onto the fairway to within 15 yards. I choke both my sand wedge and 8-iron, and take a two-putt. After recovering well I've surrendered two strokes on my tentative short game. 6.

Kaufman 4

Par 3, 156 yards

A steep slope up to the green necessitates good flight off the tee. Big bunkers on the front left and front right are trouble--better to be long than short.

I shank my 7-iron badly and barely make the apron. My sand wedge misfires and goes way right, to the fringe, 30-plus feet away on this vast green. A three-putt from there leaves me with a double-bogey 5.

Kaufman 3

Par 4, 364 yards, slight dogleg right

Trees and boundaries along the left keep my woods in my bag.

But my 3-iron goes left on me. I recover with a 5-wood, though I aim it right, expecting it to slice, and it goes straight as an arrow. That leaves me even with the green some 40 yards to the right. I send my pitching wedge through tree branches, which dump the ball 18 feet from the cup. I blast my par putt past and can't come back. The three-putt gives me a 6.

Kaufman 2

Par 5, 463 yards

The hole is straight ahead, but there's trouble left and right. Bunkers skirt the green. Better long than short on your approach.

I pull out the driver and control my slice but hit it low and short, leaving me forever to the hole. I flub my first 3-wood then tag another 3-wood well but slightly left. Luckily it's playable, though under a tree branch, because there's a severe slope off the left. I punch an 8-iron and leave it just short of the green, then plop my sand wedge 8 feet past and lip the putt. 7.

Kaufman 1

Par 4, 362 yards

You have to leave your tee shot short and left of the water on the right, which is no sweat for me with my lefty slice. The green is elevated and guarded by bunkers, but reachable in two or three for the average player.

I shape a decent 5-wood off the tee. With 180-plus to the green, I don't think I can make it with an iron, but the incline and slope of the green make me want to keep my woods in the bag, as long as I carry the pesky creek on the right side. I duff my 6-iron and shank my 8-iron, then come short on my pitching wedge and watch my sand wedge roll one to the back fringe. It's a 3-putt from there, and an inauspicious snowman to start the round. 8.

Kaufman Intro

L.E. Kaufman Golf Course
4807 Clyde Park SW
Wyoming, MI
18 holes
Scorecard & Map
Course Guide (1-2-3-4) Review

Kaufman is a major league course, but short enough (6,388 yards from the white tees) for the average player to at least have a chance. It's scenic, well-crafted through the trees and making good use of hills and slopes. The greens are fast but fair. I played on an early September day, and the course had been well-maintained through a dry summer.

My goals for the day are to keep the ball in play, underhitting if I need to, and to have my short game firing. With a more rolling course and firmer greens than I'm used to, my short game will be more important than ever. 9/2/05


Golf Course on a Gypsum Mine

Public Golf Course Opens on Old Grand Rapids Mine Site
Matt Campbell
Updated: 8/19/2005 7:11:55 PM

Grand Rapids - A new public golf course opened today on Grand Rapids'
southwest side - on the site of an old gypsum mine.

The owners made that heritage alive in its name - calling it The Mines Golf

The facility at Covell Avenue and O'Brien Road took up the site, which was
once considered as a zoo expansion site

The Mines Golf Course, Grand Rapids (public). Opening: July.
Although only five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, the former gypsum
excavation that took place here thirty years ago gave rise to unique landforms
and elevation changes normally associated with courses in northern Michigan.

Also uncommon is the shared fairway between the fifth and ninth holes, a vast
greensward uninterrupted by trees or rough. Salvaged mine-shaft timbers serve
as directional signs, and other relics adorn the clubhouse.

Architect: Mike DeVries. Yardage: 6,744. Par: 70. Greens Fees: $45-$50. Tee
Times: 616-791-7544

Michigan Golfer on Grand Rapids

Destination: Grand Rapids
by Kelly Hill

Dear Golf Buddy,
Thanks for your recent letter. So, you've got two weeks of vacation this summer and you want to come to Grand Rapids to play golf. What you've heard about Michigan being golf's Capital during the summer months is absolutely correct. Although the distinction is often applied to the plethora of beautiful courses in beautiful Northern Michigan, the greater Grand Rapids area abounds with challenging, well-manicured public golf courses. If you are willing to drive no more than an hour outside the G.R. city limits your choices are multiplied.

