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Public golf in Detroit is alive and well. Go ‘fore’ it


Whether you’re an accomplished golfer or just want to try the sport for the first time you need to check out Detroit’s four city-owned courses. They’re located just a few miles from Downtown, Corktown and Midtown and offer a great fall outdoor experience. Before the leaves are off the trees and Michigan nights turn dark at 6 o’clock why not enjoy a scenic, private, back road country atmosphere in your own back yard.

Opened seven days a week, Detroit’s four courses are managed and operated by Vargo Golf, the largest golf management company in Michigan. Vargo Golf has made substantial financial commitments and improvements to the conditions and security of the city’s golf courses, which annually welcome more than 100,000 area golfers.  Vargo golf also hosts a variety of men’s and women’s golf leagues as well as runs regular golf clinics for the younger set.

Rouge Golf Course

In preparing this blog post I made sure to stretch my legs and visit each course. I had no idea what I was going to find because of all the negative news around the conditions at Belle Isle, the underfunded Parks and Rec Department and the city’s too-many-to-count neglected neighborhood parks.

To my surprise the experience was upbeat, extremely enjoyable and one I was not expecting. What I experienced at each location were rustic, countryside environments within the city limits of a major urban community. The course conditions were on par with many of the area’s surrounding county and municipal golf courses. Here’s how I ranked the courses I’d like to play.

#1: Rouge Park Northwest Detroit

Rackham Club

#2: Rackham next to the Detroit Zoo

#3: Chandler Park near City Airport in Northeast Detroit

All three of these courses offer a fair test of golf for accurate shots with fairly open fairways and very inviting and well maintained greens.  For the golfer who doesn’t hit the ball reasonably straight there is a healthy amount of heather, trees, downhill lies, woods and water all designed to encourage him or her to find a way to get back into play.

Chandler Park

Now is an ideal time to experience Michigan’s great outdoors and not have to drive a half day north.  Fall golf prices are a bargain. They begin as low as $20 for an 18-hole round and a fun time in the city with your friends, neighbors, spouse or significant other.  It’s even less if you only have time to play nine holes.     

Additional Notes about Public Golf in Detroit: Rackham Golf Course and Rogell Golf Course were designed by Donald Ross who was golf’s most prolific old school course designer. Among his greatest course designs are Pinehurst #2 as well as the North and South courses at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills. 

Belle Isle Golf Center is a premier driving range and practice facility open to the public and owned by the City of Detroit.  Get your practice swings in at the Belle Isle Golf Center before scheduling a round of golf on one of the four city courses.

The Rogell Golf Course (just off of West Seven Mile Road) is a property of the Greater Grace Temple and is open to the public.  Up until a few years ago it was a City of Detroit golf course. 

Belle Isle’s executive par three course will be the site of the second annual Battle at the Belle disc golf tournament the weekend of October 27. The course has not been operational for the last several years and organizers for the Battle at the Belle are hopeful the site could potentially become a permanent location for a premier disc golf course within the City of Detroit.

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