We have the hubris to call ourselves Golf Road Warriors partly because when most sensible middle-aged men would be content to play a single round of golf during the day and follow it with beer and a nap, we’re dumb enough to go play whatever other golf courses might lie within striking distance. So after a fine morning in the company of Rick Smith (well, not Rick himself, but his work at Treetops Signature Course), why WOULDN’T we chow down a tuna wrap in the clubhouse and turn back around to play the Fazio Premier Course. I mean, it was already right there. And so was visiting Road Warrior Terry Moore, who filled in for Peter Kessler for the afternoon round. We last left Moore on the Golf Road Warriors Scottsdale trip, with an injured wing that prevented him from showing off his golf prowess. I’m afraid there was no such problem at the Fazio.
Apparently local golf legend Rick Smith had a bit of trouble convincing Tom Fazio to come to Northern Michigan, but we were all glad that Fazio relented and designed a fine 6,832-yard treat at Treetops North.
The course opens with roller coaster thrills on a tiered, downhill ride of 431 yards. After an ordinary hole moves you along in the routing, number three ratchets up the excitement again with a great long uphill par four guarded by fairway bunkers to the left and two greenside sand hazards. The first par three comes at the fourth hole, where Tom Bedell was glad to be reminded that the Warriors play everything as a lateral hazard. This downhiller plays into a scenic, protected valley even though the wind was ripping in the trees above us on the tee box. I was glad to see that the short par-four fifth, at 313, managed to reward two bad shots of mine, but then punished me with a crazy green that seemed to fall off on one side faster than the housing market.
On number seven, simply hit 259 off the tee (but not 260, because the fairway ends there) and remember to take two or three extra clubs and not to go in the bunker short and left. Let me say it again: do not go in the bunker short and left. And if you do, you might want to let your family know that you’ll be home later than expected.
The real character of the course is delivered by the tremendous elevation changes on so many of the holes, which provide a great test not only of club selection, but of confidence. And as confidence is so often based on feeling like you’ve got exactly the right club in your hand, large drops and climbs off tees and to greens add an additional dimension to a round here. The other thing to keep in mind is to make sure you alight on the short grass, as balls missing the fairways by even a matter of inches may find themselves up to their top dimples in tall grass.
Water appears for the first– and only– time on the par-three eleventh, a sort of modified Cape hole over a lake with a deep green. Next up is a great risk/reward par five of a mere 485 yards that is particularly risky/rewardy if the pin is set around the corner on the back left. But that didn’t stop guest Warrior Terry Moore from reaching the green in two. The next par five, at sixteen, is like a geometry quiz, and all about the angles (okay, and the slopes, as well). Bunkers in several places suggest the right lines. The course finishes with a raucous 471-yard uphill far four– yes, I said “par four”.
If you’re not tired by now, the Golf Road Warriors may have an opening on their next trip.