Friday, June 12, 2009

Wawashkamo #3 and #4-Classic design

Wawashkamo Golf Club is located on Mackinac Island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. For those who have not visited Mackinac Island, it is a step back in time when the only mode of transportation was by foot, bicycle, or horse. There are three nine hole courses on the island with two of them being owned by The Grand Hotel. Wawashkamo is a privately owned club that is open to the public. It is located centrally, past the airport on British Landing Road.

A Scottish links style course, Wawashkamo was founded in 1898. Alex Smith (winner of two U.S. Opens, runner up three times, and 11 top tens) was the architect and left the land pretty much undisturbed. I had played the course many years ago and recently had the opportunity to return. There are only nine holes but the tees are set separately on each hole giving you a bit of a different angle and length, so as to simulate an 18 hole experience. I was told that a few years ago the club had come under some financial stress and a group had come forward to purchase it and restore it back to its original state. I found the greens and course to be in very good condition, better than I had previously remembered it.

On Mackinac Island things move at a very slow pace. I stopped by the Proshop at the Grand and asked for them to call me a taxi for my 5:00 tee time. The assistant told me it would cost about $7 and there should be one here soon. 45 minutes later and now past my tee time the horse taxi finally arrived. A leisurely 40 minute ride up the hill through Harrisville and past the airport got me to the course about an hour late and $25 lighter in my pocketbook. Not a problem with the starter as the course was not busy. The twilight rate of $20 was very reasonable compared to the two other Grand Hotel courses on the island. After the round I decided I would walk back with my bag, as I thought it was mostly downhill. Obviously, I was not paying attention as the first 25 minutes are uphill. With a couple rest stops it took me an hour and 10 minutes to make it back to downtown. If I had to do it over again I would have ridden a bike up and back to Wawashkamo.

It was a perfect evening to play golf. Wawashkamo has a quaint clubhouse filled with history and a small open air porch to sit and relax after your round. Surprisingly, most golfers who come to the Island have no idea this course even exists. For me this would be my first choice for golf on Mackinac Island.

I have a definite bias for holes with classical design features. Hole #3 and #4 both exhibit these traits. #3 is a short par 4 with two bunkers positioned out about 200-220 yards from the tee. I hit driver up the right side of the fairway past both bunkers and was between a gap or sand wedge into the small, firm green. I went with an easy gap wedge and the ball hit about pin high, but the shot trickled off the green two inches into the Circus Ring. What is a Circus Ring you ask? According to history it was an attempt to require the golfer to loft the ball on the green, not be able to run it on. This hole has been modified from the original in that there is a small opening directly in front to allow ground shots. The two foot wide grass (rough) ring is pretty nasty stuff, in both height and thickness. I hacked out and two putted for my bogey. I would play the sand wedge if I had another chance and take the risk of leaving it a bit short. For a front pin position you could actually try to land a lofted shot short of the Circus Ring and bounce it on.

Hole #4 is a 123 yard Dell style hole, with most of the flag stick hidden. The green is small and slopes away from the line of play. If you are paying attention when you are on the second tee you will see where the pin is located and the slope of the green. I was oblivious to this when I was there and pulled out my 125 yard club when I got to the fourth tee. Again, I hit it pin high and it rolled off the back of the green several feet. An average pitch and putt left me with another bogey. What, I should have done was played one less club just short of the green and let it roll on. If only I could go back and replay one shot every hole, I could be making some big money at this game.

Wawashkamo and Mackinac Island will give you the turn of the century feel of America. If you are in Northern Michigan be sure and spend at least a day on the island and play a round of golf at Wawashkamo Golf Club. Don't forget to take some of the famous fudge home with you.

If you drive across the bridge to take the boat to Mackinac Island there is a neat nine hole course in St. Ignace, right across from the McDonald's. It is a Tom Bendelow design which features some nice classic holes. I drove past this course many times thinking it was a goat farm, only to be pleasantly surprised when I finally played it this past summer. Even better is the price at under $10.