The small city of Marquette is not only the most heavily populated on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but also likely to be the most golf-crazed in the northern parts of the state. Despite a modest membership and short golf season, the Marquette Golf Club does a roaring trade and so busy was its original 1926 Heritage Course that in 2005 the club opened a second full-length golf course, known as Greywalls.
Greywalls was designed by local Michigan golf course architect Mike DeVries, and is mostly set atop a broad plateau high above the Lake Superior shoreline. While there are a number of gorgeous outlooks here and the site appears perfect for golf, a closer inspection of the various rock formations, wetland areas and meandering trout stream highlight just how difficult this property was to convert into a sensible, playable golf course.
Given just 220 acres of land to use, and with large chunks of rock to overcome, the key to the DeVries routing was finding a way to avoid the steeper areas and navigate around the sheer granite walls. To DeVries’ great credit, he not only built a terrific test at Greywalls, but managed to do so while moving very little dirt and blasting only a small amount of the rock. The only areas that get uncomfortably steep are from midway up the 4th fairway to the 6th tee, and yet included in this rocky corner are a couple of the more memorable shots on the course. The 5th is a short par four with a compromised drive, but a brilliant approach into a charming green set at the base of a vertical rock cliff. The all-rock par three 6th is also thrilling, though perhaps a little severe on the weaker hitter.
Away from the major elevation, the best holes at Greywalls all have natural golf undulations and plenty of visual and strategic interest. The opening par five with its superb views and tumbling fairway is a fantastic introduction to the test ahead, and similarly dramatic longer holes like the 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th and 14th are equally memorable. The back nine par threes are also fantastic, as is the short par four 10th with its generous fairway but cunning green contoured to reward those who play down the left hand side. Other greens that standout as particularly impressive include the boldly sweeping 12th and the twin-bulge 7th, which falls from play and might be the most interesting green DeVries has ever built.
With its attractive woodland areas, rock walls and charming lake views, Greywalls is a true sensory delight that was always bound to appeal to a certain golfing demographic. The beauty of the work done by architect Mike DeVries is that he managed to marry smart, strategic design with a dramatic, but difficult, site and create a course that true aficionados and cerebral golfers will also adore.
This isn’t the best course in Michigan, but that’s only because this isn’t the best piece of land in the state. There are a few courses here, or anywhere for that matter, that have been so expertly and so sensitively designed.