Grosse Ile

Known as the “Fishers Island of Detroit” on an island in the middle of the Detroit River, sandwiched between Trenton, MI and Canada, Grosse Ile has a reputation of having some of the best Ross greens anywhere. The club recently celebrated it’s 100th anniversary in 2020. The layout itself is bisected by Bellevue Road with holes 1-4, 9 on the clubhouse side of the road and the remaining holes across. The opening two holes are among the best on the course. The 1st is a modest par 4 with great land movement, a right-side fairway bunker giving longer hitters pause, and a wild green featuring a false front with many terrific pin positions. It is known early that you’re better off putting uphill than downhill to control the speed and give yourself makeable putts. The 2nd plays uphill nearly the entire way, longer hitters may be able to carry it up to a flatter portion, to one of the best greens on the course protected by bunkers on either side. Turning back away from the clubhouse the 3rd is a mid-length Par 5 with Out of Bounds running along the right side. The 4th is the first par 3 of the layout with a narrow elevated green complex surrounded by bunkers on each side demanding a precise iron shot. The 5th and the 14th make the short list for best par 4’s in Detroit. Both are modest in length, but neither is quite drivable, and both require a precise approach that needs to be set up by a well-placed and thought-out tee ball. The tee shot can be played with a driver down into the valley in front of the green or a layout of 200-225 yards will leave you with a clear view of the green complex. The 5th has a narrow green sloping hard back to front bisected by a large hump that can be used as a sideboard or a confounding nuisance if found on the wrong side. The green in my opinion is the best on the course and one of the best I’ve played on any Ross design with a distinct ridge in the middle it is almost a certain 3 or 4 putt if you don’t leave the ball on the correct side of it with the days pin. The 14th is a volcano hole that also contains a well-placed tree in the left-center of the fairway. The approach must carry deep enough into the green to avoid a treacherous false front. The 7th the longest par 4 on the opening nine is a dogleg left guarded by trees up the left side which can leave you without a view of the green complex if you try to draw it around the corner off the tee. Heading back toward the clubhouse the 8th is a short par 5 with a fairly open tee shot which in my opinion provides the best chance to make a birdie on the opening nine if you can avoid the bunkers protecting the layup zone and short of the green on your approach. Crossing back across the road again the 9th is a par 4 with a blind tee shot which plays downhill from the tee then dramatically back uphill for the approach to a green sloping back to front. The second nine starts with a dogleg right par 4 which is protected by the driving range (Out of Bounds) to the left and a pond left of the fairway. The approach has to be short of the hole at all costs with a very severe green which is all but impossible to 2 putt from above the hole. It’s not uncommon to see members of a group putt a ball off the front of this green and have it run 20-30 yards away from the green. The par 4’s carry the day at the Ile. The par 3’s are comparably weak, with 4 being the bright spot with a terrific, well-guarded green. Grosse Ile has three par 5’s and all are short by modern standards. 17 is a decent three shotter to a small, well tilted green that demands a precise approach. Grosse Ile finishes with something not seen at many clubs that is a par 3. The hole measuring as long as 250 yards plays closer to a short par 4 with a narrow green and playing into the prevailing wind it isn’t uncommon to see players having to hit 3 wood to reach the surface. The membership prefers the course too soft and green. Grosse Ile is slated for a renovation project in the coming years including tree removal, the switching of the nine’s, and work on the 13th and 14th greens (eeck!). The firm of Alabanese and Lutzke has been retained for a multi-year renovation project. I’d like to call it a restoration project, but I don’t expect the course will return close enough to its first iteration to be considered as such.