By Charlene S. Mixa Golfing a True Northern Michigan Masterpiece
Have a passion for golf? Want to experience a True North American Masterpiece? Playing True North is the answer. A new “must play” in Michigan, True North Golf Club is rated by Golf Digest as the No. 8 “Best in State”. On the glacier carved hills and valleys in northern Michigan, awarding winning architect Jim Engh designed and built True North with a spectacular layout. Additionally, True North entered the Audubon International “Silver Signature” program with its continuing effort to protect the natural surroundings and protect the wildlife habitat areas. Opening in 2004, True North won accolades as “2004 Ten Best New Private Courses” by Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine. The club will be a private club in the future so now is the time for us to experience this dynamic course. The “weather gods” give us a sunny day with blue skies and a mild breeze. Will the “golf gods” shine on our golf game, too? Driving through the pretty lakeshore town of Petoskey, we admire in the charming homes along the bluff and the beautiful Bayfront Park on Little Traverse Bay, noting to return here for our dinner after golf. While True North is the golf club of Harbor Springs, it is several miles away atop a forest covered hill. Following the signs the entrance to the club winds through forests of rustic beauty of northern Michigan to the clubhouse. The Pro Shop and Compass Room Restaurant occupy the elegant stone and wood clubhouse. True North has the amenities of a private club with towels in the golf carts, complimentary bottles of water, complimentary yardage book and the daily pin position sheet. After our warm up on the driving range and practice putting green, we are set to experience another exciting Jim Engh course. Curious as to how it will compare to the Tullymore course we played recently. With four sets of tee the course is demanding for all levels of golfers. The black tee at 7,027 yards with 74.5 rating and 148 slope has True North ranked as one of the highest in the state. Each hole is an adventure, from the scenic view of the hole to the challenge of nefarious bunkers to undulating greens. True North mirrors Tullymore with three par-5’s on the front nine for par 37, creating an extra long front nine, and three par-3’s on the back. Engh took advantage of the rolling terrain with uphill and downhill fairways that sometimes corral the shot to the center. The greens are excellent with the excitement of either elevated greens, a green below the fairway, large greens or skinny narrow greens into a hillside all carefully protected with thick club-grabbing rough just off the second cut. Drama is added with fairways that appear wide yet narrow down in landing areas or with bunkers in the center near the landing area. We pay close attention to the yardage book with the hints on playing each hole as there are numerous holes with blind shots to fairways and greens. Just when we think we figured out the scheme of the course, the next hole presents a new curve in the design.
Reviewing the score card Richard decides to play the white tees at 5,597 yards and I opt for the forward tees (ladies) of 4,834 yards. A par-5, No. 1 initially appears easy and gentle with a wide fairway. Oops, I find thick rough and depression area where I thought the fairway would be. As we approach the bunker and mound protected plateau green, long shots easily roll off demonstrating the need for precise, soft touch shots. The terrain is beautiful among the woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Many times looking back at a hole adds extra beauty to its design. While True North may lack mountain vistas each hole has its own exciting appeal. Even among this forested terrain, True North has water on numerous holes with natural grasslands and wetlands to cross. No. 8 a par-5 is a long uphill hole with a dogleg left to an elevated green protected by bunkers on one side, and hill behind the green. By the time I hit my side hill lie shot and hike up to the green, I need a break to catch my breath. Playing the back nine the challenge and excitement continues. Teeing off on No. 13, a Par 3 from the elevated tee, I look down to long narrow green below with a hillside and bunker on the left and a small lake on the right. I am thrilled to land on the green, near the pin. Making the downhill putt, I score my birdie!
Finishing the round, we stop at the Compass Restaurant for a tasty, relaxing lunch. We enjoyed the course and decide to play a second round. This time Richards plays from the blues tees at 6,350 and I play the front from the golds 2,616 and the whites at 2,600 on the back nine. Hurray, the white tees are rated for ladies! With course knowledge and experience we are back on the tees. Playing downhill, No. 7 a par-5, I am now prepared to take on this hole. Learning from the initial round, my first shot again runs through the fairway into the rough. With a strong second shot to the downhill landing area, my ball is 100 yards from the green with a lake in front of this bunker, mound protected green. Taking my “comfort club” a hybrid, I easily carry the water, landing right of the flag on the fringe just off this bowl-shaped green. The putt is all downhill, with a lag putt I make my par. No. 18 a par-5 is a bizarre finishing hole with a split fairway. Initially the hole is downhill and then uphill to an elevated green tucked into a hillside that is protected by bunkers, mounds and thick rough. Long hitters can play to the left fairway and carry the hazard to the green, for the rest of us it is playing to the right down the hill and then uphill on this extreme dogleg left to a green high above. Richard plays the left side carrying the grassland hazards. He pars this awesome hole! Playing the second round truly added excitement and adventure to this fantastic course. Ladies should be sure to check yardage, slope and rating when deciding which set of tees to play. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Sorry Tullymore, we found True North our favorite. We agree that True North embodies the spirit of the game of golf in Northern Michigan. Finishing just after 7:00 PM, we head down to Petoskey for a dinner at Whitecaps Restaurant with its views of Little Traverse Bay. Wow, another awesome day of golf in northern Michigan, 36 holes on a fantastic course, excellent weather and great seafood dinner in a quaint seaside town. If you go: True North Golf club, 2500 True North Drive, Harbor Springs, MI 49740; 231.526.3300, www.truenorthgolf.com