Since your vacation is still a few weeks away, I thought I would send you something to peruse, something you can read and reread, something that might make your days pass more quickly until you get here and get golfing. Here's a rundown of most of the better public golf courses in the greater G.R. area and within an hour's drive of the city.

When you've poured over all this material, I'm sure you're going to have additional questions about several or all of the course. My suggestion is that you call them yourself, so I've included a telephone number for each course. And remember, the area code for each is 616.


Located north on what has become one of the busiest streets in the city, Alpine is aptly named as it is a hilly course that will demand numerous blind shots to relatively small greens. But it is an entertaining course to play, however, and is easily accessed from downtown. And the greens are usually in great shape. Call: 784-1064.


This course, which opened its front nine for play in 1993 and the back in '94, plays 6,196 yards from the white tees and features bent grass fairways and tees. "People compare it to the courses of north," is what Cedar Chase pro Tim Covell said of the course. "It's a challenging course and the fairways are tight." The 11th hole here is a par-5 that plays 61 yards through the trees. One of the Grand Rapids golf writers (No, not me), said that No. 11 "is so narrow a dog can't stand in the middle of the fairway and wag his tail." This course, located in nearby Cedar Springs, is a Bruce Mathews III design and has played host to the boys high school regional tournament last fall and hosted the girls regional event this spring. Call 696-2308.


Formerly a 27-hole layout located in Hudsonville, 10 minutes southwest of downtown G.R., Gleneagle is now an 18-hole course that plays 6,505 yards from the championship tees. While condominiums are being built to eventually occupy the area surrounding the course, area that was once the other nine holes, the remaining 18 holes have also received some smart reconstruction. The greens, some of which are tiered or rolling, have received most of the attention during the course's reconstruction. Call 457-3680.


About 45 minutes west of Grand Rapids, in the resort city of Grand Haven lies Grand Haven Golf Club. Named by Golf Digest as one of the country's top 50 golf courses, Grand Haven remained in the top 75 until just last year. Desgined by 93-year-old Bruce Matthews who still owns the course and who lives in Grand Haven, this stellar course has built a reputation on tight fairways and intimidating tee shots. That reputation has mellowed somewhat recently, however, as more than 1,000 trees have been removed from along the fairways in an effort to make the course more forgiving. While some of the trees have gone, water has been added at Grand Haven Golf Club. The hazard on No. 17 has been expanded and a water hazard has been added to the fifth hole. Call 842-4040.


Of all the courses you will read about here, this is the longest drive from Grand Rapids as it is located north of South Haven, about a 50 minute drive from downtown GR. Opened for play late last August, this wind-swept, Art Hills-designed links layout has been received with excitement and its repeat players are many. Unlike many of the Northern Michigan courses that can beat up the average player, HawksHead is also a bargain. "We want to give people a good show for the money," pro Steve Chapman said. You can play HawksHead for $25, with a cart, after 3 p.m. Call 639-2121.


Owned by Kent County, in which Grand Rapids is located, this busy course is also a Matthews design that lies on the southern edge of the city and plays 6,338 from the white tees. The site of the Kent County Amateur Championship as well as the West Michigan Junior and Senior Amateur Championships, this premiere public course is subtle. Jim Guertler, the golf pro there told me, "It has relatively large greens with subtle breaks. Shot placement is important here." Call 538-5050.


Jeff, I couldn't tell you about this course without telling you about the "li'l Monster." That's what they call the third hole on this course. The hole is only 88 yards from the white tees, so how tough can it be, right? Let me tell you, no chip shot will ever get you in more trouble than your tee shot on the "li'l Monster." Water, rocks and trees are only a few of the hazards your tee shot might encounter. Of course, though, Lake Doster is more than one hole. As the former site of the Super Senior Pro-Am played in conjunction with the First of America Classic, G.R.'s stop on the Senior PGA Tour, Lake Doster plays 6,112 from the white tees and according to course pro Roger Marquardt, "The nice thing about it is that it's a fair course. It's tough enough that you won't be bored because it has a little bit of everything. Call 685-5308.


