From an outsider’s perspective, the game of golf can be seen as “boring” or even “useless.” Golf is not just a game where players use a metal stick to hit a small ball into a hole. In reality, golf has many more dimensions that are not taken into consideration. Everything from the course design, to what equipment one may use, to even the form of a golfer’s swing is carefully curated. The beauty of golf is displayed through every dimension, which ultimately ties the game together. 

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan’s rich history of academia and sport, including the largest stadium in the world, the Big House. While the Big House encompasses a large part of the University’s history, it overshadows many other historic sporting sites that should be better known. One of such sites is the University of Michigan Golf Course, located on Stadium Boulevard, across the street from the Big House and Crisler Center. However, it is the design and architecture of UMGC, not the course’s 90-year history, that makes it unique.

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In November, I was able to interview the UMGC general manager Andrew Romig to learn more about the intricate design of the course.

“The course opened in 1931 and was designed by Alister MacKenzie, who is in the World Golf Hall of Fame and the designer of the infamous Augusta National golf course where the Master’s championship is held,” Romig explained.

MacKenzie’s reputation as one of the most renowned course designers in history makes UMGC an attractive destination for people wishing to play on one of his courses. Before he was a course designer, MacKenzie was an expert in camouflage in World War I for the military, which is reflected in his designs.

“He incorporated a lot of his camouflage skills into his golf designs, like blind shots. It’s kind of his way to deceive your eye, you don’t always see where your target is,” Romig said. “Another point he made is not having trees behind greens … making it tougher to see how far away your shot might be going.”

The MacKenzie green design is one of the more notable aspects of his infamous course layout. This structure of the green stands out from others because it is as if two greens were put into one with a hill combining the two, making it more challenging for golfers to make putts if they land on the wrong side. The sixth hole has the perfect example of the MacKenzie green, and just so happens to be the UMGC logo. There is so much thought and detail that went into the overall design of each hole at UMGC, which allows golfers to appreciate the beauty of the visual side of golf.

Before analyzing my four favorite holes that highlight the true beauty of UMGC, I want to offer some definitions of golf terminology that would be helpful. A “par” is the predetermined number of shots one should take when playing a hole. The par for each hole is typically broken up into three, four or five shots, depending on the hole’s length. A typical 18-hole course has a total par of 72, and the lower the number of shots one takes, the better the overall score. The “tee box” is where the hole usually starts. There are usually different sets of tees on the tee box with different colors — some are moved up creating different starting points for each level of golfer. The “fairway” is the middle strip of the hole, typically on par fours and fives, where the second and third shots are taken. After (hopefully) being on the fairway, the hole finishes on what is known as the “green.” On the green, the grass is cut even shorter than the fairway, making it easier to putt. The “pin” or “flag” is placed in the hole on the green, and the placement of the pin is typically changed daily on different parts of the green. There are different speeds of the green which affect the way the ball will move when putting. The “rough” is the area around the fairway where the grass is taller; the taller the grass, the more challenging it becomes for golfers to hit the ball well. “Dogleg” refers to a hole that curves either left or right, which typically means a golfer will not have a straight shot to the green. Sand traps, or “bunkers,” are used as obstacles on the course; they are usually located around the green and on the side of fairways.

Hole 2

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MacKenzie’s expertise in camouflage is apparent on the second hole, which I consider the most hidden hole of UMGC. The second hole is a par four that begins on a tee box where golfers can see nothing but a very tall hill, or what I dramatically consider a mountain. As amateur golfers, my friends and I were rather skeptical at first about whether or not we would even be able to get the ball over the hill, which we eventually did with some luck on the tee.

Engineering junior Hadi Beidoun tees off in front of the second hole’s giant hill. Ali Chami/Daily. Buy this photo.

After facing the first battle of getting over the hill, the hole slightly turns to the left. If a golfer is lucky enough to reach the fairway after their shot off the tee, it looks to be like a nice shot to the green. If a golfer misses the fairway, the shot will be rather tough, especially with the thick rough at UMGC. A shot downhill in the rough is not necessarily a happy time. The second hole is also joined by two sand traps alongside the right of the fairway, along with one in both the front and back of the green. When golfers are finally on the green, they can take a step back to a surprise view of the Ann Arbor skyline, a nice touch to the end of a rather difficult starting hole. 

