DETROIT -– Contrary to all the bad press Detroit receives about its urban decay, bankruptcy and crime, greater metro Detroit has plenty of greener pastures well preserved for golfers.
It might not be thought of as a golf destination, but the suburbs surrounding the city certainly can play the part with more than a dozen courses worth playing. If you're visiting southeast Michigan for business or pleasure, there are multiple ways to play golf three straight days without spending more than $200.
Here's a look at a handful of itineraries, depending upon where you're staying. In the spring and fall, when the weather's a little suspect, the golf comes cheap. The competition keeps prices down as well. Even in summer, green fees rarely top $60.
Detroit's east side
There aren't many high-caliber options on Detroit's east side, although there's enough for a three-day bender. My loyalties lean toward Orchards Golf Club and Greystone Golf Club, both within a four-mile radius of one another in Macomb County.
Greystone ends with three holes cut from a former rock quarry, a scenic finish that costs just $55 until mid-June. The Orchards, a former home of the Michigan Open and the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, balloons from $55 at the end of May to $75 on summer weekends, so book now.
The third option is also nearby, Cherry Creek Golf Club, seven miles from The Orchards in Shelby Township. The Lanny Wadkins/Mike Bylen design stretches to 6,784 yards with several tough wetland-hopping par 5s. The green fees, which hover around $50 until summer, will buy you a nice round plus access to a stately white clubhouse popular for weddings.
Oakland County golf
Course for course, Oakland County's roster of places to play is probably the deepest in the region. Unfortunately, you'll pay a bit more to play golf in Michigan's version of Orange County.
The headliner is Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, a 27-hole routing by Arthur Hills in Clarkston. The $45 spring rate nearly doubles to $85 on summer weekends, so if you can catch a good weather day early in the season, jump on it. Lyon Oaks Golf Club in Wixom, another Hills design, reigns as the pride of the courses in the Oakland County Parks System. This muni doesn't feel like one. Its $45 spring rate is a steal.
To stay under our budget, play Northville Hills, a water-logged Palmer design through an upscale neighborhood. Its another club where the $45 spring rate staves off the $60-$70 sticker shock of later in the year. You can't go wrong with two 27-hole clubs near Oxford, either -- Boulder Pointe Golf Club ($59 on summer weekends) and Copper Hills Golf Club ($55 on summer weekends).
Detroit's rural west side
The golf courses in rural Oakland and Livingston counties do their best "northern Michigan" impersonations. They've got natural settings with few houses and some nice elevation changes. They're a bit off the beaten path and far from downtown Detroit. I'd argue they're well worth finding.
Fun costing $59 can be found at The Majestic at Lake Walden near Hartland, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. Any of the three nines will suffice. The five par 3s and finishing stretch of Coyote Preserve Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer design near Fenton, are spectacular and well worth the $55-$65 price tag. Moose Ridge Golf Club, designed by Ray Hearn near South Lyon, sits in the $50-$60 range that usually signifies a "country club for a day" motif, where a nice course in good condition is accompanied by friendly service.
Golf in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti
This college corridor, home of the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Eastern Michigan University Eagles, boasts a diverse and interesting golf scene. The venerable Leslie Park Golf Course, right near the U-M campus, provides a great "walk in the park" for just $25 for 18 holes during the week in spring. If you can't survive the walk up "cardiac hill" on the back nine, the $34-$39 price to ride is still worth it.
Eagle Crest Golf Club, EMU's home course where I got my start in the game, has greatly improved over the last couple years. Management has cleared out trees along Ford Lake to reveal the shoreline views. The 16th hole, a par 5 that ends at a peninsula green jutting into the lake, ranks among the top signature holes in metro Detroit. The spring rates, $50 on weekends, go until mid-May.
Those rounds leave plenty of extra cash to play a semiprivate club in Ann Arbor -- maybe Lake Forest Golf Club ($52 on spring weekends) or Stonebridge Golf Club ($55 in summer) -- with lunch at a local institution, Zingerman's Delicatessen, thrown in.