Located on the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University, about 15 miles west of Grand Rapids, The Meadows features a golf academy which is one of the best teaching facilities in the G.R. area. In its third full season of operation, The Meadows plays 6,300 yards with a slope rating of 27. "We get high marks for service and conditioning," says course general manager Terry Sack. "It is a links-type course and you have to use course management here. We have some strong par-3s and some par-5s that are reachable. You will use every club in your bag here." Call 895-1000.


Located in the southwest corner of the city, not far from L.E. Kaufman, the Pines is a public course with split personality. After you play an open front nine and finish with a dogleg left on which you will be tempted to, and probably will, cut the corner, you will embark on a back nine that plays shorter but is much tighter, more scenic and much more difficult. It's also home to a fine junior golf program. Call 538-8380.


Located southeast of Grand Rapids, exactly 22 miles from the heart of downtown, Saskatoon features 36 holes that are distinguished by color. The Blue nine is the narrowest of the four layouts, the White is the longest, the Red is of average length and challenge and the Gold is a Scottish links-style course. When playing 18 holes at Saskatoon, the Blue and White form one track and the Red and Gold form the other. According to Director of Golf Carol Farquhard, if golfers have time for only nine holes, the Gold is often the nine they request. With course lengths varying from 5,300-6,100 yards, the ever popular Saskatoon is home to several area high school teams and frequently hosts the O-K Blue Conference girls golf tournament. Call 891-9229.


One of the older Bruce Matthews designs, this course, located just north of the city, opened its front nine for play in 1962, the back opened in '65 and a new nine is currently under construction and is expected to be ready for play next summer. A par-72 course that plays about 6,000 yards from the white tees, Scott Lake features mature trees in a scenic, rolling countryside. "This is where golf is fun," said Jeff Hoag, who owns the course with his brother, Paul. "Some courses you really don't want to play. We make a strong effort here to give people what they're looking for, and good golf conditions, too." With greens that are not overly large, occasionally elevated, of medium speed and occasionally tiered, Scott Lake is indeed a pleasure to play. Call 784-1355.


Jeff, this is probably the first course you'll see upon your arrival in Grand Rapids since it is almost impossible to arrive at Kent County International Airport without flying directly over this course. The first course you might see is also the last G.R. course on this list to open as Thornapple Pointe first opened for play in mid-May. Located on a scenic piece of property in Cascade, the course features a mile and a half of footage along the Thornapple River. "There are a lot of golf courses in Grand Rapids but none of them have the appeal that gets people to travel to play courses like those in Northern Michigan," said Thornapple Pointe general manager Dave Manes. "We felt that if we could build a resort-style golf course with high quality maintenance and a high level of service, there is no reason why it can't be in a metropolitan area." A completely spikeless facility, Thornapple Pointe plays 6,821 yards from the back tees. Call 554-4747.


This course is almost an hour's drive from G.R. in the small town of Rothbury, but when you get to Thoroughbred, it's not likely that you'll remember the drive. This layout, which opened for play on the Fourth of July in 1993, plays 6,900 yards from the back tees, with a 147 slope rating. "The greens are very undulating, not at all flat," said Thoroughbred head pro Jeff Howland. "The greens are ideal resort speed." Voted one of the top three new resort courses in 1993, Thoroughbred is considered by Golf Digest as the No. 1 upscale public course in Michigan and is No. 33 in the country. Situated on 350 acres, "this is a very unique piece of property," Howland said. The property features a dude ranch, a pine forest and three private lakes. Call 893-4653.


Located in Jenison, which is a suburb southwest of the city, Wallinwood is in its sixth season of play. This course, which measures 6,271 from the white tees, is best known for holes 15 and 16. No. 15 is a par-3 with a peninsula green and No. 16 features a peninsula tee. A Jerry Matthews-designed course, Wallinwood is nestled within a quiet condominium community. Call 457-9920.

