Livingston & Oakland Counties
by John Bebow
Just a few short years ago, visitors to the Brighton-Howell area didn't have much to visit besides a small ski hill, big farms, and a few relatives. Now, with top-quality courses popping up all the area, golfers are driving in Livingston County instead of driving through it.
"We're an hour drive away for many of the population centers in Michigan," says Barbara Barden, director of the Livingston County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "In the time it takes to drive up north, you can play 18 holes with a northern Michigan feel right here closer to home.
More than a dozen courses are within a 15-minute drive of Brighton or neighboring Howell. The best of those have all opened in the 1990s. Two new hotels are scheduled to open soon in the Howell area to accompany a large outlet mall which recently opened just west of Howell on I-96.
"We don't have any plans to out-do the resorts up north," Barden says. "But we do think we can be a second-tier destination."
Some of the Livingston County courses are definitely first-tier. Here's a look at some of the area's better golfing options:
You'll think you're up north when you reach the cash register here. Mid-season greens fees (with cart) will run you $59 during the week and $65 on the weekends.
Pay it. This course is worth every penny.
Carved out of a portion of 1,400 acres that have been in the same family since the original land grant 160 years ago, The Majestic lives up to its name -- and then some. The hilly first 18 holes wind around Lake Walden.
Every hole is isolated from the next and most offer spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding woods. Golf doesn't get much better than a three-hole stretch on the front nine. The short, par-three fourth plays over a ravine to a green sitting high on a hill with the lake just off to the left. Tall, thick pines completely envelop the 375-yard fifth. The tricky, 312-yard sixth offers a Scottish feel with a green cut into a rough-covered and well-bunkered hillside.
But the best golf at The Majestic might lie across the road, on the third nine. Detractors who claim golf is bad for the environment need to see how architect Jerry Matthews respects the streams and wetlands which flow through this land.
(810)632-5235, 9600 Crouse Rd, Hartland
The good news for your golf score is that the folks who run this rustic golf club have removed some 300 trees in the past two years. The bad news for your golf score is that woods and water still lurk everywhere.
Whispering Pines' fairways wind over steep hills and through 80-foot pines in many spots.
The 425-yard third hole exemplifies Whispering Pines treacherous beauty. Your tee shot must first clear a small pond find the fairway between thick pines. The tee shot must clear the crest of a hill to give you any shot at the green. Boom one off the tee and you still face a mid- to long-iron, over another pond, to an elevated green with a yawning front right bunker.
The recent tree removals cut the slope rating from the back tees here from 141 to 126. (We wonder if it doesn't really deserve a rating of 133 or higher.) Trust us, play the white tees unless you're a masochist or a scratch golfer. Eighteen holes with a cart (you can't walk this course) are $35 on weekdays and $45 on weekends.
(313)878-0009, 2500 Whispering Pines Dr., Pinckney
Once you actually find this course, you'll find the best greens in Livingston County.
Another Jerry Matthews design, Hunters Ridge flows through 160 acres of a centennial farm north of Howell. To put it bluntly, it's in the boonies, and co-owner Janet Miesle says it will always stay that way.
"This property has been in the family a long time and we decided we didn't want to break it up into little parcels for homes," she says. "A lot of players thank us for that."
The course is pretty wild, too. British Open heather and gorse can't be any tougher than the long farm grasses waving dangerously close to the edges of these hilly fairways. Stay in the short grass and you'll be rewarded with true-rolling greens that often have two or three levels and as many as 10 or more potential pin placements.
Most players should choose the blue tees, which have a rating and slope of 69.1/122. The course is pretty short from the white tees and the golds (at 72.0/134) are for the same egomaniacs who think they need to play the blues at Whispering Pines.
(517)545-GOLF, 8101 Byron Rd., Howell
One of the older courses in Livingston County, Faulkwood Shores is also one of the best buys. A weekday 18 with cart is only $25. And walkers pay only $27 on weekends after noon. It's a solid golf course, with several brutally long par fours. Faulkwood also features a fine clubhouse restaurant. Specialties include several seafood dishes and the Friday night fish fry.
(517)546-4180, 300 S. Hughes Rd., Howell
Go east for higher greens fees. That's the general rule for greens fees in the Brighton-Howell area. At $48 on the weekends, Dunham Hills , is no exception. But, unlike some other pricey courses in the area, Dunham is a pretty good place to play. The course is always in pretty good condition and the greens are superb.
(248) 887-9170, 13561 Dunham Rd., Hartland
A western Oakland County course, Mystic Creek makes our list because of a great three-hole stretch on its Lakes Course -- one of three nines in the sprawling Camp Dearborn recreation area west of Milford.
Number 6 on the Lakes Course is a long par three with a sprawling sand waste area and a lake on the left. Number 7 is a great risk-reward par four shaped like a crescent moon around another lake. Bite off the right amount of water and you can reach this 285-yarder. Number 8 provides perhaps the most intimidating tee shot in the region. The back tee boxes are perched some eighty feet above a lake. The fairway lies in the distance, beyond the water!
The courses get a lot of play and are in moderately good condition. But at $55 for 18 with a cart on the weekends, Mystic Creek isn't the best bargain.
