1081 Indianwood Road,
Michigan (MI) 48362,
- +1 248 693 8049
1 mile W of Lake Orion
Members and their guests only
Wilfred Reid and William Connellan
Indianwood Golf and Country Club dates back to the Roaring Twenties and the Old course was fashioned by English golf professional turned architect, Wilfred Reid and William Connellan. Indianwood (Old) is without doubt team Reid and Connellan’s finest design and it has more than a hint of Reid’s homeland. The club hosted the 1930 Western Open, which was won by Gene Sarazen and Indianwood also played host to the Michigan PGA Championship in 1948 and 1949.
The Indianwood clubhouse emanates baronial splendour with its tower entrance and ancient tapestries adorning the interior walls. You expect Lancelot to emerge from Indianwood in hot pursuit of a dragon. But despite its history, Indianwood fell into near terminal decline during the 1960s and was resurrected, like a phoenix from the ashes, by businessman and Anglophile Stan Aldridge.
Both the Old and New courses at Indianwood are links-like in style but the Old course is the most authentic of the two designs with numerous, deep pot bunkers and waving fescue grasses. Recent home to the Michigan PGA Championship and host to the 1989 and 1994 US Women’s Open, Indianwood is used to big tournaments but the club’s highest profile tournament is yet to come.
Indianwood was selected to host the 2012 US Senior Open, which naturally pleased owner Stan Aldridge. "Indianwood is thrilled to host the Senior Open, it's our intent to make it one of the top Senior Opens in history." A top event it was too, with England's Roger Chapman winning by two shots from Fred Funk, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and Bernhard Langer.
Michigan is a golf rich state, ranking fifth in the USA in terms of the number of golf courses. The state is filled with a wide variety of terrain, from courses located near a lake to courses on rolling sometimes hilly land. The result is a state that offers a high number of courses very much worth seeking out to play. Any course that is ranked in the top ten in Michigan should be considered a “must-play” while being ranked in the top 25 means a course is also very much worth seeking out to play. On top100golfcourses.com, Indianwood Old is currently placed at number nine in the state. While I have to-date played seven of the top ten and fourteen of the top 25, I can certainly see the merits of Indianwood Old being included in the top ten.
The course, designed by Wilfrid Reid and William Connellan, is laid across perhaps the best land of the courses I have played in Michigan. The movement in land is often dramatic, with some greens or tees placed as much as 50 feet above the low point of the hole. With the exception of two holes, six and seven both of which begin with elevated tees, the other “flat” holes of one, two and twelve offer substantial falloffs at the edges of the fairways or greens or ridges bordering the fairway. This results in many holes having very deep green side bunkers. If one is a good bunker player at Indianwood, they will be a good bunker player at any course. Often one stands on a tee and gazes down a hole that makes one want to linger a bit longer. Just beyond the fifth green there is a fabulous view across many of the holes.
Over the years the Old course has been little changed with the exception of trees that once were allowed to grow, as well as trees since removed. A few bunkers were also added in preparation for hosting some significant USGA events, including two Women’s Opens, and a US Senior Open.
Mr. Reid was an accomplished player, appearing in twelve Opens, eleven US Opens, and two PGA’s between 1903-1939. Even into his later years, he routinely beat his age. While he originally laid out the Lakeside course at the Olympic Club, Indianwood Old is likely his crowning achievement as a designer. He partnered with another former playing professional, William Connellan, and together they built 20 courses alone in Michigan.
The course sits close to Lake Orion, one of the largest lakes in an area dotted by many lakes. As such, it is often exposed to wind which certainly aids in the defense of the course.
There are various elements holding the course back from being rated even higher. For the best player who also has length, the course is too short. I did not see many opportunities to increase the length. The bunkers are often in poor condition, with small pebbles feeling more numerous than grains of sand. The edges of the bunkers are not crisp and more than once I saw weeds in the corners or at the beginning of the face. The grass surrounding the bunkers is often unkept and shabby. Some of the tees were also in poor shape. This does not seem to be the fault of the ground staff given the smooth greens and fairways; it appears to be a budget issue. My suspicion is that the small membership cannot adequately fund the very large clubhouse and the second course, which my understanding is below average and generally used only for outings as members often avoid it.
Holes six and seven have drainage issues. For a course that is meant to be played firm and fast, it is disheartening to witness balls struck from elevated tees come to a fast stop/ almost plugging with no rollout if there has been any rain within 24 hours. Six would be one of the better holes on the course if not for the wet fairway. As the course will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2025, one would think in 100 years the drainage issues on these two holes would have been solved.
