If you want to play the best golf in the state of Michigan, head north, past Gaylord and Traverse City. Go over the Mackinac Bridge, and then take Route 2 West to Iron Mountain where you will find TimberStone. It’s even easier to get to if you live in Wisconsin; most of the license plates we saw in the parking lot were from the Badger State.
TimberStone is the golf part of the Pine Mountain Ski & Golf Resort. Pine Mountain offers the best of both worlds to sports enthusiasts in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; it’s a ski resort in the winter and a golf resort in the summer. The golf course is located a few minutes away from the Inn and condos, which sit at the foot of the ski hill and chair lifts.
Pine Mountain Resorts offers guests both hotel accommodations in The Lodge as well as several condo accommodations for larger groups. Condos are spacious and well equipped. The main dining venue is Famers Restaurant, which also happens to be the Upper Peninsula’s Sports Hall of Fame. There is sports memorabilia throughout the restaurant from many different sports. Famers is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has some of the best prime rib I have ever had!
TimberStone Golf Course was designed by renowned Michigan golf architect Jerry Matthews and opened for play in 1997. TimberStone was awarded 5 Stars in Golf Digest’s Places to play in 2008 and remains the area’s only 5-star golf course.
Six sets of tees provide suitable playing yardages for every level of golfer. From the Back tees, TimberStone plays 6,937 yards with a course rating of 74.5 and a slope of 150. I found that the Forward tees (6038 yards/69.6/137) provided a substantial test and still let me leave with a little dignity. Ladies typically play from the Stone tees (5,060/64.6/129). Choose the tees that best suit your game and you’re in for a really good time!
The layout winds its way up and over and down and around mountainous terrain and features perfectly manicured and tree-lined fairways. Water comes into play on six holes and the majority of greens are protected by challenging bunkers. Most of the trouble you can get into (i.e., woods, water, and sand) is plainly visible as you play. You won’t find a tremendous number of bunkers out here but what you will find is that they come into play quite often. We all know it’s easier to play a shot from the fairway than the rough. While it’s easy to find your ball in the rough at TimberStone, the grass is so thick and lush that it can hinder shots, and “flyers” are common. The putting greens roll quick and true and range from fairly flat to extremely undulated.
Just about every hole has some elevation change in it, so the course is going to play longer than stated on the scorecard. Although trees line both sides of the fairway on the majority of holes, most fairways are generous and can easily be found off the tee. However, the shapes and angles of the greens make approach shots a little more difficult; getting it close is even tougher.
Most courses have at least one hole that dwells in your memory bank for a while; TimberStone has several. Number 3 at TimberStone is the first part five on the course and plays 455 yards from the Blue Tees. The entire hole is tree-lined on either side, which is probably where it gets its name from – Arboretum. The fairway is wide and both sides tend to filter the ball back to the center. However, if your shot has enough momentum and carries up the hill on the right and into the woods, just go ahead and retee! A well-struck drive down the left center of the fairway will allow you to go for the green in two so hit away and have some fun off the tee. The green is slightly elevated and generous, however, the back 3rd of the green drops significantly and is no fun to putt from above the hole.
Number 16 at TimberStone is a beautiful 370-yard par 4 that plays downhill off the tee with a fairway bunker on the left that needs to be avoided at all costs. Your approach shot plays back uphill and is pretty much a blind shot. There is a lot of mounding in the fairways and the green is extremely elevated. It’s also one of the largest greens I’ve seen. It’s not that wide – maybe 30 yards, but measures over 60 yards (not feet) from front to back. Par is a good score here! There are no bunkers around the green but with everything else the hole has to offer, who needs sand?
The final two holes are signature-hole-worthy! The 17th hole at TimberStone shows up as a 175-yard par 3 from the blue Tees on the scorecard, however, it is straight downhill and plays considerably less. The elevation drop from the back tee to the green is 110 vertical feet. The information provided on the scorecard is a valuable asset to aid in your club selection. Look at the tops of the trees to find which way the wind is blowing; it can play some nasty tricks on the ball once it gets above the tree line.
Number 18 is a treat! From the clubhouse, you get a good view of the 18th fairway and how the rock walls create different “layers” of the fairway. It’s important to find one of these layers on your tee shot so that you will have a level lie for your layup shot. From the Blue Tees, the hole plays 521 yards again, straight downhill. Your tee shot is a blind shot; just keep it between the trees that frame either side of the fairway and you’ll be OK. A good layup shot will leave a short pitch shot into a green with water on the right. Two more holes where par is considered an achievement!
The practice facility at TimberStone is second to none and has one of the most beautiful practice greens I’ve ever seen. The greens are what make this course, so be sure to spend a little time on them before you play.
A few steps from the putting green is the driving range which is long enough to hit every club in your bag. Keep in mind that this course is more about finesse and placement rather than a grip it and rip it mentality.
One of the highlights of your round at TimberStone is the food. It’s not your usual clubhouse food and there isn’t a lot to choose from on the menu. What you’ll find is a gas grill on the front porch of the log cabin clubhouse. You can smell the burgers and brats as you pull up. The meats are freshly grilled as are the pretzel rolls and hot dog buns. It is simple and delicious; simply delicious!
Step past the grill into the clubhouse and you’ll find a spacious pro shop with a full liquor bar and all kinds of logoed gear to help you remember your round at TimberStone. For more information on this fabulous golf resort or to book your next visit, visit them online at www.timberstonegolfcourse.com.