50 Words or Less
The Treetops Signature course feels like the ultimate combination between an amusement park and a nature preserve. Stunning scenic views and massive elevation changes make this an unforgettable track.
A few years back, our founder and editor Matt Saternus spoke glowingly of Treetops in a series of reviews. Ultimately he called the entire Treetops Resort “a true golf destination” (review HERE). However, there was one course that he didn’t get a chance to play, the Treetops Signature Course. So, I charted a path from Chicagoland to Northern Michigan to give it a shot, and let me tell you, Matt missed out. Treetops Signature was worth the adventure to the North and was an adventure to play.
The practice facilities here are everything you can hope for and more. The range is a great preview of what you can expect throughout the rest of your day of golf as you tee off down a cliff with spot targets peppering the hillside. The range foreshadows the elevated tee shots you’ll encounter over and over again on the various Treetops courses.
Just behind the range is a massive circular green complex with wild undulations to get you prepared for the 81 holes on site (including the famous par 3 Threetops course, review HERE). In fact, on that massive green, there is even a putting course laid out to get you accustomed to any breaks and speeds that you could encounter on not just Treetops Signature, but any of the courses.
Customer Service & Amenities
Classic Midwestern hospitality was on display with the starters and staff here. They were all quick to speak genuinely and glowingly about each of the four courses on offer and answer any questions.
That same hospitality extended to the food. On the grounds, there are several restaurants, but the Jones Tavern stood out. Awesome hot fries, walleye sandwiches, burgers, and a particularly notable spicy chicken sandwich were all welcome after 18 holes, giving you the energy to get back out there and continue your golfing adventure.
One noticeable missing detail is the lack of GPS. For such a well-established resort, not having GPS on the carts seems like a glaring omission, especially because of the elevation changes. If I didn’t happen to have my slope-enabled rangefinder, I think this course would have been exponentially more difficult and not in an enjoyable way.
Beauty & Scenery
Trekking to Treetops is all about the scenery. Golf in Northern Michigan is at its best when you’re looking out over a large expanse of terrain from a high vantage point, and Treetops Signature is chock full of those opportunities.
The only thing that marred the beauty of the course were the extremely dry conditions that led to some noticeably browned-out patches of grass. This wasn’t exclusive to Treetops, as several courses were experiencing a bit of drought during my recent trip. It was clear through the sprinkler use and talking to staff that they were doing all they could to mitigate the effects of mother nature.
The most satisfying part of playing at Treetops Signature course was the tee shots. It felt like you had your own Shot Tracer Technology on hand because you could so clearly see the ball falling back to earth against the greenery in the distance. I had to fight off the urge to quote Titanic and scream, “I’m the king of the world!” after pulling driver on as many tee boxes as I could. While there are a few holes where accuracy is at a premium, many holes feature wide open fairways that are the opposite of penal.
The vast majority of the approach shots on this course are downhill just like the tee shots. While that isn’t the case on every hole, it’s certainly the majority. While downhill tee shots tend to be easier, approaches become more difficult. Difficult not only because of hazards like bunkers, forests, and long rough but also because of the greens you’re hitting into.
The slopes of the greens are at times dramatic, so approach shots that aren’t placed on the greens in the right spots can be diverted to other areas and make the upcoming putts more difficult. The course isn’t too long though, it’s a par 70 that tops out at around 6700 yards. As a result, many long hitters will surely find themselves using short irons and wedges into greens.
Greens & Surrounds
The greens can undulate dramatically, mirroring the elevation changes present on the golf course at large. In fact, out of all of the 81 holes of Treetops, these are the 18 with the most fluctuation on the putting surface. The greens play fast and are often large with demarcated tiers.
While there’s no real water to speak of around the greens, the multitude of bunkers means that fast and loose swings won’t work here. In fact, each one of the 18 holes features at least one greenside bunker to up the difficulty of your shots. The bunkers themselves had lush, soft sand that did occasionally contain rocks to be aware of.
This was the original Rick Smith-designed golf course. While Smith is very well-known as a golf instructor, he proves he’s got an eye for design as well. He’s the same man who would go on to design the iconic Arcadia Bluffs. The breathtaking views will distract you, while the greens will focus you back in and keep you on your toes. Ultimately, both of those aspects just made me want to play more than once to try and decipher them. It’s far from your typical resort course.
#1 – Par 4 – 447 yards
The first hole at Treetops Signature feels like the anticipation before a big drop at any classic roller coaster. Looking down at the sprawling open fairway is like a green light to take a massive lash at the ball. The sides of the fairway also protect you from mishits as they’re angled to feed golf balls back toward the center. This green can be reachable given dry, firm, hot conditions as I experienced, so don’t be afraid to go for the green. Golf is a game after all, so have fun and pretend that you’re a long drive champion, if only for this one shot. This is one of the only truly easy holes on the course.
#15 – Par 5 – 485 yards
This is one of the few holes on the course where instead of starting high and dropping down, you start low and work uphill. It’s a par 5 that, in theory, is very scorable due to its short length and large fairway. However, the fairway narrows, getting smaller and smaller. Ultimately, it leads to one of the longest, thinnest greens that you’ll ever see on any golf course.
#11 – Par 3 – 175 yards
Certain holes are created, while others are simply carved out of nature. This hole is a prime example of the latter. To call this hole tree-lined is an understatement, as it is completely tree-surrounded. I struggle to think of a tighter chute of a tee shot than this hole. It’s so tight that all you can do is try and hit the straight shot this hole demands. Accuracy will be rewarded.
Treetops Signature Golf Course isn’t just pretty views, it’s a challenging track that you will undoubtedly want to play again. The ups and downs of this course are like a series of thrill rides and it feels like a Disneyland made for golfers. It’s not just the Signature course that makes you feel that way either. The whole Treetops experience has that amusement park vibe. From a cliffside range to one of the most interesting par three courses in the U.S.A. to another 54 holes to play after you finish the Signature, it’s no wonder why this place is a bucket list destination.