LSA junior Hadi Elmenini finishes the second hole with a putt for par. Ali Chami/Daily. Buy this photo.

Hole 6

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The signature hole of the golf course, hole six, seems to be an easy hole from the golfer’s eye as it is a straight shot to the green. For a par four, it is considered a short one because it is only 295 yards from the blue tees to the green. The fairway is a little condensed, with tree lines on both the left and the right. During the fall, this hole gives the eye a special treat with the colorful trees creating a pathway to the green. However, the star of the hole is the coveted Alister MacKenzie green. At first glance, it is such a beautiful sight to see, as the double green creates a “boomerang shape” as Romig described, misleading golfers into thinking there is very little room to miss. The only thoughts on a golfer’s mind, while they take their hopeful last shot on the fairway, is to miss the bunkers and hit the green.

The green itself is surrounded by four bunkers: a large one on the bottom, two along the left and another large one on the top right. As the build-up to the hole is complete and one finally reaches the green, depending on where the ball landed, it could be a very hard challenge to overcome. While putting downhill is easier for some golfers, others prefer to go up, so this unique design allows for the chance to have the best of both worlds. If the pin placement is on the lower half of the green and one lands on the upper portion, the putt downhill is very tricky.

Engineering junior Hadi Beidoun putts on a tough downhill from the upper side of the sixth green. Ali Chami/Daily. Buy this photo.

There could be so many ways this green can go well for people while it could go wrong for others, exemplifying the challenge in the MacKenzie design. The hole is exciting to play because it is something that many golfers worldwide don’t get to experience too often. Having a MacKenzie green in our backyard is something that should not go unnoticed, but rather be appreciated.

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Hole 14

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The 14th hole on the course is similar to the sixth hole as it also incorporates a MacKenzie green. However, the 14th is a little different as it is a par three with very little fairway; the only target there is the giant green. The task seems simple if the golfer keeps their eye only on the target at hand because the surrounding three bunkers are what can create a challenge. The bunker to the left is especially tough for golfers because not only is it massive in size, it goes rather deep. Although it is in line with the MacKenzie design of a boomerang-shaped green, the shape of 14 differs a little in comparison to six. The sixth hole has a more uniform shape all around 14, on the other hand, has most of its glory on the upper level. A special treat for Michigan football fans is past the tee box with a view of the Big House block ‘M’ scoreboard. I consider the scoreboard to be a snap back into reality from the mesmerizing designs of each hole on the course, which can cause you to forget your location in Ann Arbor. The 14th hole is one of my personal favorites not only because of the MacKenzie green, but the incorporation of the school’s largest establishment itself.

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Hole 18

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Finishing off the course at the 18th hole, golfers are in for a sight. Not only does the 18th hole welcome golfers with a beautiful view of the Ann Arbor skyline, but the layout itself is also great. The fairway and the green are separated by a large pond, which implies danger for most golfers. If a golfer is fortunate enough to get over the water, they are treated to a green with two large sand traps on both sides and a beautiful view of the Richard L. Postma Family Clubhouse.

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Out of every hole on the course, the 18th is the place to take a group photo on the tee-box to capture the stunning Ann Arbor skyline. There is no better way to end the round than on the 18th hole at UMGC, not just because of the incredible cityscape, but playing it is just an overall great experience.

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Finding ways around the pond in the middle of the fairway is a part of the challenge that makes the hole exciting. The design of hole 18 puts a golfer to the test as they have to prepare for a shot that is rather unfamiliar. To end a day on such a captivating hole, no matter what the scorecard says, could lighten up the player’s mood. 

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Overall, the University of Michigan Golf Course is an awesome place to play for anyone that wants to truly experience the Alister MacKenzie experience. The course’s beauty and surroundings make you forget where you are and have you living in the moment. I would even recommend for those who don’t really golf to go, or ride along with someone that does golf, just to see views of Ann Arbor that you couldn’t before. The course is challenging for an amateur golfer like myself, but having the chance to play on such a historic golf course designed by Alister MacKenzie makes it all worth it.

Staff Photographer Ali Chami can be reached at