Sean originally nominated the University of Michigan Golf Course as a Gem and we added it to the Top 100 website in April 2008. In 2012 we launched our US Best In State rankings and the University of Michigan Golf Course debuted in the Top 15. We liked Sean’s original article so much we’ve left it intact:
“The University of Michigan Golf Course would be considered the purest example which best exemplifies the unique blend of Maxwell and MacKenzie if not for the famed Crystal Downs Golf Club some 240 miles north of Ann Arbor. Soon after the completion of Crystal Downs, Maxwell submitted plans for the Michigan design. MacKenzie subsequently made alterations to the plans, which included an additional 350 yards, the quirky par five 3rd and the horseshoe-shaped 6th green. Maxwell then stayed at Ann Arbor to oversee the construction of the course which opened in the spring of 1931.
The course, often referred to as the Blue, is set in an enviable location on the University of Michigan campus and offers wonderful views of the city centre. How the architects took advantage of this hilly property by creating green sites in devilish locations more than makes up for the relatively short length of 6,700 yards. However, like many classic English heathland courses such as Swinley Forest, the Blue plays longer than its listed yardage due to several of the approaches being uphill.
Despite a controversial renovation in the early 1990s, the variety of holes and the rhythm of the routing, which are testaments to Golden Age principles of design, have been preserved very well. The Blue is reserved for students, staff, alumni and guests, but a well-placed letter stands every chance of earning one a game. It is an effort worth making as after nearly 80 years Michigan is still considered one of the best university courses in the country.”
U of M is probably one of the more accessible MacKenzie courses in the nation and is one that is definitely worth playing when you are in the Detroit area. The course starts out with a fairly get-able par 5 that eases you into the round. You then have a series of par 4's with blind shots off of the tee which as I learned can be very unforgiving if you place it in the wrong spot. My biggest takeaway from U of M was that it had the bones of a potentially amazing golf course. With some tree trimming on both nines and some restoration of the classic MacKenzie style bunkering this course could be back to its former glory. But with no doubt, this is one of the better college courses in the nation and is a great amenity for all of the Michigan alum and students.
Despite being a current student at the University of Notre Dame, Michigan has always been high on my bucket list, and needless to say it did not disappoint. While the university lauds itself as the "Mackenzie Experience" the course is actually a great hybrid between Maxwell and Mackenzie, with the course reminding one more of Southern Hills than Pasatiempo (although it does have wild flairs).
The greens are about as wild and demanding as golf gets, and so much fun to mess around on. I don't think I've ever hit a putt with my back turned to the hole and had it end up on the low side, as I did on the 3rd hole. The hourglass shaped 6th and the boomerang par 3 14th continue on this trend of green complexes you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. A tip of the cap to the good doctor.
The overall routing of the course is excellent, playing over a massive ridge yielding great views of Ann Arbor. While there are so many aspects in which a restoration would boost this course's reputation, simply removing a lot of the overgrown trees would vastly improve the vistas. This would not only improve strategy, but also provide a better view of the house where the Irish will return to pounce the wolverines on September 3rd 2033.
Paramount to the routing is the par 3's, all vastly differing in length and requiring a distinct challenge. The 8th is very reminiscent of the 7th at Cypress, with its sweeping reverse redan features. 12 is a massive golf hole, playing upwards of 250 to a severely sloped green. 14, however, is the creme de la creme, playing to an undulating boomerang green that is intimidating even with just a wedge in hand.
As much as I love thee ND, and as much as I love Warren, I think UM slightly edges us out in terms of the course. Thankfully, in all other aspects, Our Lady's University reigns supreme. Go Irish.
Mackenzie and Maxwell teamed for my top two favorite courses: Crystal Downs and Augusta National. And like those courses, UMGC has some fantastic greens. This course is underrated.
So much character and golf-worthiness in this gem of a course!
There's something about this course where you almost learn something about how the legends of the game saw and felt things when you play here. I'm sure it comes down to the MacKenzie/Maxwell influence because it is the exact same feeling you get at Crystal Downs, though not quite as poignant.
