50 Words or Less
Greywalls Golf Course in Marquette, Michigan is one of two courses at the Marquette Golf Club. Beautiful, unique aesthetics. Over the top design, for better or worse. Great par 3s.
Every experience happens in context. If you walk into an unassuming diner and get excellent food, your opinion of the place will be heightened by your low expectations. Conversely, if a restaurant has Michelin stars, your expectations will be high and a decent experience is going to feel unsatisfactory.
This second example is not far from how I feel about Greywalls Golf Course. I went into the round with high expectations based on its ratings and things I’d heard from several friends. The fact that I was not blown away – compounded by how unusual the design is – have left me with very mixed feelings.
Note: I couldn’t quite decide how to format this review to touch on everything I felt was important, so, befitting such a wild course, I’ve concocted something unusual. This won’t be like any other course review you’ve read here, or will likely ever read again, but I think it works to capture my mixed feelings about Greywalls.
The practice facilities at Marquette Golf Club are adequate. In front of the pro shop you’ll find the putting green and driving range, shown above. The range has room for about eight players and appears to switch between grass tees and mats. There are three targets along the midline of the range but no target greens.
The putting green near the pro shop is about 40′ X 40′ and largely flat. There’s another putting green much closer to the first tee of the Greywalls course, and it’s more representative of the quick, aggressively undulating greens that you’ll see on the course.
Customer Service & Amenities
The Marquette Golf Club pro shop has the vibe of a local course, not a fancy resort or destination. They have all the logo’d soft goods that you’d expect, but the club and ball selection is a smorgasbord of new and used rather than a beautiful display of the latest and greatest.
After your long drive to the first tee of Greywalls, you’ll find a small starters hut. This is also the turn stand where you can buy snacks, drinks, and a few items from the grill.
While the amenities at Marquette Golf Club are nothing to write home over, the customer service was very good throughout our time there. If you need all the extras to enjoy your round, this is not the place for you. If you’re ok with an experience that’s focused solely on the golf, you can have a good time here.
Beauty & Scenery
Greywalls is a very distinctive looking golf course and a very beautiful one. It’s quiet, remote, and heavily wooded, as you’d expect in the upper peninsula of Michigan. What makes it stand apart are the exposed rock faces throughout the course. Sometimes these appear near the green, as on #5, above, but more often they pop up in the middle of a fairway.
The drives between holes and the long views from elevation are serene, but the course itself is a rollercoaster. There are constant, dramatic elevation changes and massive undulations in the fairways and greens. According to Drew, the views are the highlight of the course, and the feeling of being immersed in the forest was rejuvenating. One could just as easily leave the course exhausted by the eccentric design of the holes.
Note: We played in drizzle and heavy cloud cover, so our pictures don’t show Greywalls in its best light, literally or figuratively. The professional photo above gives you a taste of how beautiful it can be.
Drew and I agreed that the par 3s at Greywalls are far and away the best holes. That starts with a good range of yardages: two medium, one long, and one short. Please note that the back tees don’t seem excessively long – 6,828 yards – but you need a lot of firepower to handle the par 3s from there (#15 is 240 yards).
My favorite, #6, is shown above. This is an uphill shot to a green with a false front. I think it’s one of the most beautifully framed holes that I’ve played, and a successful tee shot feels like a tremendous accomplishment. #15 is the longest par 3, and another shot that’s nearly all carry. #3 is notably friendlier playing slightly downhill and allowing golfers to find land short and left of the green. Finally, #17 is a wedge shot to a large green that’s divided into three segments. It’s very easy to notch a GIR but not make par.
The Normal Holes
I’m going out of order, but I’m trying to hit the highlights first. There’s a stretch of holes on the back nine, #10 and #12 through #15, where Greywalls becomes a pretty normal golf course. It’s not boring by any means, but everything gets dialed down from 11 to about 7.5. There’s undulation in the fairways, but you won’t have blind approaches after good drives. The greens have significant movement but nothing that makes a two putt impossible. It’s really good, solid golf, and I wish it was either a bigger part of Greywalls or more distributed throughout the course. As it stands, this stretch feels like a short breather after being chased through a hall of mirrors.
