It's half a world away from Lahinch and Ballybunion on the Emerald Isle, but there is an unmistakable Irish aura at Tullymore Golf Club at Canadian Lakes in Stanwood, Michigan. First, there is the Tullymore name itself. Judy Browning, whose husband Norm and partner Bobby Doerr are the principal owners, wished to give the course an Irish name and based it roughly on the two tiny towns of Tullamore in Ireland.
Irish eyes also were smiling on Colorado-based designer Jim Engh when he initially toured the 650-acre tract 50 miles north of Grand Rapids and 175 miles from Detroit. Engh makes an annual excursion to Ireland, gaining inspiration from such unsung gems as Donegal, Enniscrone, Connemara, and Carne (a.k.a. Belmullet). "Every time I turn my head in Ireland, especially at Carne, there is a new design element, a new inspiration. I never copy a hole -- no exact replicas -- but Ireland has definitely helped shaped my design philosophy and style. At Tullymore, I took my perception of Irish layouts -- which are unspoiled, natural, and wild -- and molded it into something more palatable for the American public."
However, Engh faced a challenge he would never have encountered in Ireland. About 65 percent of the site consisted of wetlands, which led the designer to create a serpentine collection of five par threes, five par fives, and more than 2,500 feet of boardwalk. Tullymore is typical and atypical of an Irish landscape: The sandy hillsides are reminiscent of Irish linksland, but the vast wetlands and mature forest of oak, ash, birch, and pine are unmistakably North American.
Engh used the wetlands wisely, creating several 220- to 240-yard forced carries over potential Waterloos from the back tees and weaving water hazards into guardian positions fronting several greens. The par-72 golf course measures 7,008 yards from the tips and decreases to 4,837 yards from the shortest of five teeing areas on each hole. "It was a challenge to put together a unique routing while preserving the wetlands and leaving the forest in its natural state," Engh says. "We carved into a lot of hills and utilized native grasses to give us a dunesy, links look on several holes. One thing about Tullymore: no two holes are alike. It's important to play the proper tee box for your ability. Because of the forced carries, Tullymore will eat your lunch from the back tees if you're not a single-digit handicap."
Green fee is $75 Monday to Thursday, $85 Friday to Sunday. Tee times: 800-972-4837. Web site: www.tullymoregolf.com.