The Donald Ross Memorial course at the Boyne Highlands Resort was not actually designed by Donald Ross, which makes the Arthur Hills course the only one at the resort named for its designer (an honor that escaped even Robert Trent Jones at the resort’s Heather course).
Hills must have taken the honor as a matter of pride, and saw fit to combine his signature quirk with a study of strategy when creating what is also the resort’s longest challenge (at more than 7,300 yards). Despite the long number, the Hills course may also play as the fairest at Boyne, thanks to its wide fairways. Hills is happy to reward the wise player with a par when playing wisely, however the trap will snap on the hands reaching for too much.
The first three holes give a taste of the massive sand expanses one can expect to find throughout the round, most of which sit in a position where the conservative player can easily find the center of the fairway, while the wishful tiger may end up in the Sahara.
No. 17 is a curious beast, giving players two fairways to choose from. There are also two separate sets of tees boxes, separated by 50 yards of pond, which the superintendent can swap between to create a slew of possible routes from day-to-day.
The Arthur Hills course at Boyne Highlands is interesting. The front is pretty flat and portions of the back have a good deal of elevation changes. The first hole is a benign par 4, slight dogleg right with a BAB fairway bunker running down the right side. Just being Mr. Obvious, left of center is best. The 2nd hole is a good birdie oppty, the hole is pretty straight but the design makes it look like a dogleg left. If you go down the fairway on the right, you run the risk of hitting it thru the fairway into the gunch. Conversely on the line of flight to the green on the left, there is another fairway BAB. Go for it, if I can fly it, so can you. This will set up a flip wedge to an elevated green. The par 5 3rd is a dogleg right. If you thought the first 2 holes had fairway BABs check out the one on the right side that is about 250 yards long. Possible to get home in two, but you will have to cut off a lot of the bunker. Assuming success, will then have a daunting shot over a deep front bunker with additional bunkers left and right to an elevated narrow green. I think the smart play is a 3 shotter. Off the tee aim at the left fairway bunker and then a mid-iron at the front bunker to leave you with a flip wedge. The 4th is a slight dogleg left with water running down most of the left side. The hole tilts left so favor the right off the tee and on your approach to this well-protected redan green, 2 bunkers right and water left. The par 4 5th is deservedly the number 1 handicap hole. Surrounded by pine groves, you have the feeling of being in a clearing in the forest. Hopefully, they will not harvest the timber. The par 5 6th is a dogleg right. It is reachable. There is fairway BAB on the left that is about 100 yards long. The green is protected on the right with a bunker and is two tiered. The 7th is a ho-hum par 3. The 8th is a long par 4 dogleg right. Ideal tee shot is to the left of the middle pot bunker. If you drive through the fairway you will be in the largest bunker (VBAB) on the course. He 9th is par 3 with a long and skinny green. Couple of bunkers in the front protecting it gunch right.
The back starts with what I consider a short gimmicky par 4 slight dogleg right. It is driveable, but it is mesa green with a large and extremely deep bunker protecting the front. I think the best play is to lay up to 100 yards and come in from the left. The 11th was my favorite hole on the course and shockingly, no, I did not birdie it. An excellent uphill 3 shot par five. A generous landing area right off the tee. I would recommend favoring the left side off the tee. To have a decent shot at par or better your second shot MUST carry the right fairway bunker at the top pf the hill. This is a blind uphill shot. The fairway squeezes hard right and narrows significantly about 30-40 yards past the bunker. While there are no greenside bunkers, this is a redan green so yardage is critical, especially as short and left there is onerous rough. The par 4 12th is a well designed uphill dogleg right. If you are too far right, you will be blocked out. Too far left and you will be in the bunker on the elbow. Therefore, just hot your tee shot straight. Also, on your approach make sure you take at least one extra club to this elevated green. The 13th is an eye candy downhill par 5. It has a huge fairway and while it is downhill, if you do not hit a decent drive, I am going to guess normal distance 190 yards, the ball will roll downhill but backwards. Then the hole becomes real difficult, not only length wise but your second shot will have to get up quickly to clear the top of the hill. If you carry the ridge, you will approx. 250 yards downhill to the green. There is a BAB right pot bunker short left and two other bunkers left. This brings us the #18 handicap hole, par 3 14th. I witnessed multiple sixes here. TAKE AN EXTRA CLUB!!!! If you miss right, the ball will roll 50 yards down the hill. The 15th is a downhill dogleg right with a large bunker on the inside elbow. You definitely want to cut some of the corner, best to aim down the left side of the bunker. The long par 3 16th only has 1 bunker, of course it is the largest bunker on the course that it shares with the 8th hole. The redan green is nestled right on top of it. If you are going to miss, miss right. The 17th is a split fairway par 4. Even from the tips I cannot see the logic in playing down the left side as your approach would have to contend with trees that are in the island of the split. The 18th is a par five dogleg left with water on the inside elbow. If you are going to go for it your tee shot will have to take an aggressive line left towards the water hazard. Definitely reachable in two. For the safe play, right is better, but be wary of the fairway bunkers on the right. For your 2nd shot there is no sense in cutting any of the corner, as the fairway gets very narrow with a bunker. Plan on an approach of about 120 yards.
An interesting course worth the price of admission.