(248)684-3333, One Champions Circle, Milford
This new upscale course, which opened June 1 near Pinckney, could compete with The Majestic, Whispering Pines and Hunters Ridge for top billing in the Livingston County area.
"We have big, expansive, wide fairways and it plays near 7,000 yards from the back tees," says course developer Jim Dewling. "So it would be a long-hitters course. But we have five sets of tees so it can play much easier. It has a real northern Michigan feel."
(734)878-1800, One Champions Circle, Pinckney
Several courses in the Brighton-Howell area are talking about establishing golf packages, especially with a new Holiday Inn Express and a Courtyard by Marriot scheduled to open later this year along I-96.
Marion Oaks and Dama are already doing it with the Ramada, Knight's Inn and Best Western hotels in Howell.
The Best Western Package might be the best of the lot. For $60 per person weekdays or $75 on the weekends, golfers get full breakfast, 18 holes with cart at Marion Oaks, Dama, or Hunters Ridge, and a valuable coupon book to the Kensington Valley outlet mall. For full details on golf packages, call the Livingston County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800)686-8474.
John Bebow is managing editor of Michigan Live, a statewide news and information service on the Internet. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
By Art McCafferty
Probably the first thing that golf businesses need to learn right away in Oakland County is German. With Mercedes-Benz/ Chrysler joining Audi and Volkswagen in placing its headquarters in Oakland County, about the only thing that needs to be done to complete the deal is the annexation of Frankenmuth.
It would figure that one of the richest areas in the country would have its share of golf courses. Oakland County, with its 74 public and private golf courses, has most of any county in Michigan. Oakland has the storied courses in Oakland Hills, Wabeek and Pine Lake as well as some of the newer ones in Twin Lakes, Copper Hills, Blackheath and Fieldstone.
While Oakland has not been known as much of a golf destination for outstate travelers, this is all changing. Janis Schmees, account executive of area marketing for the Metropolitan Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, is starting to focus more of her time on golf and golf packages for the hotels they represent. Some of those properties include the Northfield Hilton, Holiday Inn-Troy, Auburn Hills Hilton Suites, Doubletree Guest Suites-Troy and Marriott-Troy. For up to date information, give these folks a call at (313) 202-1834.
Bald Mountain, a course I played 35 years ago because of its student-friendly costs, is still very affordable. Golfers will find a rolling, wide-open course, with an occasional patch of woods. There is a large waste area that is surrounded by four holes of the back nine. The 3rd and 6th holes are local favorites. The 3rd is a 340-yard par 4 to an uphill green and the 6th is a 431 par four that majestically awaits your drive from a lofty teeing area. There is also a nine hole executive course on the property that plays to a little over 1500 yards.
248-373-1110, 3350 Kern Road, Lake Orion
Mounds and bridges give Beaver Creek a very distinct look . And what is definitely a first for me is seeing that two of their mounds have cart paths tunneled under them. The Bridges of Beaver Creek seem to be everywhere, with one of them covered.
Daughter Amy assists Dave Calhoun, the owner, in running the course. Dave is still tweaking this five-year-old course here and there. They have a very nice clubhouse and Amy has developed a nice menu. The assistant superintendent, Dean Davis, holds the course record at 67. " I love golf and I love working outside. This job is the best of both worlds," said Davis.
248-693-7170, 850 Stoney Creek Road, Oakland
This nifty nine holer is becoming noted as one of the finest teaching facilities around town. Terri Ryan, voted the top Michigan PGA instructor of 1996, heads up the instructional corps. According to Kevin Kehoe, who manages both Beech Woods and the newly renovated Evergreen Hills, the practice area at Beech Woods, has undergone substantial expansion. "We took out one of our city baseball fields to give us some additional room. We have added some bunkers, three target greens and created 25 new teeing mats for the practice area," said Kehoe.
313-354-4786, 22202 Beech Road, Southfield
Kevin Aldridge is at it again. Blackheath was supposed to open last August, but the weather just did not cooperate. Fairways were being cut and a new clubhouse was being erected when we visited it in mid May.
Jack Berry reviewed the course in our June 1997 issue, here are a few of his words. "How do you follow the Gailes, one of the most acclaimed courses in America? If you are Kevin Aldridge, you follow it with another classic, old-feel design, rumple the fairways a little, raise the greens a bit, mow around them to accent pitching and chipping, square the tees in the old links style, blend in 80-some bunkers, one little creek and tag it with a fine Scottish name, Blackheath." Vintage Berry writing and a vintage Aldridge design. A great twosome. Now open.
248-608-9722, 3311 N. Rochester Rd., Oakland
Bogie Lake first caught my eye 40 years ago, when I saw a crudely labeled sign indicating that golf at Bogie Lake was $1 a day. They have reversed the nines since I last golfed it, and have improved it immensely. It now appears that the course is enjoying a much better standard of living. Bogie Lake is a very hilly and open course on the front nine and then gets a little tougher on its narrow and wooded back nine.