Without overhyping it too much, playing here is like doing a little archaeological research on the history of golf. You get to see how one of the greatest designers and thinkers in the history of game laid out a course on a beautiful rolling hilltops. It's both a study in golf as well as a study in aesthetics. It offers some very strategic decision making points and - besides a few blind tee shots on the front nine - is very clear with the golfer as far as what it expects off the tee.
Fortunately or unfortunately, modern equipment outpaced this golf course a bit, shortening the course both horizontally (several fairways are nested fairly closely to one another making several holes quite narrow) and vertically (the course is only 6700-ish from the tips) in a way that makes me day dream about what it was like to play when the course was brand new.
That thought intrigued me so I actually looked up in the University's library what the earliest scores on the course were that I could find. Without spending too much time looking, I found a combined team score from the 1942 Big Ten Team Championship of 1255 (ie. 78.44 scoring average for four players over four rounds). The winning team averaged 7 strokes over par per player per round! Sounds about how I thought it would be to play a course this tough if it was properly built to the distances of the equipment of the time!!
Even though the conditions here are only a little better than "good" and the course it a little on the small side - it still offers a high quality golfing experience.
This course definitely gives off some Augusta vibes. I absolutely love #3, 10, 16, and 18.
I have a love/hate relationship with the University of Michigan course. I hate the sports teams and the fact they park cars on a Mackenzie/Maxwell gem is sacrilegious. On the other hand to have access to a unique Mackenzie/Maxwell design is priceless. I’ve played the U of M course atleast a dozen times and it’s always a fun walk. Some really good holes including the short par 4 6th with the famous Boomerang green (on the Mackenzie dream 18 course). and the mini boomerang on the 14th. I would love to see the University hire it’s alum Mike Devries to undertake a renovation on what could be a very special course and then spend some money on upkeep really disappointing conditions on a course with a $100+ tee time really disappointing if you consider it’s one of the only accessible Mackenzie courses & stop parking cars on the golf course!!
Good golf course. A little too expensive but I had a good time. Good layout, greens roll nice. A good representation of a pure Michigan golf course. Go Blue.
Situated on a great location in downtown Ann Arbor, playing up and over a large ridge that splits the property, U of M golf course has a great collection of greens connected by an walk able routing making for a fun round to play. Fairly straightforward tee to green, a good example of how great greens, including wild greens at #6 and #14 can add a lot of interest to a hole. #6 is one of my favorite holes, a short and downhill par 4 with a diabolical two tier hourglass shaped green.
Having played this course 20 years ago, it’s almost hard to justify a review, but I remember the course well enough, so here goes! It’s a parkland-style course on a hill overlooking the campus and sports complex at U of M, designed by Alister Mackenzie whose influence can be seen in fewer places than one would hope. It seems like about half of the green complexes were reduced drastically in size from the original design, and half were kept relatively close. Bunkering is done in the classic Mackenzie style with forced carries only when necessary. Overall, I enjoyed the back nine more than the front nine, as it played a bit more open and had more interesting holes with the exception of #6.
Notable holes include: #6, a driveable par four with a multi-tiered peanut-shaped green surrounded by bunkers, #12, a very long par three with an open green front to allow for a bounced on shot, #14, a par three with a U-shaped green that supposedly inspired Pete Dye to design #15 at Crooked Stick, and #18, a beautiful downhill par four with a treacherous fairway bunker and pond making a difficult tee shot – not to mention staring straight down into the 100,000-seat “Big House”.
It’s a beautiful, pastoral location in the midst of the hustle-and-bustle of one of the largest college campuses in the United States, and a solid course that’s well worth playing if you are in the area. But perhaps being partial to the fact that I attended a rival school, I can’t say it’s even among the top two campus layouts in the Big Ten. Sorry, Michigan faithful, but Ohio State (Scarlet) and Purdue (Kampen) are better.
Played August 28, 1998
MacKenzie courses are the best around and this is no exception. The UM course is very strategic using the terrain well with phenomenal greens. Having played some of the best courses in the world UM is still one of my favorite rounds.