I read the other comments by previous reviewers and I agree with the assessment that the majority of the greens have adequate slopes and undulations. Some could have more character but overall I thought they were better than many courses, although not in the same league as Crystal Downs or Oakland Hills South. The size of the greens vary greatly from small greens at three and sixteen to what was likely at one time the largest green in the USA at the closing hole. The eighteenth green is truly amazing with various tiers and raised spines.
There is also good contouring surrounding the majority of the greens on those holes that lack the deeper bunkers. As for the bunkers, despite their poor condition, there are certainly an adequate number of bunkers and a good placement of them, adding to the strategy of the holes. Indianwood Old is a course that rewards the straight tee shot and several of the holes require a decision at the tee to avoid the fairway bunkers or get a better angle to the green such as on holes two and four.
The par 3’s are very good here. There is one mid-length par 3 and then three longer ones. One could make a case for either of the four to be the best par 3 on the course.
The course plays from the Gold tees to 6828 yards, par 70 rated 74.3/138. The member tees drop down to 6332 yards, rated 72.0/132. There is a set of combo tees in between.
1. Par 5 498/468. This is a gentle starting hole, offering a good chance for the longer hitters to try for an eagle while average players should be able to make a par. While there is a collection of three bunkers on the left to consider for the tee shot, one can get into more trouble if they find the deep bunker on the right off the tee which is about ten feet deep. Another large and deep bunker sits about 130 yards from the green. There are falloffs off both sides of the fairway and surrounding the green which tilts to the front and a bit to the right. The green has a small front with four surrounding bunkers set well below the green.the bunkering on the first hole is very well done and is an indication of the very good bunkering throughout the course.
2. Par 4 384/365. This is a far better hole from the back tee although all players have to thread a somewhat narrow fairway that feels almost pinched in due to the three long bunkers on the left offset by two on the right. As I walked past these bunkers on the left, they reminded me of the type of bunkers being built today by the minimalists of Ccore/Crenshaw, Doak, Kidd, Hanse, Hudzan/Fry, etc. yet these bunkers on the Old course were built nearly 100 years ago. If anyone thinks today’s top designers have designed their courses with “original” characteristics, that is false. What today’s top architects brilliantly do is to find the best parts of the land and place interesting sometimes defensive features there such as knobs, mounds, or blowout bunkers. What I also liked about the second hole were the bunkers placed well short of the green that disguised the additional distance left to the front. These offsetting bunkers are followed by two additional bunkers at the green. The green has a defined tilt to the right.
3. Par 3 160/142. The shortest par 3 on the course also plays downhill. There is an early pond that is not in play. The primary defense is the small green that tilts to the left. The green is larger than it appears from the tee where it appears shallower than it is due to the fronting deep bunkers. In total there are seven bunkers surrounding this green. I walked away thinking this is likely the best par 3 on the course but that came later.
4. Par 4 433/388. This hole plays like half a horseshoe such is the dogleg to the right. From elevated tees one plays across a valley to higher ground with wetlands running down the right. There is an early bunker on the left likely not in play followed by two longer bunkers placed on the outer corner that provide a good aiming point from the tee. On the right side there are two bunkers, one perhaps 50 yards long. I really liked the green complex with a deep bunker placed ten yards off the left, a bunker well right to stop balls from entering the woods, and a real bunker. The back of the green is very close to an out-of-bounds. The green has a large swale and also tilts to the right.
5. Par 3 196/172. Due to a poor tee shot I played this hole badly yet it was my favorite par 3 on the course. You play across a valley to a green on higher ground with a very deep long bunker left of 20-25 yards and a smaller one cutting into the front from the right side placed before the start of the green. There are scattered trees on the left but a bigger defense is the out-of bounds due to very thick tree down the right. The green has a central spine, various swales and is tilted strongly back to,front. From the tee the green seems farther away than the yardage due to the narrowness of the path to the green. If one hits short, the green is about 15 feet above you.
6. Par 4 452/432. From the elevated tee with a drop of perhaps 30 feet this is an attractive hole as bunkers line both sides of the fairway. It is a pity that the fairway is wet as it detracts from the hole. Eleven bunkers are on this hole with five coming into play off the tee. Longer hitters will carry these bunkers. The right side offers three bunkers set within smaller mounds.from which recovery is problematic. Trees come into play down the right side starting 150 yards out. The green is the first angled green on the course, going right to left with the left side hidden behind a mound. The green tilts to the front with a thumbprint also near the front. This could be a super hole if the bunkers were better as well as having a dry fairway. It s rated the hardest on the front nine although I thought five and eight are more difficult.
