The Grand Rapids fall circuit

The Grand Rapids fall circuit

Text: Greg Johnson

In mid-October, the leaves often pop in the state of Michigan and in the Grand Rapids area where golf is prolific, residents and visitors alike are drawn to its downtown river valley, parks, riverfront, and fairways for an annual fall color tour. 

In the area, there is a year-around quality trip promoted by Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club of Pierson, The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe in Grand Rapids, The Mines Golf Course in Walker, Boulder Creek Golf Club of Belmont, and Ravines Golf Club in Saugatuck—such as a two-day, one-night, 36-hole on two courses starting at $180 per person. 

The lodging point for the promoted package is the Country Inn & Suites Hotel, located at the junction of Interstate 96, Interstate 196, and the East Beltline near the famous Meijer Gardens, which is a fall must-see for tourists, too. The Country Inn promises comfortable for its guests, with an option of a breakfast buffet and convenient proximity to The Gravity Taphouse Grille, which seemingly was designed with golfers in mind in that it is part sports bar and part casual dining with great food.

Pilgrim’s Run, photography Nile Young photography

The Country Inn & Suites doesn’t have to be the only hotel option. Every major chain of lodging is seemingly represented within 10 miles of the eastern edge of the Grand Rapids area near I-96 crossing over 28th Street. In addition, a bevy of restaurant options are also available for any and all meals.

Pilgrim’s Run is a bit of a “drive,” but worth all 25 easy miles north on U.S. Route 131 to Pierson. The green complexes were designed by Mike DeVries of Traverse City, and they are the most difficult part of the course that will challenge and yet please at the same time. The flowing course, always in great shape and always welcoming, transport players away from it all to a northern Michigan-inspired setting, only without the drive that far north for the golf or the fall colors.

DeVries was the designer at the Mines, too, and it has an interesting story as it was built on the top of old gypsum mines. It’s a great public access golf course with competitive pricing and some outstanding design elements. It, too, offers an amazing isolated feel at times, but is just five minutes from downtown and located in an area of town known for its rolling, tree dotted terrain. 

Thornapple Pointe is the course everybody who drives into Grand Rapids on I-96 from Lansing can see on the left on approach toward the M-6 exit that loops south of town and downtown. It’s as nice as it looks with great conditioning, a fun design by Bill Newcomb and there is more room than one might think on the great holes along the Thornapple River. The contrast of the great tree stands and rolling hills with the fall colors makes golfers stop to take pictures.

Ravines Golf Club, photography by Nile Young photography

Boulder Creek has been a local favorite for several years. It’s on the busy north side and gives the golfer the edge of the city feelings, but with a great mix of sweeping golf holes over rolling hills. The front nine takes golfers up through a natural area of rolling hills, trees and ravines where the colors surround like the hills.

Ravines is southwest near Saugatuck about 45 minutes, but delivers with an Arnold Palmer design featuring –as its name suggests—ravines. The green ravines of summer turn gold and red vibrantly to frame a well-manicured golf course. It’s a stunning place throughout the year, but dresses special in the fall with bright colors.

As for the golf, add Quail Ridge Golf Club in Ada on the east side of town to the mix. It’s not part of the promoted options above, but if you are a do-it-yourself planner, the fun, playable and interesting Ray Hearn design is of similar golf quality to the others. Hearn has studied the masters of golf course architecture, and his double-green is great stuff. It’s also cut through a forested area of rolling land that bust with color in the fall. 

Featured image courtesy The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe