But when you come to a course that you know little about, your expectations are modest and could be exceeded by quite a bit. That was the case for me with the Leelenau Club at Bahle Farms. To be fair, my traveling golf buddy—who’s played more Michigan public courses than I have—said that this was his favorite up north. But I’ve never seen it ranked or even mentioned in any golf magazine. So when I was visiting a friend in the Leelenau Peninsula and she suggested that we play golf, I suggested that we come here.
Good choice; not only is Bahle Farms a very good course, it’s easily in my top 20 public courses in the state. The course is nicely routed over hilly (but not mountainous) terrain. The bunkering is well done and the shaping is minimalistic, with greens fitting very well into their surroundings. But, in addition to a few excellent holes, the real standouts here are the green surfaces, which are some of the best in the state. The green contours are broad and wave; not the kind of random, ripply contours that I usually like, but very interesting and challenging. All of it adds up to a beautiful, interesting, and challenging course.
The first tee shot is pleasant enough, downhill to a somewhat saddle-shaped fairway. The green is on a shelf to the right over a deep bunker left, so right-center is the best angle of approach. The par 5 second is the first of several excellent holes. While it could use some tree clearing left of the start of the fairway, there’s plenty of room down there to play to. You can see from the tee that the green angles from front left to back right, so if you’re laying up, you’ll want to do it near the left fairway bunker. There’s also a bunker short right to avoid if you go for the green. But the most notable thing about this hole is the green, which generally slopes back to front, but with several little humps around the edges. There’s also a short grass collection area to the left if you pull your approach. This is one of the best par 5s in the state.
All in all, Bahle Farms is as good as anything in northern Michigan, save for maybe the top tier place like Arcadia Bluffs and Forest Dunes. Given that it’s cheaper than almost all of them, it’s definitely worth a play if you’re near Traverse City.