A somewhat unusual choice of course to play on this tour, Arcadia Bluffs South is the newer cousin of the well-known Arcadia Bluffs located hard on Lake Michigan. The two courses couldnít be more different. The Bluffs is an earth moving bonanza with dramatic elevation changes and stunning views of the lake. We chose the more sedate South mostly because the design inspiration was drawn from Chicago GC. The team of Fry/Straka designed the course over a vast 300 acre, virtually treeless landscape. I believe there used to be a commercial tree operation on the site, but those would have been quick harvesting trees, hence the site is an open landscape not too different from Chicago GC. However, Chicago does have some trees attractively spread around the gently rolling property. Let there be no doubt that Arcadia South could do with a similar tree treatment.
Located about 1.5 miles south of the Bluffs, the South is still on sandy soil so there are no issues with banging shots along the floorÖif you donít mind zig zagging around the multitude of fairway bunkers. There are comfortably more than 100 total bunkers and they do impact play. Perhaps there are too many bunkers because the look of holes from tees is sometimes difficult to distinguish. When taking in the course, it looks fairly flat, but there must be at least 50 feet of elevation change. This change in elevation is most apparent when standing on the 12th
tee. Another highly noticeable aspect of the course is the lack of water featuresÖthere are none! I didnít think about this prior to playing, but I was surprised when finished to realize the lack of water. Finally, I expected to see blatant MacDonald/Raynor template holes. The design pair wisely steered clear of this trap which therefore allows golfers to see what is built rather than compare these holes to their famous relations.
Dana Fry may sound like a new name in the design business, but he has been plying his trade for nearly 40 years now after getting his start with Tom Fazio in 1983. After five years Dana started with work with Dr Michael Hurdzan, becoming a partner in 1997. Jason Straka also came from the Hurdzan stable. After working with Hurdzan for over fifteen years he joined forces with Fry in 2012. Arcadia South may be the most high-profile job of Fry/Straka, although I donít recall that much fan-fare despite its lofty rating in Michigan and making Golf Digestís top 100 public courses.
The opener is fairly typical of what is to come; generous fairways interrupted by bunkers scattered about, large raised greens...many with serious contours and slopes and somewhat punishing rough.
This hole location is particularly nasty and reminiscent of Chicago GC greens.
A more lenient hole (at least until the green is reached) than the 1st, but the 2nd is more interesting.
On many courses this would be a highlight hole, but at the South it is one of many.
This green is full of difficult hole locations.
A tough par 5 along the property boundary, the third covers practically the entire width of the front 9. I can see the fairway line is meant to match the green cut line in this case. However, in this same case the fairway cut line dead-ends into the middle of the bunker. This and/or squared-off tees not lining up with fairway cut lines is a common theme so it must be purposeful. I find these uneven lines jarring to the eye.
Continuing to hug the boundary line, the 4th is an extremely long two-shotter which is fairly boring until playing into the green.
Then first par 3 is a depth perception nightmare. The right bunker will surprisingly gobble up slightly short tee shots which run off the green.
More to follow.