by Terry Moore
I toured the course late last fall on a bitterly cold but sunny day with affable Head Golf Pro Brent Redman. I heard some good things about Apple Mountain but truthfully I didn't expect to find such an ambitious and well- designed public golf course and development. Designed by John Sanford, Apple Mountain GC is the centerpiece of a 100-homesite project in the heart of the Tri-Cities area, in Freeland.
The golf course is a earth-movers delight in that over a half million of cubic yards of dirt were pushed around to give the terrain some needed definition and character. Often times, so much excavation and shaping will lead to an artificial and distracting product. For sure, Donald Ross might have a few quibbles about Apple Mountain. But given the terrain handed to Sanford, the end result is now a golf course with plenty of teeth and charm for your money. For starters, there are nine ponds and over 100 formal and waste bunkers at Apple Mountain. Yet most of the water hazards here are lateral and not of the dreaded forced carry variety. The layout will range from 4978 yards at the forward markers, 6347 yards from the GAM plate and 6962 yards for the back.
On the front side, two trademark holes will surely be the par three fifth hole and the par four sixth. At the fifth, golfers will ride atop the back of the ski hill for a terrific elevated tee shot to the all-carry green below. In a nice touch, the green was designed to resemble a certain popular fruit. Health alert: hitting the green will keep the doctor away on number five. Another stunning tee shot is the next hole, again thanks to the ski hill as launching off point. In fact, the sixth
tee is the highest point in Saginaw Valley. It'll demand a well-struck and accurate tee-ball, over a pond, to find the narrow landing area beset with trouble. But if the fairway is found, one is left with a mid or low iron to greensite with an inviting open approach.
I did like the many open entrances to the greensites at Apple Mountain. Due to the ponds and bunkering, most golfers will find their second and third shots having a fair chance to find the putting surface without heroic carries. The bunkering is noteworthy. For a public course, I would rank Apple Mountain's bunkering and waste areas as some of the best and most thoughtfully done work seen in recent memory in Michigan. A good example is the nicely designed cross-bunkering that slashes and splashes across the fairway on short par four 13th hole. The greens here are all of an ample helping_ averaging over 6,000 square feet. So as traffic picks up_as it surely will_ there are plenty of pin areas to save on wear and tear at Apple Mountain. And from all early appearances last fall, the conditioning of the course is on target for thick fairways and smooth putting surfaces_all bent grass.
The layout ends with a flourish. The last two holes have greens guarded by ponds that will dictate good iron play to stay dry. I like layouts that end with a par five even one that is as devilishly appearing as the 18th here. You get three shots to put yourself in position to make birdie on one of the smaller greens on the course, a green that is bulwarked against the pond. It's a fitting end to a golf course that is ambitiously designed and painstakingly constructed.
Besides the golf course, Apple Mountain has a classy 15-acre on-site practice facility with driving range, putting green, bunkers, and chipping areas. The clubhouse is spacious and well-decorated and will be able to handle a variety of outings and functions. Looking at all that Apple Mountain has going for it, some may just say it's the new high point for golf in the Saginaw Valley. Opening in early June, call now at 1-888-781-6789.
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