One of America's great summer getaways is shining once again. But northern Michigan has a variety of destinations golfers can enjoy. We asked Michigan natives Brandon Tucker and Jason Deegan to draw up their ideal itineraries for a long weekend.
Brandon Tucker: Petoskey, Charlevoix and Harbor Springs
The best thing about Little Traverse Bay and the towns that wrap around it, Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, is you can see a great mix of golf courses, from classic to modern, forest and seaside, without spending too much time in the car or the need to change your home base.
On day one, start up in Charlevoix and walk 18 holes on Belvedere Golf Club, a Willie Watson design that dates back to 1927 and remains a great walk to this day. Nearby is one of my other favorite lesser-known courses in the north and a great bargain, Dunmaglas Golf Club, which is set on a remarkable piece of 800 rolling acres that offer a mix of forest and open holes.
On day two, play Bay Harbor Golf Club. Heck, why not book the first tee time of the day and play all 27 holes twice? The summer days are that long up here, and you'll want to be out on the bayside holes in the evening sun for the best scenery.
For day three, head east along Bay View Road towards Harbor Springs, and you'll come to Boyne Highlands Resort. Go old school and enlist in a caddie on the Heather, a classic but still plenty tough Robert Trent Jones Sr. design. In the afternoon, you'll have to decide between the Donald Ross Memorial or the Arthur Hills Course, each of which have their own selling points. The Hills boasts the best elevated tee shot at Boyne, but I favor the classical stylings of Memorial.
On day four, head a couple miles outside Boyne's entrance to Jim Engh-designed True North Golf Club. It's still one of the more under-played courses in the area, which means a good chance of open fairways ahead of you and great conditions (as I enjoyed on my round there). If you want to play an afternoon round, there are scores of affordable local tracks that you've probably never heard of. Try Little Traverse Bay Golf Club - a course I've yet to make it to but gets great word-of-mouth.
For lodging, you can stay-and-play in style at the Inn at Bay Harbor or find more affordable accommodations at four-course Boyne Highlands Resort. Or, once I stayed at a charming little hotel on the shores of the Little Traverse Bay, Stafford's Bay View Inn.
As a bonus, if you end up driving back towards Chicago, stop off at Tullymore Golf Club, another Engh design set in forested meadows that has phenomenal hole variety. If you're headed back towards Detroit, visit Forest Dunes, a Tom Weiskopf design that blends a mix of forest and dunes. Both are Top 100 worthy and offer yet another style of golf you can enjoy in the north.
Jason Deegan: Traverse City
Normally, I’d steer toward the Gaylord Golf Mecca for a buddies trip in northern Michigan. It’s got a great mix of value-oriented courses and resorts located fairly close to one another.
But if Gaylord is a solid double every time, I’m shooting for a home run with this mighty swing. I’m picking the region surrounding Traverse City as a home base. This trip requires more driving, but the rewards are a bigger variety of inspiring places to play and more off-the-course entertainment.
Traverse City boasts dinner haunts galore and a bar scene livelier than Gaylord, and toss in Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg, and gorgeous beaches on Grand Traverse Bay, too. As for the golf, it’s debatable that my itinerary of Arcadia Bluffs, The Kingsley Club, The Bear and friends can out-duel Gaylord’s dreamy lineup of Treetops Resort, Black Lake Golf Club, Black Forest Golf Club atop a deep roster of must-plays.
For lodging, spend two nights at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa in rural back country south of the city and two nights at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa just east of town, which offer two distinct golf trips in one long weekend.
Crystal Mountain provides great access to Kingsley Club and Arcadia Bluffs. These links experiences come with firm and fast conditions and some wild greens. A round at Arcadia followed by dinner and drinks on the patio will no doubt be sublime. The private Kingsley Club requires a call from a head professional to book a tee time, but it’s not a major obstacle to play such a unique design. Nearby, Crystal Mountain is a cozy mountainside retreat with the fine Mountain Ridge course, site of the Michigan Women’s Open the past decade.
The move to Grand Traverse should be seamless. Just drop your luggage off at the front desk and head out to play 36. The Bear by Jack Nicklaus, rated among the toughest courses in the country, remains the king of the resort’s three courses. For the second round, take on Gary Player’s The Wolverine. Those seeking another challenge, however, can head across the street to LochenHeath, a former private club that’s making a nice comeback under new ownership.
On the final day, Manitou Passage, a revived Arnold Palmer course in Glen Arbor, will look more like the golf of Gaylord: scenic and tree-lined with loads of elevation change. It’s what we all love about Northern Michigan in summer.