Our journey through the history of golf in Michigan takes us back to the beginning, at the third-oldest course in the state, Washtenaw Golf Club. Opened in 1899, WGC has an old school charm to its layout, with narrow, tree-lined fairways, tiny greens with plenty of undulations and a buy-5, get 1 free beer special. Just way the Old Tom Morris envisioned it.
WGC has changed ownership several times of its storied history, and for years was a private course. Now, it is decidedly un-private. The course of the people, by the people, for the people. Aside from great beer specials, there is a full tee sheet comprised of all ages, genders, races, and skill levels.
The conglomeration of people who descend on WGC is a great thing for the game of golf and the financial health of the course. However, a course full of golfers with holes packed in very close to each other does provide some challenges. From a rather slow pace of play to living in constant fear that an errant shot will drill you in the forehead, the experience at WGC would be a rude awakening to someone who spends all their time at a cushy country club where the biggest threat is Paul, the grumpy retired CPA who yells at anyone who hits an errant shot into his backyard koi pond.
We love the Everyman nature of WGC, but we don’t love the 5-hour round. That said, let’s get on with the course review.
#1 – Short par four where the biggest challenge is hitting your tee shot with the 8 groups of people waiting to tee off watching you. Once off the tee box, you should have a wedge into the green. Of course, unless you’ve invested in a range finder, you are just going to be guessing how far you are, as there are not a lot of indicators of distance around the course. This may become a theme.
#2 – Longer par four that’s fairly straightforward, yet still difficult. Rated the hardest hole on the course, and it may be because the green is the size of a half bath (Mrs. Hangover is watching HGTV while we work).
#3 – A relatively short par 5, this is a hole you should be able to attack. The attack gets more challenging when the yardage on the sprinkler head is about 10 yards off and you airmail the green with your approach.
#4 – Simple par three but we leave the approach short. A chip and two putts later we are firmly aboard the bogey train.
#5 – Par 4 that’s unremarkable. Tight fairway, tiny green, you get the point. Moved up to first class on the bogey train.
#6 – Long par 5, and we mean really long. It plays 580 from the tips, and there is OB left. And by OB, we mean a major road and some houses. So, don’t go there. We flirt with it, but stay alive and for the first time all day, manage a par.
#7 – The first of two “quirky” holes, this par 4 requires a 200-yard tee shot with a slight fade, and then you’ll have a short iron approach over water into the green. Or, you can block a 175-yard shot right and try to cut a hybrid from the rough over some trees and the water to a green that slopes severely back to front. We’ll spare you the details but another bogey ensues.
#8 – The second “quirky” par 4, this one is really just kind of dumb.It played about 290 from the tee (hand me my wedge), it sharply doglegs left and the the green is elevated 30 feet from the fairway. The landing area is the size of a foyer in desperate need of expansion (damn you HGTV). We make a mess of the hole and card our first double bogey of the day.
#9 – The front nine finishes with a long par 3. Rather than hit at the green, we instead try to hit the clubhouse on the right to get a jump start on a few beers at the turn. Fortunately for my golf score, ball ends up in a manageable place for us to chip on to the green and two putt for yet another bogey.
#10 – The back nine begins with a manageable par 5 that we play like we know what we’re doing. Par. Bartender!
#11 – Par 4 with a slight dogleg, we manage to actually hit another green and two-putt for par. What’s the course record?
#12 – A fun, short par 3 that plays significantly downhill. Throw in a stiff breeze back in our face, and your guess on yardage is as good as mine. Especially since mine was 20 yards to short. Back on the bogey train. Guess the course record is safe.
#13 – Another par give that runs parallel to 10, and if you aren’t paying attention, you might just play 10 all over again as the tee boxes are right next to each other. We manage to pick the right one, mostly because there were three guys in Umbros and another in pre-torn jeans on the 10th tee box. This hole gives us our best chance at birdie on the day, with an approach to about 8 feet. A left-to-right downhill putt awaits, and misses the cup. We’ll take the par.
#14 – Another long par 3 with a tiny green. Another bogey.
#15 – The tee shot is intimidating on 15, with a carry over water to a dogleg right fairway. Lesser humans might just quit rather than hit this shot. Of course, it’s the farthest point from the clubhouse, so that’s a long, sad golf cart ride of shame. Against our better judgment, we hit the shot and quite honestly, it was probably our best swing of the day. Fortunately, WGC’s primary defense of incorrect yardages on sprinkler heads struck again on the approach. Bogey train is back on track.
#16 – A short par four, downhill off the tee with water guarding the front of the green. Similar to #7, you want a 200-yard shot off the tee and then you’ll have a wedge into the green. We take a different approach, pull our tee shot which hits a tree branch and falls in the rough and have a 7-iron into the green. After hitting said 7-iron, we realized we actually were about a 9-iron away. WGC strikes again. As we begin to hit our chip from the back of the green, a golf ball ricochets off our cart. We’re lucky to be alive.
#17 – Still rattled from the massacre at 16, we push our tee shot on 17 into the right rough, leaving a 6-iron into the green, which we hit perfect. So, naturally, it flies the green and goes into a poorly maintained bunker. We forgot to mention the WGC’s other defense – bunkers that contain sand stolen from a local playground and full of a nice combination of dirt, rocks, and vomit. We weren’t used to this particular blend, and it did NOT end well.
#18 – The finishing hole has it all. A blind tee shot. A fairway that has a 20-foot drop at the end into a pond. And the light pole on the tee box that indicates whether someone is in the landing area at the end of the fairway. Let me get this straight. You cram 18 holes into a space better suited for 12 holes, you send groups off every 8 minutes to ensure there are at least three groups on every hole, you’re giving away beer and you decide that finally, on the 18th hole, you’re worried someone might get crushed in the dome with a tee shot that goes straight?
Ultimately, WGC is a fun course to play despite some of its eccentricities. Length is mostly negated on this course, while accuracy is at a premium. We’d also recommend bringing your own device to measure distances. If you’re a country club golfer, WGC probably isn’t your cup of overpriced tea. But, if you enjoy being paired up with some strangers who may or may not have every played golf before, don’t have anywhere to be and just want to get a taste of what golf was like in the early 1900s, then WGC is the place for you.
Hangover Rating: Gimme six Schlitz’s! Open bar dude!