Jeff, I hope this gives you some idea about what awaits you and your clubs when you get to Grand Rapids. Obviously, unless you want to play every day, all day, we will never be able to play all of the courses in the area, so give it some thought and let me know which courses you want to play. You can always come out here again to catch the ones we miss on this visit.

See you soon,

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

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Indian Trails Summary

I threw away a good four strokes with my short game, but other than that my play was stable today. At my level of play , you just hope to hit the ball cleanly and keep it in play, which I did. And I'm happy with my swing, for a change.

Score: 48. Putts: 19. Woods A-; long irons B; short game C-; putting D.


Indian Trails 18

Par 4, 280 yards, dogleg left

This tee shot is blind with the fairway sloping up and left. You have to plunk
your tee shot on the top of the hill and go 9-iron from there.

I choose 4-iron off the tee and evade the whole dogleg completely by losing it
in the trees to the right. This gives me a straight shot out of the rough, in view of the pin. My 8-iron goes short and right, but puts me back on the fairway, 50 yards away. A pitching wedge leaves me a pace off the fringe. Then my short game collapses. I flub the chip and then 3-putt, finishing an otherwise serviceable round with a triple-bogey 7.

Indian Trails 17

Par 4, 277 yards, sharp dogleg right

I don't have a yardage to the turn on this hole, but I don't dare to take a wood, especially with my slice to the left. I'm curious if righties try driver on this hole, and whether they have to fade it.

I choose a 3-iron and whack it well right down the middle. That gives me a nifty pitching wedge that bounces over the front fringe and onto the green. My
12-foot putt is no good, but I make a par 4.

Indian Trails 16

Par 3, 102 yards

This is the kind of hole that you'll only find on a city golf course like this, squeezed into a short distance by the constraints of space, and allowing players to take pitching wedge. (There's about 20 yards behind the green though, before the cart path; maybe the course should use them and make average players hit 9-iron.)The green's elevation is the only hitch; it's guarded on the left by a bunker and on the right and a slope on the left.

I launch my pitching wedge a little left and short and catch the front edge of the bunker. That dooms my short game and I end up with a 5.

Indian Trails 15

Par 4, 365 yards

I catch my 3-wood cleanly but my slice takes it left of the fairway. Luckily I
land at the top of a little incline that gives me a view of the green. I slam a
solid 6-iron to within a few paces of the green. But my short game gets ugly again, and I get out with a 5.

Indian Trails 14

Par 3, 227 yards

This used to be a par 4 when the white tees were back with the blue tees (from
which the hole still plays a light 240-some yards). There's some lattitude to miss it short and to either side, though go long and it's a tricky chip back.

I take 5 wood and start it right, expecting my typical slice. Only it doesn't slice. It goes straight to the right and gets swatted down by tree branches. I plant a 3/4 9-wood at the front fringe of the green. This green is very bald, though--my putt has to cross two or three patches of bare dirt, and without any sense of speed I power my putt 10 feet past. 2 more putts later I have a 5.

Indian Trails 13

Par 4, 287 yards, blind tee shot down a hill

The tee shot is intimidating because all you can see is treetops. The fairway is wide, but trees form rigid boundaries on either side at the bottom of the hill.

I'm feeling okay about my woods now and go with a 3-wood. I hit it cleanly, starting it right, but it slices all the way to the left of the fairway. I know there's a wide-open landing area off the left side there, but I've hit it under a tree branch. I punch out a half a 9-iron, hoping to clear the left fairway bunker. I don't get enough of it and just catch the far edge of the bunker. I'm clueless in the sand so it takes me a sand wedge to shovel out and then another one to get on the green. 15-footers are impossible on greens this bare and patchy, and I'm lucky to get out with a 6.

Indian Trails 12

Par 3, 154 yards

7-iron has always been the club for me on this hole, where the creek is not in play but both the tee and green are slightly elevated (though flat). For the first time ever, though, I notice audio from a TV at the adjacent BW-3, which bugs me as I tee up.