The Other Holes
Severe. Credit to Phyllis Barone [follow her HERE] for coming up with the perfect word to describe the majority of the holes at Greywalls. It starts off the tee where, even with a yardage book, you’re left to wonder, “What is the right line?” Often, you can’t even use the group in front to judge because your ball will land or roll out of sight (Greywalls is full of bells you ring to let the group behind know that you’re out of range).
While it’s hard to describe Greywalls as a course that’s narrow off the tee, finding the right spot for your drive can require Tour-level precision. If you look at the hole above, the fairway is a mile wide, but hitting the fairway doesn’t guarantee a good approach. Also, the aforementioned blind landing spots can lead to a lot of frustration in the form of long searches and lost balls. Our entire group agreed that the front nine felt like thirteen holes, even though the clock indicated that we played in two hours.
The undulations in the fairways are some of the largest that I’ve ever seen. While you can sometimes use this bonkers land movement to add some distance to your drive, it can just as easily stifle your tee shot.
What’s more frustrating is being in the fairway with a completely blind approach. I’m not opposed to the occasional blind shot, but there ought to be some benefit to hitting the fairway. The frustration gets compounded by the fact that the approach shots are not easy. My experience at Tobacco Road [review HERE] was that if you hit your blind shot into the right general area, you’d be OK. At Greywalls, you can hit what seems to be a decent blind shot and get penalized.
Around the greens, there’s a mix of rough and fairway cut. Bunkers don’t play a major role. The biggest trouble you’ll have in your short game is dealing with the elevation and shape of the greens. Virtually all the greens are at least a few feet above the surrounding area. Additionally, they tend to be slim either front to back or left to right. If you’re trying to pitch onto the narrow dimension, you’re going to have difficulty. If you miss a green, my advice is to take your medicine and move on.
Finally, the greens at Greywalls offer a stark contrast to those at Sage Run [review HERE]. Where Sage Run keeps green size, speed, and undulation in the proper proportion, Greywalls’ putting surface push things too far. You can see this most clearly on the first hole: the green is much too small for its speed and the severity of the slope. In our group, a very, very good player ping-ponged back and forth over the green because there was simply nowhere to land a pitch. The issue with that green is made worse by the fact that the surround falls off about 20 vertical feet on every side. Severe, indeed.
Before I get a comments section full of angry GCA hipsters, I want to say a couple final things. I’m not a stuffy traditionalist who want straight, flat golf courses. I love Tobacco Road. I love Creek Club [review HERE]. And I don’t hate Greywalls, I just think it goes about 10% too far. There are a lot of fun shots at this course, but they’re outnumbered by the opportunities for bad breaks and frustration.
It’s also worth saying that I’m not opposed to difficult golf courses nor do I think that golf needs to be “fair.” I have two brutally difficult courses in my 5 Forever Courses list [see that HERE]. Golf is played outside in the elements; it’s never going to be fair. But there’s a difference between accepting the inherent unfairness of the game and praising a course that seems particularly arbitrary in the way it hands out breaks.
#6 – Par 3 – Yards
This is an absolute beauty, a real challenge, but also very fair. The green size is appropriate for the length of the shot, and you can still make par even if your approach is short. This hole was made especially memorable by Drew’s tee shot which ricocheted off the rocks on the right and ended up within five feet. Yes, he made the putt.
Is Greywalls a great golf course? I don’t think so, but it’s also not a bad one. What it is, unquestionably, is extreme, and that’s going to lead to strong opinions. While it’s not a course that I’m going to run back to, it’s one that I’d recommend that you check out to see for yourself whether you enjoy this brand of golf. And after you play, leave a comment and let me know what you think.