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Michigan State's grass scientists make Forest Akers East a great bargain golf course

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,
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Forest Akers is Michigan State's ultra green, ultra cheap golf surprise. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)

If you're in Michigan's capital, Lansing, for business or at Michigan State University for a Big Ten football game, check out the two 18-hole Forest Akers golf courses in East Lansing. They're two of the greenest and cheapest courses you will ever find.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Green grass is taken seriously at Michigan State University. Much more seriously than the school's football team is taken by opponents.

Old Michigan State students can make those kind of jokes. And you'll find plenty of alumni on the university's Forest Akers golf courses. These people know that Spartans always fade in football once the calendar turns to October and more importantly for this discussion, they understand the school is a pioneer in the field of Turfgrass sciences.

In other words, they know how to make grass really green.

This Michigan State specialty centers around agriculture, of course, and, these days, major stadium athletic fields (the Spartans' turfgrass scientists first got significant exposure when the World Cup was held in the U.S.). But its impact can be really felt in two on-campus golf courses, as well.

"Thank God for those botany nerds!" local Steve Klinzer laughed, throwing his arms into the air at Forest Akers East.

As far as Klinzer could point there was green and more green. You don't need no PhDs to come up with a hypothesis of your own here. Forest Akers East is the greenest, most-meticulously-maintained $10 golf course you'll ever play.

That's right, $10. This is the price you can get from the college students working the clubhouse desk in the afternoons if you look like you could have attended college here in the last 30 years. Just smile knowingly. (Worse case, you'll be paying $27 on weekends).

IDs for MSU discounts are checked even less frequently at Forest Akers than they were at campus bars in the idyllic days of yonder.

"I used to be able to get more booze in East Lansing than I could on Navy shore leave," a Forest Akers regular cracked.

You'll find a lot of regulars at Forest Akers. It deserves to be more than a happy retreat for those in the know, though. You don't make a special trip to play Forest Akers or any course near Michigan's capital, but this is a great place to play if you find yourself visiting Lansing or Michigan State. It may be even worth a stop on the way to Chicago if your route goes that way. It's also an easy get-to-play if you find yourself with a layover at Lansing Airport.

It's one of those golf finds that will just make your day, a trip de-stresser that's 10 times more effective than some rushed airport massage.

Forest Akers West is the much longer (7,013 yards to 6,559 yards) and tougher course (the trees seem to creep in on your drives) of the two here, but East may be the better choice for a quick in-and-out fun round.

The fairways are nice and wide open, particularly early when you're working into your swing. No. 1 is a straight-on 357-yard par 4 that almost begs you to birdie. There are also no houses anywhere in sight on the course, which adds to the sense of being away from it all while still being close to everything.

You will notice some big silos behind the fifth green and across the road. Hey, you didn't think you could visit an old-time agriculture school without seeing some cows, did you?

Thankfully, the grass is definitely greener on your side of the road.

It's so green even in early fall that you may start to wonder if there is not some mad botany going on. Not that any golfer would object. You're going to be to confidently attempt every shot with no fretting about dead spots or limpy, straggly grass.

Forget about Dorothy the Sheep. You'll leave wishing they cloned Forest Akers fairways. If only more cheap golf courses looked like this.

Forest Akers East: The verdict

Within Michigan golf, it's the overall conditions rather than any individual hole that's going to wow you about Forest Akers East. Still, No. 7 - a 384-yard par 4 with a lake dissecting the fairway and enough big drooping trees to almost make you feel like you stumbled upon a swamp area - is no mere play-it-by-rote number.

Too bold or too timid on the tee shot will leave you in aqua danger on the approach.

Not that the thrills are too severe. Forest Akers East carries a mere 114 slope rating from the back tees (as opposed to 136 on Akers West). This is a good course for beginners and you'll see plenty of college kids out on the green fairways, getting their first real golf experience. Unknown course architect Bruce Matthews does a good job of letting the natural understated setting be the focus in this 49-year-old design.

It all adds up to something of a people's course atmosphere. It helps that Forest Akers East practically screams for walking. This is one fun stroll, where the pains of whatever trip you're on or meeting you just attended can quickly fade away.

In fact, riding in a golf cart at Forest Akers East is akin to using the designated hitter in baseball. Sure, it's within the rules. But something about it just doesn't seem pure.

You want your golf shoes to feel plenty of that green grass. Chances are Forest Akers will be your unexpected golf surprise after all. Just go with it.

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Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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