Birdies and Bogies in Bavaria – Saginaw MI by Dave Finn
“Am I in a holodeck on Star Trek’s Voyager?” – because suddenly I had been transported into the quaint Bavarian-style tourist town of Frankenmuth which could very well have been transplanted from the German Alps. Frankenmuth, “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is billed as Michigan’s number one tourist destination hosting over 3 million visitors each year. It hosts several festivals throughout the year and is known the world over for their fabulous chicken dinners.
We started at The Fortress, in the heart of Frankenmuth, only a par 4 away from its sister property, Zehnders. This “Scottish” links-style course is well-laid-out with Bent grass tees, greens and fairways that are all in pristine condition. The 75 bunkers ensure that most of the greens are well protected and the fescue-covered mounds force you to keep the ball in the fairway. Probably the prettiest hole on this course is the 17th, an elevated 172-yard par four, with a pond in front and a river directly behind the green. Wind conditions and the downhill shot will challenge your club selection on this hole. This course will definitely challenge your game particularly if the wind kicks up.
Our next stop was after a 25-minute drive past Saginaw to Apple Mountain. Definitely worth the drive! This is a year-round golf, ski, meeting and conference center with all the amenities imaginable, including two award-winning restaurants. Golf Magazine claims “the playing conditions are perfect” at Apple Mountain, and I would have to agree. This fair-playing course offers generous fairways, but be careful—there is water on 14 of the 18 holes, with plenty of bunkers and lots of contour to their greens. My favorite two holes were the fifth and sixth. Both stand on top of the man-made ski hill and offer majestic views of the valley. The fifth is a straight downhill, par three measuring 175 yards from the blacks (156 from the blues) with an apple-shaped green and bunker formation. Don’t let the view from the tee of the 6th lull you into a false sense of security, since you’ll need an accurate drive on this hole to avoid the second set of wetlands and an apple-shaped fairway bunker. A very beautiful hole!
Close by was the Sawmill Golf Club, another excellent course that is situated among natural wetlands and pine groves, so accuracy is a must on this course. My favorite hole is the par three, 11th, a daunting shot of 214 yards (195 from the blues) entirely over a wetland bog. Surprisingly enough, there were no bugs on this course. The toughest would have to be the 6th hole. It’s a short par five from the blues, at 485 yards, but a three-shot hole nevertheless. From the tips, it is 528 yards, but you need a 333-yard drive to clear the wetlands that run down and across the fairway, so a layup is the right call here. From there you’ll need to hit a long iron to be in any position for this doglegged green position.
After touring the area and playing these three great golf courses, I found the Saginaw County to be not only a tranquil golf experience but all offers ample fine dining, shopping and plenty of family fun to entertain all members of the family.
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