Donald Ross writes passionately in his book Golf Has Never Failed Me that all developments — clubhouses, member amenities, housing — revolving around a golf course should be settled after the course’s needs have been met. And so Ross was brought in to design the Western Golf & Country Club, a short way west of Detroit, one of the first “planned developments” tied to a community golf club.
The course’s defining feature is the Tarabusi Creek, which flows straight through the long, thin property. Although 14 of the holes line the creek, few of them bring the body into play. As Ross also notes in his book, a few water hazards are permissible, and should perhaps even be encouraged. That moment comes at Western during No. 15, a par five where players can consider crossing the angled creek during their second shot, at the risk of a splashdown landing.
The club was a natural host for the Western Open during 1960, the name of the club being what it is.
Known to some as the "Gem of Redford", this accessible private club is an under the radar design that can be quite the test. Often overshadowed by the ritzy, big name Metro Detroit Donald Ross clubs, such as Detroit Golf Club and Oakland Hills, Western serves as a club for all people, after all it is known as the "Club of Good Fellowship". Much too short to host any type of tour event these days, over the past 94 years this golden age design held a number of professional tournaments, including the Western Open in 1960. In recent history, the Golf Association of Michigan has used it for a number Amateur competitions.
While some original Ross elements remain, many have faded under downsized budgets and some major changes over time, including a number of holes being revamped in less than Ross like fashion. Thankfully this appears to be changing, as a new Superintendent and his team have worked the past few season to return the course to corrected dimensions, through the use of Don's original course renderings. Watching the small greens expand even a few yards has been fantastic, while altering how they play entirely. These changes have been greatly welcomed by the membership. A full course renovation would go a long way, but appears a long way out. My review may contain a little bias, as I grew up caddying here and have spent thousands of hours on the property, but I guess that also may speak to my awareness of the course.
One of my favorite elements of Western is the amount of elevation changes that occur, allowing the course to flow naturally throughout the valley in which the course sits. My favorite feature is the use of raised greens, found on seven holes throughout the course. On these holes in particular, a precise approach shot is necessary to keeping the ball on, or near, the green. If you are unable to execute this shot, you may find yourself in a world of trouble, especially if you have the misfortune of being long. That being said, I would definetly recommend playing Western if you enjoy the game. Good luck getting through all the par threes without making a bogey, some days this is a feat that can seem impossible.