Shepherd’s Hollow is a 27-hole facility located north of Detroit. Although all were designed in tandem by Arthur Hills, most conclude that the combination of holes 10 through 27 are the better 18 of the group.
One of the defining features of this somewhat hilly property is a series of hollows (note the title) that can create hazards much more frightening than any bunker. During No. 20 (or No. 11 for those playing 18 holes), the first-time player might be encouraged to hit within 50 yards of the green, for no hazards can be seen up ahead from the first shot. They may be alarmed if their second wandered to the left side of the fairway, however, as it may have rolled more than 30 feet down.
A similar fate awaits those who feel good about a smash down the No. 16 fairway (No. 7 on the scorecard here). Many familiar with Hills’ work will be looking for his signature centerline tree...those a little left on this fairway will find it, at the bottom of a penal collection area built into the hollow. The golf course is on property leased from an abbey, so it might be worth a prayer if you end up down here.
Shepherd's is a very good 27 hole facility and with nice elevation and isolation. This Arthur Hills design is always among the best public options in the Metro Detroit area rankings. It’s also a nice challenge and can be played as a true championship test or tournament course something many metro courses cannot. I would have Shepherd’s higher in the state than current position.
A Northern Michigan feeling 27 hole facility in metro Detroit with large rolling hills and tree lined notes. The course is very well maintained and has a lot of good but not great holes, with the best stretch coming on 13-18, with two fun risk/reward Par 5's mixed in with some strategic Par 4's and the solid par 3 17th. It was an enjoyable round of golf, and one of the best public rounds in the Detroit area, but from a state wide perspective is a step below the public courses up north, or the private clubs in metro Detroit.
Most 27-hole facilities do players the courtesy of letting them know which pair of nines is best. Shepherd’s Hollow does not. Many resources—including this one—suggest the latter 18. Others suggest the first nine accompanying the second. Your correspondent opts for 10-27, with a significant asterisk*.
Designer Arthur Hills is no stranger to more whimsical design ideas, and that fact alone makes 19-27 more in line with his character. For example, Nos. 22 and 23 play as back-to-back drivable Par 4s, depending on how bold the player is feeling (and, of course, assuming it’s a day where the left-most of the two greens at No. 22 is in play). The final nine at Shepherd’s Hollow also includes—at least in this humble critic’s opinion—the best hole of the lot. The land blessed Hills with, well, hills throughout, and the architect uses a combination of compromised sightlines and natural dells to have a laugh at overeager first-timers. No. 21 rolls along, and with a 70-foot drop from tee-to-green, making even its 600 yards seem reachable. A dell runs for 100 yards along the left side into the green says otherwise. Knowing where to land on the fairway, versus simply landing on the fairway, makes the whole of Shepherd’s Hollow a great “local knowledge” venue.
Now for the asterisk: If you can swing it, try to arrange for an 18-hole round that begins with 19-27 and ends with 10-18. The former’s final trio is not altogether boring, but it can’t hold a candle to Nos. 16-18 for interest and variety. No. 16 is a long 4 that encourages longer drives...which feel great until those who hit the left side of the fairway realize they have ended up in a deep collection area, possibly behind a nefarious tree. A GIR to this false-fronted green from the bottom of the dell is unlikely. The thin, diagonal Par 3 green at No. 17 features two tiers, lower at the front-right and higher at the back-left. A pond hugging the left side only complicates the player’s attack strategy. The Par 5 closer becomes a Cape upon the second shot. Either lay up carefully—the fairway wraps around a pond—or try to carry the hazard to the green for a glorious conclusion to the round. Short is obviously wet, but long could be as well: Although there is a wide patch of fairway for long approaches, the green tilts aggressively from back to front...many pitches will roll all the way back down to the water.
As the debate between 1-18 and 10-27 suggests, the middle nine is the best. That said, each of the three has patches of mundanity, which are easier to deal with when playing a strong final trio. Your correspondent’s negotiations with the starter were made easier by the weekday tee time. Don’t count on such luck on the weekend. Shepherd’s Hollow’s collection of 27 holes is a great contribution to the local golf scene, if not necessarily worth a trip unto itself.