My 7 goes just left and lands a couple paces off the green, even with the pin. But my short game abandons me here. I used to like to chip with a 7--I knew I'd make crisp contact and could use almost a putting stroke. But I catch the 7 too strong and blast it across the green just off the fringe behind the pin. So I know I need to adopt my 9-iron as my new chipper onto the green. But I'm too tentative and leave myself a 10-footer. The greens are really bald and a read is nearly impossible. I read break but there's none. 2 putts for a 5.

Indian Trails 11

Par 4, 399 yards

The landing area is narrow so I go with a 5-wood. I catch it perfectly, slicing it subtly and curling it onto the right side of the fairway. (This in front of spectators no less--I'm playing through.) I hit a 6-iron thick and have a 7-iron to clear the creek and get to the green. I shank it off the bridge and behind a tree. I scoop another 7-iron pitch attempt but then place a perfect pitching wedge within a
foot and a half of the hole for a bogey 5.

Indian Trails 10

Par 4, 322 yards

As a lefty I play this tee with my back to the berm that was installed here a few years ago to protect passing cars from errant tee shots. The berm can't block out the sound of traffic though, which is a little irksome at address

I'm scared to take out a wood, given how badly they flew in my previous round, so I begin with an iron, and shuck a 4-iron some 110 yards. That plants me a few paces behind a tree, but a solid 6-iron clears it and leaves me with a pitching wedge. That lands just shy of the green. I place a nice sand wedge 5 feet from the cup, but shove the putt right. 6.

Indian Trails 9

Par 4, 305 yards, sharp dogleg left

I strike my 3-iron just about perfectly, fading it slightly to the middle of the fairway, but it turns more sharply at the end and bounces just into the rough. I can see the top of the flag over the downslope from there but can't judge the distance. I hit a 9-iron into the sun and think I've made it to the green, but when I get over the hill I see I'm a couple paces short.

Then my short game shakes strike again. I choke my sand wedge and have a 9 footer left. I desperately want to sink the thing and come within a couple centimeters, but it veers off because I've reduced the speed. I end with a bogey 5 for a round of 48.

Indian Trails 8

Indian Trails 8

Par 4, 233 yards

You might consider this the signature hole at Indian Trails. The chute through the trees with slices of sun poking through making for the most scenic view of any tee. Although the hole is par-3 length, the proximity of trees on either side make for a demanding tee shot, and the elevated green is guarded by a bunker on the front right.

I try a 5-wood off the tee and it's a bad idea, swerving into the trees. But then I catch the most unbelievable break of my golfing life. The ball finds the lower branches of one of the sturdy oaks, then rolls right down the trunk, as though through a tube, right down to a root that shoots it straight back onto the fairway, as though a hand were rolling it there. I end up in the exact center of the fairway. I assume the golf gods are teasing me and telling me not to complain so much about my luck.

It seems petulant to complain after that, but my lie is very bare and I end up topping the ball with my pitching wedge. Still, it climbs up onto the green and idles in the back of it. I just tap my downhill 18-footer, but it rolls a full 3 feet past. I sink the putt coming back to make par, 4.

Indian Trails 7

Par 5, 493 yards

This hole looks long to the average golfer, because the tee sits atop a steep slope that goes slightly to the left. The pin looks small. The slight angle plays well to my slice, so I aim at the trees to the right and hope to end up on the fairway.

My driver goes high but straight and finds the fairway. I tag a 3-wood from there that slices slightly but surely into the trees. I have a clean lie and look at the flag from the rough but misjudge my 8-iron, hitting only 75% when I needed 90 or more, and leave it 20 yards shy. My sand wedge won't climb onto the green, and my 8-iron chip after that rolls longer than I'd like, to 10 feet. Two putts coming back and it's another double, 7.

Indian Trails 6

Par 4, 246 yards

This hole is short but the steep uphill slope -- almost leaving a blind second shot if you hit it too short -- is intimidating. I go with 3-iron because I don't want to mess with the trees on the left, but I slice it and end up in the needles under one of those trees. If my 3-iron is slicing I'm in trouble--I'll hit it thick and short sometimes, but never left. It's my one slice avoider I can usually count on.

