While there are many fine golf courses in the Traverse City area, perhaps none have the combination of elements present at Elmbrook, just ten minutes southeast of downtown. Elmbrook is a public course with reasonable rates, you can walk the course or opt for a power cart, the conditions and layout are fine, and the panoramic views of Traverse City and Grand Traverse Bay are one-of-a-kind.
From the back tees Elmbrook measures 6131 yards (5194 from the ladies tees), but the design of the course makes it seem much longer. Many of the holes have tees perched atop ridges, and several fairways lay on the bottoms of valley floors with steep hillsides on either side. Hooks and fades result in difficult uphill/downhill lies, significantly adding "perceived" yardage to the statistical yardage.
Examples of this fall into what I call the "into the valley of death" category. Number six only measures 370 yards/par four, but the tee is on a high ridge, the fairway follows the bottom of a narrow "V", and the green is perched atop a knoll. Drives to the right or left put you "on the other side of the mountain" with a blind approach shot.
My favorite hole on the course, number thirteen, also includes a valley. Stretching 472 yards/par five, you drive from a mountain top tee with a spectacular overlook of Grand Traverse Bay. The fairway spills down and away quickly making a sweeping arc to the right. Then it's greenward through a narrow chute formed by a ridge on the right and a hardwood forest to the left. The green is surrounded by the forest with a big bunker at the front right. Play this hole down the middle and it's a reasonable par five: Play it crooked and a snowman (eight) is a distinct possibility.
Elmbrook adds the little touches that make playing the course a real pleasure. Most tee boxes are framed by terraces of flowers, there is a bag drop area with a helpful staff, and the pro shop/restaurant has a wonderful covered deck where you can gaze out over the city and bay and enjoy the Lake Michigan breezes.
The 1995 green fees were only $22 walk/$33 with cart on weekdays and $24/$35 on weekends, so the price is a terrific bargain. There are also special spring and fall rates.
Elmbrook is located on Hammond Road, southeast of Traverse City, about ten minutes from the Grand Traverse Mall and five minutes from the Cherryland Mall. For more information and tee times: Elmbrook, 420 Hammond Road, Traverse City, MI 49684 (616) 946-9180.