10100 W. 10 Mile Road, Huntington Woods; 248-543-4040; rackhamgolfcourse.com
Rackham is No. 1 because it's inexpensive, accessible (from I-696, Lodge, Woodward), not long but a golf test. And it has more history: Rackham's clubhouse was designed by Albert Kahn, with Pewabic tile prominent. From 10 Mile Road, the course looks like a mostly treeless plain, without water hazards, just a few sand traps. But its designer, Scotsman Donald Ross, who built 400-plus courses in early 20th century America, put the devil in the details — such bedeviling details as mounds and bunkers, gorse (thorny shrubs) and elevated, up-and-down greens. The variety of Rackham's holes is notable. No. 7, for example, is a semicircle par 5 with hills trouble left, trees right. And the Rackham green, to mix a metaphor, is a postage stamp atop an anthill. Ross worked land donated to Detroit in 1921 by Horace and Mary Rackham. The deed specified the land must be a public park or golf course, open to all, in perpetuity. When the city, in 2007, wanted to sell Rackham, to be a housing development, the deed's restrictions prevented the sale. Here's another aspect of Rackham's history shared by an older gentlemen when we played there one raw October day some years ago. He told of playing with Ben Davis, a legendary black pro who taught at Rackham when several "semi-private" (read: segregated) local courses wouldn't have him (or Joe Louis, whom Davis taught). Davis became the country's first African-American PGA member head pro at Rackham in 1968.