Every course at the Treetops Resort has a mind that it should be considered the best. Although the Premier course is often ranked near the fore, every course boasts most about its “signature” holes, and therefore Rick Smith can take some pride knowing that he designed the resort’s Signature course.
While the Premier is taken to a more championship-caliber length, the Signature remains a more humble 6,600 yards. Smith allows the rolling land to provide most of the challenge for him and, when it can’t work alone, he adds large sand hazards to add both strategic and aesthetic appeal.
No. 6 is among the most intriguing for the everyday golfer, adding a Road hole green to the green of this reachable par five (510 yards). Sounds easier than your average Road, perhaps, but in order to get within striking distance, you’ll also need to combat a centerline bunker off the tee. Inspired a bit less by historic golf and more of his own creative whims, No. 15 features one of the thinnest greens you’ll ever see. This will make you consider laying up, despite the very reachable distance (485 yards).
The Signature course at treetops is a Rick Smith design the man who’s name was attached to Treetops for many years. The Signature is to me easily the best course at Treetops and if in the area the must play of the bunch paired with Threetops. This was the first Rick Smith design I had played and it is well done, it’s fairly short but has bite and hidden yardage 6,52 from the tips but a par 70 and a slope of 140. Plenty of eye Candy with great elevation changes as with all the Treetops courses. Smiths design is much more unique than the RTJ or Fazio courses on property and does cost the most so that tells you it’s the most sought after as people are willing to pay the premium. I have since played other Smith designs Threetops and Arcadia Bluffs and I would say Smith has a clear gift for design although he is more known as an instructor.
The Signature Course at Treetops was Rick Smith’s first design and a pretty good one at that. My biggest nit is golf courses should be walkable.
The first hole is long and thankfully downhill. The left and right contours will funnel most drives to the middle of the fairway. Left is best off the tee and the green is protected by bunkers left and right. The first par 3 is a good birdie oppty. Downhill to a double tiered green. The green is well protected by 3 three bunkers. There are a couple of other bunkers on this hole that shouldn’t come into play and seemed forced to me. The long dogleg right 3rd has a lot going on. From an elevated tee there are cross bunkers in front that should not come onto play. There is a water hazard on the inside elbow, but you really have to block it badly to bring it into play. There is a procession of bunkers on the left side and a couple of stragglers on the right. This green runs away from your approach, so a bump and run may be the play. The 4th is a tight par 3 over gunch with two front bunkers and two back left and right. This is a long green so club accordingly. The uphill 5th is the number one handicap hole and has one of the narrowest fairways. Once again, bunkers are sprinkled into the hole design, but the toughest element to this hole, (other than hitting it straight) is the three tiered green. A par 5 dogleg left, the 6th, is reachable if you fly the bunker in the middle of the fairway. Lots of risk with this approach, but who am I to judge? The 7th is another dogleg left, you will be tempted to try to cut the corner by flying the bunker on the inside elbow. I know I was found wanting. On your approach aim 5 yards to to the right of the pin as this green tilts hard left. The 8th is a slightly downhill par 3. The redan green is protected by a large deep bunker and this is on of the more undulating greens on the course. A good drive on the 9th will provide a good birdie oppty. However, you miss left and you will probably end up in one of the fairway bunkers and too far right and you may be blocked out.
The back starts out with the longest hole on the course. It is slightly downhill with a generous landing area, so big hitters almost have to go for it, but the hole narrows considerably the closer one gets to the green. The downhill par 3 11th is unique. Probably, the narrowest chute of any par 3 I have ever played (the narrowest chute was the par 5 18th at Rosedale GC in Bradenton, FL). There is a bunker right, but you cannot see it from the tee. By the way to green slopes left to right so aim a few yards left of your target line, if you dare. The 12th is a good birdie oppty. Favor the left off the tee and make sure you have the right club to this tiered green. The 13th is the toughest hole on the back. This tee shot is also out of a chute. Favor the left, the approach is uphill to another multi-tiered green surrounded by four bunkers. The 14th is a downhill dogleg left. May want to consider laying up as you can drive through the fairway on the right side. A high draw is the preferred ball flight, but trouble looms left. The 15th is a good risk/reward par 5. Ample landing off the tee, I think left is better, but there are more fairway bunkers on that side. The green is definitely reachable but the hole narrows significantly and the trees keep getting in my way. Don’t despair the finishing holes are great scoring opptys. The 16th is a slight downhill dogleg left. While it will be tempting to shorten it up and play down the left side, that is where most of the trouble is. Favor the right and put a scoring wedge in your hands. The 17th is the last par three and is downhill. I would definitely take one less club. The short 18th seemed tricked up to me. I would suggest playing right of the fairway bunker. This should leave with a short approach to an elevated green, so take an extra club.
Overall, a good resort course that seemed to try too hard. I think the greens were over the top. Some multi-tiered is fine, but it seemed relentless. If you go, make sure you play Threetops the par 3 course. It is fantastic.