7. Par 4 410/377. This hole and the second are the flattest on the course. Three bunkers are on both sides of the fairway. The most interesting feature of the hole is the seven bunkers at the green complex, a mixture of wide and long or very small.
8. Par 4 407/356. This hole is rated the second hardest on the outward nine due to tremendous change in elevation. You hit downhill from the tee to a multi-tiered fairway that does not allow one’s ball to roll out much before the next tier begins. From the lowest point of the fairway, the green is 50 feet above you adding to the length of the hole. The green is well defended with deep bunkers of twelve feet on either side as well as taller grasses nearby. One cannot go long here as there is little room behind the green before trees and tall grass begins. The green is terrific with a steep slope to the front and a back shelf. It is a strong golf hole that is matches a strong visual appeal with multiple defenses.
9. Par 4 356/343. This is a rare dogleg on the course. There are thick trees down the right side of this dogleg right. Those trying to cut the corner need to be able to hit a drive of 240 yards with height to reach the fairway. If one misses to the right, they will either find trees, tall grass, or go down a sharp bank. Off the left of the tee is also a falloff if one hits it short but recovery near the front of the green is very possible. This green is well defended with front mounds, a front bunker, two additional front side bunkers and mounds surrounding the green which tilts sharply back to front. The clubhouse sits behind this green. I had two criticisms of the hole. First, it appears the tee was once more to the left for the member’s tee which offers a better sight line. This tee should still be used. Second, to,the right of the green and the clubhouse is an unsightly mixture of weeds and scraggly trees and bushes which detract from the visual appeal of the hole.
10. Par 4 358/346. For me this is the most picturesque hole on the course. From another elevated tee you look down to the fairway that sits probably 40 feet below. To the left is a small pond and trees while the right side offers higher ground with rolling land and tall grass. Two bunkers sit on the right opposite the pond. The green complex is fabulous, hitting into a raised green with five surrounding bunkers with several placed about seven feet below the green. The green is a near perfect circle with subtle movement.
11. Par 4 386/340. This is an exciting tee shot from the Gold tee as it becomes an uphill dogleg right over an early pond and three bunkers. The member tee plays to a straight shot between those three big Kees on the right and two on the left. These are deep fairway bunkers and one will not likely reach the green. There is a tree near the tee that should be removed as the tee box is distressed. The green has a sizable false front as it is elevated about twenty feet. It is another very good green complex with eight bunkers, with the left front bunker likely the deepest on the course about 15 feet down.
12. Par 4 490/430. This hole perhaps would be better as a par five although there is no room to lengthen without altering the eleventh green and fifteen tee. Perhaps it could have played as a sharp dogleg left with the fairway being placed on the higher ground behind the thirteenth green. However, that would have taken the pond out of play. The hole plays from another elevated tee down to a pond on the left that is very much in play. The right side of the fairway is a ridge line extending two-thirds to the green. There are five bunkers built into the side of the ridge and close to the fairway. Beyond the pond on the left are thick trees. The green is steeply sloped back to front with six surrounding bunkers. I felt this hole five and eight to be the most difficult holes on the course.
13. Par 3 219/212. You play over two valleys separated by a ridge with the green 40 feet above the second valley. The green has three bu Jersey to defend it, with the first one on the left fairly deep. The green appears to be in a bowl but actually is not as balls missing to either side do not always come back onto the green. The green is tilted to the left.
14. Par 4 435/403. Rated the second hardest on the inward nine, this hole plays from yet another elevated tee to a green that is well above you. I felt the hole played an additional 25 yards in length. This hole has a center-lime bunker about 75 yards from the elevated green. I felt this to be the least interesting green on the course but that might have been due to the pin position.
15. Par 5 540/524. The second and last par 5 is rated the toughest on the back. I failed to see why as I thought four other holes to be more difficult. The tee shot is to a generous fairway that falls away about 210 yards off the tee, although one could stop on a downslope. The hole then falls down a valley where a pond is on the right as well as a tree whose branches hang over the right side. The green is again about 40 feet above the low point of the fairway. There is a gradual false front and falloffs as you get to the back of the green as it is raised higher.
