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2 Play the Tips played Arcadia Bluffs on Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club

It'll take your breath (and a few of your golf balls) away


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The view of the shoreline that borders Arcadia Bluffs
Take a seat and watch one of the best sunsets you'll see at any courseā€¦ EVER
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#1 - Our very first view of the sod walled bunkers at Arcadia
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#3 - An early reachable par 5 awaits you at the 3rd. This also marks your first trip down toward the water.
#4 - The land allows for creative shots to be played here
#11 - The 11th is one of the most scenic holes on the golf course... And Anywhere for that matter.
#11 - This view gives you some idea of how intense the elevation changes are throughout the 11th holes and the putting surfaces.
#12 - With water left and land right, the 12th at Arcadia is one of the more memorable holes on the property.
#13 - The closing hole in Arcadia's version of Amen Corner
#18 - Finishing up with the sun going down

Our round at Arcadia Bluffs was one of the more hyped rounds of golf we’ve played during the 2010 calendar year. Arcadia is touted as the most visually stunning course in the Midwest, with vistas that have been likened to those of Pebble Beach and Ballybunion. The drive to Arcadia is the perfect buildup to the golf course. As you near the area, you are faced with an uphill climb through winding wooded areas that gave way to scenic turnoffs every few miles. The anticipation builds with every sneak peek of the lake through the trees to the west. The first oh my god moment of the day occurred before we even got out of the car. Just after pulling into the club we couldn’t help but notice the gigantic sod walled pits on what we would soon find out was our first hole. The roughly quarter mile drive up to the clubhouse proved to be the end of our trip, but the beginning of our journey.

After being greeted by the friendly bag staff and shuttled back from the distant parking lot, we enjoyed The Lodge – a clubhouse with a grandiose look and a classic feel. The locker room facilities were understandably small for a destination course that gets as much public play as Arcadia Bluffs. The Lodge makes up for the lack of locker room space with the option to stay in one of the 15 guest rooms on the second floor; 10 of which boast impressive lakeside views.

The round was paid for and the bag staff was tipped: we were ready to start swinging. Overall, the driving range and short game area were serviceable, yet underwhelming for a golf course of such renown. Arcadia did the favor of preparing us for the round by providing one of the more challenging pot bunkers on the property adjacent to the chipping green. As impressive as the chipping area was, there was just something about getting your golf balls out of a tin machine that didn’t seem to fit the setting. We understand that first and foremost, Arcadia Bluffs is a business; but still...

The only thing about Arcadia that took away from a completely pleasant experience stemmed from the fact that the course gets as much play as it does. The golf course staff at Arcadia is intent on enforcing pace of play. While we understand that a course like this one leads to golfers frequently stopping to either take picture or simply enjoy the view, we felt slightly unwelcomed and almost insulted when the starter insinuated that we shouldn’t be playing the tips by asking for our handicaps (thankfully the 25 handicap in our group hit it straight).

Strictly from a golf perspective, Arcadia Bluffs was an impressive track that gave us the opportunity to use most of our arsenal of shots, while providing an even more challenging test around the greens. The first two holes ran uphill and away from the lake giving us the sense that this course might not be everything it was hyped up to be. After the first two holes, which were impressive yet not jaw dropping in any way, we walked up to the third tee box and were met with the first of what would be many “bring your camera up here moments.” From the 3rd tee to the 5th green, the elevation did nothing but drop toward the lake. After winding back away from the lake and around the clubhouse, the front 9 culminated in a medium length, par 3 with a seemingly simple design that proved to be quite a test. While the front nine was enjoyable, and offered an equal amount of tough shots and photo ops, it was no match for what we were about to experience on the back nine. Kick started by one of the toughest par 4s we had ever played in the 481 yard par 4 10th, and followed up by the most impressive 3 hole stretch we’ve seen (except Cypress of course), the artistically designed back nine solidified Arcadia as one of the foremost courses in the United States.

Overall, Arcadia was a fair test of the long game. From the tips, most holes required or seemed better suited for a driver off the tee, but the decision of which way to work the ball was up to us. The fairways, albeit wide, rewarded well placed tee shots with better angles into greens and with fairways that offered hidden reserves of yardage in the form of funneling slopes. There were plenty of opportunities to use the contours of the greens when hitting approach shots – the par 4, fourth hole serves as a good example with its green shaped like a punch bowl. Instead of bringing the bunker to the right of the green into play, the green complex allowed for shots hit at the very left side of the green, or even off the green, to funnel all the way down to the pin. However, what the golf course giveth, the golf course may damn well taketh away, which was never more apparent than on the par 3 ninth hole. A perfectly struck 6 iron by Jason which was being closely watched by four sets of eyes which were urging it to find the bottom of the hole, wound up hitting a ridge just four feet short of the hole and gathering some 30 yards down the fairway, short of the green – an imperfect end to a perfectly struck shot.

Just as the undulations proved to add to the test that was Arcadia Bluffs, perhaps no other feature on the course was as difficult as the bunkering, which we found to be downright brutal and maybe even unfair at times. The sod walled bunkers at Arcadia were every bit as difficult as they were impressive – and believe us, they were VERY impressive. Two bunkers come to mind; the greenside bunkers just short of the 10th and 14th greens. The bunker on the 10th hole was substantial enough to make the long iron or hybrid approach shot even more nerve wracking than it already was. As if the 10th was hard enough, this gigantic bunker nearly spans the width of the green and forces a high flying, soft landing second shot from roughly 200 yards. If your ball came to rest in this bunker, the high sod wall is somewhat disarmed by the fact that the size of the bunker, and the green, allowed for a multitude of angles to be used for a recovery shot to find the green. Now neither one of us has been to St. Andrews, but we cannot imagine that “Road Hole Bunker” could be any harder than the bunker on the 14th hole. With a diameter of roughly 15 feet and a vertical sod wall of nearly 9, this pit of despair left you no option but retreat. Even though this bunker seemed downright unfair, it must be taken into consideration that the bunker is placed on a short par 4 which is potentially drivable given a favorable wind.

Apart from a few nearly unplayable bunkers, the playability around the greens received high marks for sizeable undulations, elevated green complexes, and a multitude of possible pin locations.

When our journey finally concluded, we were left to pick our jaws up off the ground where they laid for the past 4 and a half hours. Almost every hole was picture worthy, and every vista was seemingly more breathtaking than the last. Arcadia Bluffs is golf at its most in your face, obnoxiously beautiful. As if our round wasn’t enough, from our Adirondack chairs perched above the 18th green, we had front row seats to watch the sun splash into Lake Michigan. The last brushstrokes were artfully crafted, and the sunset was the final signature on the canvas that is Arcadia Bluffs.




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TAGS:  ARCADIA, MICHIGAN, WARREN HENDERSON, RICK SMITH