To say that the anticipation of playing a ‘brand new’, highly talked about, golf course in Northern Michigan was feverish, might be an understatement. Especially when this property is a compliment to Arcadia Bluffs, one of my favorite golf courses, anywhere. Then add in the focus on creating a completely different brand of public / resort golf experience, I could barely stay off-of the website for the hole by hole tour, leading up to the visit.
The new Arcadia Bluffs South Course was built in the mold of American Golf Course architects CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor, but not as replica course, a new original dreamed up by Fry Straka Global Golf. With the spirit of Chicago Golf Club in mind, Arcadia Bluffs has created something that many of us ‘public golfers’ and probably most private club members have never experienced.
From the first tee shot, you quickly realize this is not going to be your average, aim down the middle and hit it hard kind of round. There are bunkers to consider on every tee shot, not just on the right or left side, but cutting in diagonally or small pot bunkers out in the middle, ready to catch a well executed shot if you did not consult the yardage book. Playing firm and fast, you must also get used to landing the ball short of your target. Even a 58 degree wedge from 85 yards can roll out 30 – 40 feet depending on the slope of the green.
While I loved every second of the challenge, my playing partners might have gotten a little weary of my constant discussions around every tee ball and approach? Other unique qualities to the South Course include very geometrically shaped greens, some squared off and not your typical amoeba shape that most courses follow these days. Several greens had wrap around bunkers that you could only see on one side but wrapped around the sharp corner to the back of the green.
The par-5 3rd hole was one of my favorites on the front nine. A demanding tee shot with bunkers left and right that result in a wedge-out scenario and extremely long third shot if entered. Successfully hit the fairway from the tee and your 2nd shot is a bit easier but still requires 160 or more yards to carry the next set of bunkers. The comes your short third shot. You may have seen a ball run out on the first two holes, but now you have an uphill pitch or approach to a pin that looks like if you go over you make 8. Your mind is constantly running during the round and if you pull off the perfect shot and get a ball within 10 feet you feel a real sense of accomplishment.
There are no weak holes at Arcadia South. Each one with its own beauty and challenge. Counting off your yardage so not to go bounding over greens and occasionally coming up short in a bunker.
The par-3, 12th hole is about a 150-yard shot. Horseshoe shaped green with a bunker dead in the middle and a false front on the left side. We played a middle pin which looked easier until you got to the green. Right on top of a subtle ridge, two putting from 30 feet was no easy task. The brilliance of Fry Straka Golf comes out in the abundance of subtle breaks that do not always show up on the plum bob or aim point. A PGA Tour Green book at Arcadia South would look like War and Peace.
I could easily write a 5-page paper on Arcadia South, which was a rarity in my college days. Arcadia Bluffs was already an annual pilgrimage for me and my golfing buddies, but with the addition of the 2nd lodge and now the South Course, Arcadia, Michigan is on the map for great golf destinations.
For more information go to www.arcadiabluffs.com