248-363-4449, 11231 Bogie Lake, White Lake
You would have to be on your way to nowhere to stumble upon Bramblewood. If you lived on this road as a kid, you might score two candy bars and an apple for three hours of work on Halloween. However, many golfers are drawn to the dirt roads and the simplicity of the area. Bramblewood offers a nice rolling and scenic golf course at a very affordable price. The motto of owners Bill and Donna Mynatt's Bramblewood is, "We bring the North Country home."
248-634-3481, 2154 Bramblewood, Holly
Brentwood is one of a number of golfing communities that are popping up all over the state. It is a relatively short course that has its share of challenges. It has a big time clubhouse that will serve the golf communities various functions. Now three years old, it is starting to mature.
248-684-2662, 2450 Havenwood Rd., White Lake
Dave Sias, the golf professional since Cattails opened in 1991, indicates that the rounds continue to go up in number each year. The John Williams-designed course hosted the MedHealth Futures Tour last year and received some rave reviews for holding the tournament on such short notice. Doug Palm, course superintendent, has done a nice job in bringing this course along. It is a tough course, due to the constant wetland environment. Dave does some teaching and said they've picked up a lot of lessons from the Golf Digest s free ten minutes to Cure Your Slice program.
248-486-8777, 57737 9 Mile Rd., South Lyon
Jack Schader and Bob Wiar own Clarkston Creek, a par 71 course playing to 6316 yards. Eric Hiner is the PGA professional. It is a fairly straightforward course, with very few trouble spots. Certainly there are some water holes and a bunker here and there, but golfers should be able to score quite well on this course. However, they have been involved in a big tree planting program, so all this could change in 10-15 years.
248-625-3731, 6060 Maybee, Clarkston
This is a wonderful course and anyone who really enjoys the game of golf should book a tee time this summer. MG's Susan Bairley introduced the course to our readers in our April/May 1997 issue that is archived at
Curtis Wright, course owner, community developer and Copper Hills architect, is a most interesting person. When he began Copper Hills he brought the mind of a designer, acquired in his years of design work with Ford, the brawn of an excavation worker from his 30 years in that business, and the course architect mind of a person who'd traveled extensively and had either golfed or read about many of the world's finest courses.
In 1997, they opened the Hill and Marsh nines. Later this year they will open the Jungle nine, to complete their 27 holes.
Curtis has hired Glenn Pulice as the PGA golf professional. Glenn, the recent winner of Ferris State University's Bill Strausbaugh outstanding alumnus award, brings excellent marketing expertise and golf course management leadership to the facility. Glenn spent prior years working at Wabeek, Knollwood and Rattle Run.
Donna Wright named the course during a fall walk with her husband. They were at the highest point of their land, when she noticed the copper hue of the forest they were in and Copper Hills was born. She also worked with Curtis in the development of Copper Hills as one of the first geothermal communities.
248-969-9808, 2125 Lakeville Road, Oxford
Coyote reviewed and archived in MG's 1996 May issue
Gary Laurin has joined the Coyote golf instruction team this year. His school features a computer graphics split screen video of the student's golf swing. He markets it as "Be the Master of Your Motion."
248-486-1228, 28700 Milford Rd., New Hudson
With holes named, Demon Drop, Wicked Water, Bad Omen, Descent of Doom, Demonic Dogleg, Possessed and finally course namesake, Devil's Ridge, you would think that course design credits might include Wes Craven or Stephen King. But no, this course was designed by the devilish duo of Mark McCumber and Kent Jacoby.
Devil's Ridge offers golfers an extremely challenging course, a clubhouse with heavenly views, the excellent Oakwood Room restaurant and a practice area that should not be missed when you decide to play the course. There are five teeing areas for each hole, which allows the golfer to select their particular version of Hell. The course is in excellent shape, due to the work of Rick Flemming, course superintendent. Their signature hole is an uphill shot with a downhill approach. The 10th fairway is split, thus giving you the possibility of a devilish lie.
Tom Pomante is the director of golf and he is assisted by Bob Bletchok and Monty Gallaher. They have a fine instructional program and give you the services you expect from an upscale facility.
248-969-0100, 3700 Metamora Rd, Oxford
For 30 years Walter and now Wade Lorang have been providing area golfers affordable golf in Commerce Township. Originally begun as a nine-hole layout in 1967 by Walter Lorang, the course went to 18 holes in 1991. They have added a finishing touch to the course by way of a new clubhouse and banquet facility. The $3.5 million facility will be able to serve 500 people in its banquet area. It will also feature The Grill at El Dorado, something the local community does not have. According to Kathy Nelson-Winnicki, the catering manager, the Grand Opening is scheduled for mid-August. She did say that those interested in booking events should get on the phone now. They are just about sold out through August of next year.
248-624-1736, N. Pontiac Trail, Commerce
Bruce Matthews III and his Design 3 team have done a tremendous renovation program for Evergreen Hills. They have added 20 bunkers, multiple tees and rearranged a number of holes to this sleepy little nine-hole course. "This is going to be a challenging course," said Kevin Kehoe, who manages the course for the City of Southfield. "Bruce arranged it so one of our holes will have a 70 foot drop. We are really excited about it."
810-354-4866, Evergreen Road, Southfield
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