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Michigan Golf Course Review

Hemlock Golf Club

Hemlock Golf Club in Ludington is the new kid on the block, and an important component in what is becoming a golfing hotbed in Northwest Michigan. Located just a couple miles north of US 10, and east of town, Hemlock joins the Manistee National Resort and Golf Courses, Heathland Golf Club, and Arcadia Bluffs - to feature 5 unique and top quality golf experiences, all within a 45-minute radius. This is a destination in the making, and one that people will be talking about glowingly in the next couple of years! With the Lake Michigan shoreline featuring sand dunes, beaches and gorgeous bluffs just minutes away, this geographical location is the perfect getaway for golfers and families alike. And at $40 weekdays and $50 weekends (includes cart) for the 2002 season, the Hemlock is one of the best values in Northwest Michigan.

Hemlock Golf Club
Hemlock Golf Club

Opened in June of 2002, this Raymond Heard design is visually stimulating, located in a spectacular setting that features rolling topography, unspoiled wetlands, deciduous and evergreen forests, and unique sand dune formations. The sand is native to the area, and plays instrumental roles on many of the holes, particularly on numbers 3, 4 and 12 - which feature nearly as much sand as fairway grass. The natural waste areas created by the dunes are what gives the Hemlock its unique flavor, presenting a layout unlike any other we have seen. A lack of residential properties helps to intensify the Northern Michigan "feeling" of golf in the wilderness, with plentiful wildlife habitat.

Hemlock Golf Club
Hemlock Golf Club

Add to this the fact that the Hemlock offers generous fairways and 5 sets of tee boxes on every hole, and it becomes apparent that this course will soon be one of the most popular courses in the area. The well conditioned bent grass greens, fairways and tee areas compliment the unique design, and the spacious driving range and practice green make the Hemlock a complete golfing package. The clubhouse is unpretentious, offering the basics in golf accessories and a sufficient dining area for snacks, beverages and sandwiches. An outdoor terrace provides wonderful views of the 18th green and surrounding tee areas. The course itself is well marked, with color coded plates on all the tee boxes, visible 150-yard stakes, and sprinkler heads measured to the center of the green. A unique feature is the color-coded posts planted near the cart path at each tee box, denoting the five different tee areas - an appreciated feature, especially effective on the elevated tees. There is no pin placement system available as yet, though we were informed one will be in place for 2003. Ball and club washers and divot repair mixture are a nice amenity on each cart - and the $2.50 yardage/hole diagram booklets are a worthwhile investment. You will find many tree-lined fairways, and plentiful green-side fringes that encourage bump and run approaches. Uniquely, with all the dunes and sand on the course, you will find NO deep fairway or green-side bunkers. All are fairly level with the playing area. The Back tees are a challenge at 7044 yards, and the blues are no bargain at 6742. Most golfers will play the whites, which reasonably measure 6277 yards. Seniors and ladies can choose from the challenging red tees at 5775, or catch a break from the yellows which play more conventionally at 4803.

Hemlock Golf Club
Hemlock Golf Club

The front nine opens very reasonably, with the first five holes listed as the 8th, 16th, 14th, 12th and 18th handicaps. This allows for a nice warm-up period, for those rushing to make their tee time. Most of the holes on the front side are reasonably flat, with only mildly rolling topography. Aim to be short left of the 150 yard stake on the opening hole, which will set up an easy approach.. Long hitters can drive the green on number two, though the safest play for an easy par/possible birdie is a fairway wood/long iron followed by a wedge. The third is the first of a group of unique holes. A sand waste area intrudes on the fairway ( or actually is the fairway!) on the right side. It is very possible to drive over the wetlands to the left side of the fairway, which will set up a simple uphill approach. Another choice is to lay up short right between the marsh and waste area - though the second shot from this side is a challenge. Our advice - go left young man (or woman), as the landing area on that side is not as far as it seems. Number 4 also features a considerable waste area - and a very tricky fairway. A shot hit long right is the advantageous move here. Anything too long left (or center) will reach the considerable sand dunes that weave in and out of the fairway. This is one of those holes - that when playing for the first time - you might think you deserve a chance to go back to the tee and start and over, armed with the knowledge of how to play this par four more efficiently. The par 3 fifth demands a carry over a marsh, though there is 30 yards of bail out room short left. A tee shot hit to the right center of the fairway is recommended on the dogleg left par five 6th. Trees guard the left side, and the approach narrows considerably. Number seven is a long par four and the 2nd handicapped hole on the course. The waste bunker on the right side must be avoided off the tee. The eighth doglegs left, with lots of room between the 150-yard stakes on either side of the fairway. An accurate tee shot will set up an easy approach.  Aim over the 150 stake on the long par four finishing hole, which hugs the large sand waste area on the right. Cut this hole accurately and an easy par is yours.

Hemlock Golf Club
Hemlock Golf Club

The back nine is an interesting contrast, with more rolling hills and elevated tee shots. Number 10 features a large sand trap that splits the fairway. Lay up just short of the bunker, or pass it along the right side for the best view of the green. Anything left will be blocked by trees. There is plenty of room off the tee on the par five 11th, but the approach plays uphill to a green sloped back to front. Par is a good score here. Number 12 is extremely unique, with a huge waste area splitting the fairway in two. Aim long left and you will be able to find a narrow opening with a view of the putting area. Stay to the right and you will find a blind approach over dunes. Either way - this is one tough hole! After a beautiful and simple downhill par three, another challenging par four awaits. The fourteenth fairway is wider than it seems from the tee area, but the approach is all carry over a deep ravine. The 15th is another pretty par three that plays from an elevated tee. A ridge running across the right side of the green creates the need to go for the flag here. A lay up just in front of the fairway bunker is recommended off the tee on 16. A lone green-side trap is the only obstacle on the second shot, which is best attempted from the right side. The fairway bunkers on the right should not come into play on the mid-range par four 17th. Aim for that side, which sets up an easy approach. Number 18 is a gorgeous finishing hole. Aim just right of the 150 yards stake for a clear shot at the green. Anything left will have a tree line to contend with. This is not recommended, as the angle from that side points directly towards the water hazard that looms to the right and behind the green. This is one of the most challenging holes on the course. Par it and go home feeling good about your round. Double bogeys and worse are possible if the tee shot here is not accurate.

Hemlock Golf Club

The Hemlock is a wonderful and interesting round of golf - well worth the green fees charged - and the drive from Manistee, Traverse City, Grand Rapids or Central Michigan. Those planning a golf trip up north are advised to consider the Manistee area - and particularly the Hemlock as a worthwhile destination. A few days in this area is well spent- both for golfing and for quality family experiences. Check out the Two Guys Who Golf detailed information page on this course (which includes a link to the course's website if available ) - click here.

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