Then I make a bad club choice. The pin looks so far away--I can just see the flag over the hill--that I think I need to punch out with a 7-iron. I only take half a swing, but it's too much and the ball finds a knotty clump of trees behind the green to the right. I hunt it down and end up with a clear view of the green, but I blast my 8-iron too strong and off the back of the green.

Then I make another sketchy choice. I'm lying about 6 feet shy of the fringe on some really shaven fairway grass. The pin is near the front of the green so I don't want to loft it much. I almost want to putt it. I decide to do something I saw on a golf tip on TV once (never, ever, do anything you've seen on a golf tip on TV), and that is to use a 3-wood with a little half-putting, half-chipping stroke. The 3-wood gives you confidence you'll connect and gives you a shot that travels mostly on the ground. But mine keeps rolling, and rolling, all the way back to the fringe on the right side. Next time I either have to go 5-wood or use an all-putting stroke with the 3-wood. I had too much wrist. Sinking the putt would salvage a decent score, but the 7-footer drifts just past, and I have a double, 6.

Indian Trails 5

Par 3, 164 yards

This is a hole I always have a lot of confidence on, but have never managed to birdie. I go with a 6-iron teed high; though I wonder if a strong 7 would do it. I hit my 6 thin and left, and have a 10-yard sand wedge, which I can't push more than within 15 feet of the hole. I read 3-4 inches of break to the left, and I'm right, but I can't sink it. 4.

Indian Trails 4

Par 4, 283 yards

I have confidence now in my 5-wood off the tee but slice it badly and land in front of a tree off the the left. I want to play a low 8-iron from there, but I nail a tree 10 yards out. My pitching wedge sinks on me and looks like it crawls into the bunker on the front left side of the green. When I amble up the slight slope I see it's stayed in the long grass just on the lip. I play a perfect sand wedge from there--I'm lucky; it would have been a nasty shovel job from the sand--and make the resulting 4-footer for a bogey 5.

Indian Trails 3

Par 4, 419 yards

I catch a good 5-wood and plant it in the fairway, about 210 yards from the hole. I go with the 5-wood again but hit it a little flat and leave it 10 yards short. This is where I need my short game to start saving me strokes. But it takes me two sand wedges to get on the green, and then my 7-foot putt looks like it's going to drop but turns a couple centimeters to the left. I'm off to a shaky start. 6.

Indian Trails 2

Par 3, 146 yards

For whatever reason, I've never played this hole well, and I think that's on my mind as I launch an 8-iron. I hit it thin and left, and it lies on the up-slope 20 yards shy of the green. That makes for an awkward pitching wedge, which I leave 8 yards shy. Time to try chipping with an 8-iron for a change (instead of a 7-iron). I'm afraid I'll choke and flub it, but I make good contact. With the greens bald as a geezer, the chip rolls to the back fringe. It takes me two puts to get down from there. 5.

Indian Trails 1

Par 4, 364 yards

I connect with my 3-wood pretty well, starting it right and watching it slice toward the left-hand rough. It's playable and I take out a 6-iron, but I scoop under it and only launch it 100-120 yards. That leaves me a pitching wedge, which I place more than 20 feet left of the pin. My putt zooms on me and I'm stuck with a 3-putt and a 6.

Indian Trails Intro

Indian Trails Golf Course
2776 Kalamazoo Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI
18 holes
Scorecard Map Review

Indian Trails is the most incongruously placed golf course on this side of the state. Built in the 1920s in what was then the outskirts of Grand Rapids, this sanctuary is now beseiged by the roar of 28th Street traffic and the burly neighbors of Meijer, the CRC headquarters, and now Walgreens and condos (on its former driving range). The fairways closest to the roads are ruined by the whooshing of traffic, but the inner holes are surprisingly removed from the din, thanks to the course's copious trees. The course is short and straight, but the trees and sloping fairways throw average golfers a few more twists than the average muny. If your short game isn't firing, your score will add up.

I played the back nine on 8/25 and the front on 8/29.