Apple Mountain

Freeland, MI Public


From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

In the early 1990s, when golf architect John Steidel was designing Apple Tree Golf Club from old apple orchards in Yakima, Wash., his client wanted to capitalize on the apple theme, so Steidel created an apple bunker (made from red cinders) and an apple island green.

I don't know whether golf architect John Sanford ever knew about Steidel's creation, but six years later, when Sanford was in Michigan laying out Apple Mountain Golf Course (known in those days as The Golf Club at Apple Mountain) also in old apple orchards, he gave his owner much the same thing. He built an apple-shaped green (topped by two bunker-leaves) fronted by a pond on the par-3 fifth hole and an enormous apple-shaped fairway bunker (complete with an island of turf in the sand representing a worm crawling out of the apple) on the par-4 sixth. Since both holes have their tee boxes some 90 feet above, on the side of a ski slope formerly known as The Bump (it doubles as the practice range in season), his apple-themed features are more clearly evident than those in Yakima, where a helicopter is needed to fully appreciate the effect.

Beyond those holes, Apple Mountain continues to be a very interesting design. Its front nine loops through scattered trees, over several ponds and wetlands and up and down that hill, while the back nine plays among more lakes and some homesites on nicely rolling topography reshaped from flat farmland. The bunkering on holes like the par-3 seventh, par-5 12th and par-4 13th are massive but shallow, and the 18th is a crazy, zigzag go-for-it par 5 with both water and sand in front of the green.

Apple Mountain was the last of three layouts Sanford did in Michigan early in his career. The others were The Quest, farther north near Houghton Lake (where tour player Ken Green served as a consultant) and The Sawmill, like Apple Mountain, in the Saginaw River Valley. All are worth playing, as each has a slightly different motif. Apple Mountain's theme is, of course, that most delicious of fruit, tastefully represented on the fifth and sixth holes. Although I'm not sure how many golfers playing off those elevated tees even recognize the symbolism these days. The club doesn't promote them in its advertising anymore, and quite frankly, the views from those two tee boxes encompass a lot more than those slices of apples. You can see the entire golf course, and a lot of surrounding landscape, from up there.


Holes 18
Length 6962
Slope 140
Price $82
Facility Type Public
Designer John S. Sanford, Jr., ASGCA


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