16. Par 4 448/401. This is a rare dogleg on the course, going sharply right. There are four bunkers on the inner corner, including a hidden bunker added for the 2012 US Senior Open. The bigger hitters can carry these bunkers catching a downslope leading to a waste bunker with three inner islands. From this spot, one cannot see the green which is the smallest on the course and has a higher mound down the left side. The fairway ripples at the turn to the green. Missing the green either long or right will lead to a falloff into high grass. There is a defined spine near the front middle of the green.
17. Par 3 194/187. This is a daunting par 3 where one needs to hit the green or miss short. If one missed the green, if the pin is in the back of the hole there is not much room to land one’s ball without going through to the other side. The left side of the green is more treacherous due to the two bunkers set below the green. The right side of the green features one long bunker but it is an easier recovery as one can see the surface of the green.
18. Par 4 462/411. What a fun finishing hole playing uphill off the tee. This sharp dogleg right requires a long carry over tall grass and so many bunkers I instantly thought the bunkers at Whistling Straits and wondered if Pete Dye had ever visited Indianwood Old. Bigger hitters could hit through the fairway into the trees on the other side. A safer play off the tee is to hit left of all of these bunkers but it leaves both a long approach shot as well as a blind shot into the green. The fairway falls significantly downhill with various shelves to what was once perhaps the largest green in the USA. It sits in a bowl but is so massive that it has three vertical spines and multiple tiers. The middle right is steeply sloped making a pin position there unplayable. The green is a perfect mixture of fun and wonderment.
I have been asked why I do a hole-by-hole review and my answer is that I do it for two reasons. The first is that I do it for courses that I greatly admire as I feel the better courses are deserving of it. The second is that it helps me remember the course better. In going through the hole by hole of Indianwood Old, I was reminded even more of the many elevated tees and elevated greens. I was also reminded of the great bunkering. Finally, I am able to better recall the amazing movement of land. The architects possibly could have done a better routing but they likely could not have foreseen how technology would change the game. For the time period in which they routed and designed the course they could not have built much better. Perhaps a few greens could have been angled better but that is about the only criticism I would have.
With a few improvements to the conditioning, this course would always be in the top five in Michigan which would be quite a statement. Anyone playing in Michigan should try to play here despite the issues with conditioning.
Indianwood is an underrated championship course in SE Michigan. I know that the greens have come under some architectural criticism for being monotonous but I found them to be extremely unique, thought provoking, and challenging. I wanted to tee it back up on #1 right after finishing just to get another crack at them. With that being said, I do believe that a few greens (3, 6, 9, 10) could benefit from expansion. The course is littered with top notch strategic holes. The 2nd and 4th stand out on the front as it relates to strategy but the 5-7th holes offer a terrific execution challenge with 3 difficult par 4s in a row. I thought the 9th and 10th felt a little out-of-place compared to the rest of the course but the rest of the back 9 was very fun. The 16th-18th holes provide a wonderful finish to the course (the massive 18th green is an adventure onto itself). All-in-all, this is certainly a top 10 course in the state.
A beautiful course with a lot of open vistas, and native grasses lining most of the holes. I played it in the fall, when the native grasses were pretty thick making it tough in certain sports to find and play your ball. I have heard they are much more playable earlier in the season. The course is a difficult ball striking test as in addition to the native grass, there are some doglegs and fairway undulations that shrink landing zones and most of the greens are fairly small. The greens tend to kick balls towards the center which helps on the approaches, but can make for some brutal short side pitches when you miss them. I really enjoyed the course and the ball striking test it provided.
One of the best layouts I have played in Michigan. Excellent variety and you can actually hit out of the fescues. Unfortunately, lack of maintenance is starting to show since their last big event (Senior Championship).
This is a really fun course located about an hour north of Detroit. The club was founded in 1925 with the Old course hosting numerous USGA events. The opening five holes throw you head first into the rolling nature of the land. Large dips and rises are plentiful. I really enjoyed the approach shots into the 2nd and 4th holes, where the greens sat below the level of the fairway. The 4th hole is a 100-degree dogleg right with a raised fairway. It was a thrilling hole all the way through, where you hit up to the elevated corner of the dogleg and then are faced with a downhill approach which is really fun. The greens on the Old course are mostly perfect circles and small in size. A course this old has bundles of charm and no shortage of quirky green-sites. It begins to show its teeth from the 6th hole onwards. In addition to the rolling terrain, there is a stretch of long par 4s that lead you to the fabulous short par 4 9th. The back nine is much tougher than the front, especially with the par 3 13th and 17th holes playing 200+ yards each. I was really impressed with the green-site locations and how exciting it must have been to find them all those years ago. There is an amphitheater feel to most of the approach shots and I highly recommend this old classic.