50 Words or Less
Timber Stone Golf Course in Iron Mountain, Michigan is a gorgeous tree-lined course with tricky greens. Playable but challenging. Memorable closing hole.
On our recent golf trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we played a number of courses that don’t fit the stereotypes of midwestern golf. Timber Stone Golf Course, in contrast, is exactly what I expect from a course in Michigan. What makes it memorable and worthy of a recommendation is that it’s such an excellent version of this familiar formula.
Timber Stone has one of the prettiest practice greens I’ve ever seen – a beautiful mid-sized green hidden amid a ring of trees. The greens are the toughest element of this course, so it’s worthwhile to spend some time on the practice green trying to figure out the reads.
The driving range is a few steps from the putting green and is large enough to accommodate about eight players. As you can see above, you’ll be hitting off mats. The range is deep and wide, but try to pick specific targets because this is not a course for bomb and gouge.
Customer Service & Amenities
The highlight of the round at Timber Stone is the food at the turn. This isn’t a knock on the course; it’s high praise for the food. Timber Stone puts their grill on the front porch of their log cabin clubhouse, so you can smell the burgers and brats as you’re putting out on #9. Not only are meats freshly grilled, they also grill their pretzel rolls and hot dog buns – a small touch that makes a world of difference.
Walk past the grill to find a spacious pro shop with a bar and all the soft goods you could want to remember your round at Timber Stone.
My only complaint about the amenities at Timber Stone is that the carts don’t have GPS systems. They do provide a lot of information on the scorecard and the hole markers (above), but I like to see on-cart GPS at courses that host a lot of tourists.
Beauty & Scenery
Timber Stone is a gorgeous golf course. Located at Pine Mountain, which switches to a ski resort in the winter, it has the advantage of natural elevation, which the course uses to great effect. Your round starts down in the dense forest and rises to give you miles-long views of the surrounding area. This apexes at the signature 17th hole, a par 3 that plays dramatically downhill.
Should you tire of the tree-lined aesthetic, Timber Stone offers an abrupt change on holes #5 and #6 which play on opposite sides of a small pond. Though #6 did raise some questions in our group for its golf architecture, it may be the prettiest hole on the property.
When a course is tree-lined, I instantly think “narrow” and “penal.” Timber Stone proves that doesn’t need to be the case. Though virtually every fairway is defined by a strong tree line, it’s not a particularly narrow course. I would classify the fairways as average in width, and there’s a reasonable amount of rough before you reach the tree line. Finally, though there are spots where driving it into the forest is as good as hitting a ball into the water, there are more spots where shots into the trees can be found and played. On balance, I would describe Timber Stone as a course where driving accuracy is a plus but not the number one determinant of scoring.
The tees at Timber Stone range from 6,938 to 5,060 yards, so it can accommodate players of almost any length. Most holes feature some amount of elevation change, so this course will play longer than the number on the card.
Finally, Timber Stone is not the course for the player who mindlessly grabs driver on every hole. I’m a huge advocate of hitting driver as much as possible [learn why HERE], but there are plenty of holes where it’s simply not the play, starting with #1. If you’re playing the correct tees, a well-struck fairway wood or hybrid is often a better play.
Getting the ball off the tee is easier than it looks. Hitting the ball onto the green is harder than it looks. That starts with greens that are not the most inviting targets. Timber Stone tends towards greens that are unusually shaped or sit at awkward angles. Though the square footage of the greens is average, many of the greens are narrow in one dimension, putting a huge demand on either distance control or dispersion.
Elevation and bunkers add to the difficulty of your second shots. Though only a few approach shots play dramatically up or down hill, almost every holes has enough elevation change to make you pause and think. Similarly, though Timber Stone doesn’t have dozens of bunkers, the ones it has are placed for maximum impact on your second shot plans.
Finally, Timber Stone puts a premium on playing your second shot from the fairways. It’s easy to find your ball in the rough because it’s not too long. However, the rough makes up for a lack of length by being very lush. You need to put a strong move on the ball to keep your club from getting snared. Regardless of your strength or speed, you’ll always have to guard against flyers.
Greens & Surrounds
Getting onto the green is difficult but getting the ball into the hole is the biggest challenge at Timber Stone. The putting surfaces are quick with a blend of obvious and subtle breaks that makes it hard to trust your reads. If you happen to steal a birdie, pat yourself on the back. By and large, a two-putt is a win on these greens.
Around the greens, you’ll find rough all the way up to the fringe. This limits your options in the short game and puts you at the mercy of your lie. Try to avoid getting short sided with your approach, especially along the narrow aspect of the green, unless you want to rack up multi-chip holes.
The bunkers at Timber Stone don’t provide any unique challenges, but they’re best avoided if you’re not confident in the sand. As you can see above, some sand shots don’t have much margin for error.
#18 – Par 5 – 625 Yards
This is a favorite as much for its peculiarity as anything else. The fairway drops down in stair steps which means that a poorly-judged lay up can ricochet off rocks as easily as it can find short grass. On top of that, there’s a periscope on the tee so you can see when the fairway is clear. Hooray for quirk.
#5 – Par 5 – 501 Yards
A short par 5 with a surprisingly wide fairway, this hole seems like a confidence booster. In reality, the lay up area is very narrow, and the water and trees around the green make going for it scary. Birdie is available only if you can stay focused and keep your eyes off the lake.
A golf course doesn’t need to break the mold to be memorable. Timber Stone plays to the strengths of midwestern golf with its tree-lined beauty and challenging greens. If you’re golfing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this course should be on your itinerary.