Text: Tyler Fleser
Golf is a sort of meditation—a melding of nature and mankind’s ambition. Will Rogers, the famous American actor, columnist, and renowned socialite once said, “I guess there is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf.”
This is the spirit golf carries with it no matter how tumultuous life becomes, no matter what company one is with, and no matter what green teed off on; all that matters is the golfer—the extension of the player that is the chosen club—and the ball. We here at The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf have collated an extensive list for everyone seeking the solace Rogers describes in the great state of Michigan. So, iron your favorite polo, let your mind wander as you select your best clubs, and take a journey as this list takes a tour of the top spots to wind up and unwind here in the Great Lakes State.
LAKEWOOD SHORES RESORT
While Michigan’s natural beauty may enrapture golfers at many of the other clubs on this list, Lakewood Shores Resort provides a foreign feel with the convenience of close proximity to Michiganders, with a fascinating history to boot.
The property began as an experimental farm site for Carl E Schmidt, who was involved in the crossbreeding of cattle and bison to make newer, heartier breeds. Then, in 1986, Stan Alridge, owner of Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, MI acquired the property. Diligent in his goal to give golfers great dollar-value for their time, he turned the old farm into a golf resort, opening its first on-site lodging facilities in 1990. Since then, the property has gone through miraculous evolution and expansion.
Heavily inspired by varying foreign influences, Lakewood’s three courses provide a tailored experience for golfers that gives the site ample replay value. Designed by Kevin Alridge, The Gailes takes the Scottish seaside to northern Michigan with 18 holes of immense double greens, winding burns, sod-filled bunkers, and long fescue grasses. Another Alridge creation, Blackshire specifically evokes the well-known Pine Valley Club, featuring long rolling hills, hardwoods, and sizeable sand wastes. Rounding out the three courses is The Serradella, a more relaxing experience with less hazards than the former two courses, wide fairways, large putting areas, and a swath of perennials to accompany visitors during their time away from their busy lives.
Lakewood Shores is extremely accommodating to its guests. For those looking to practice, there are two large putting greens, a grass range, and a short game area. Scotland Cove, Lakewood’s 19th hole, even serves soup and sandwiches for golfers making the turn. Near the resort, visitors can hike or camp in the Huron National Forest area, as well as fish in Huron or Cedar Lake.
Buried in 500,000 acres of northern Michigan forest lies the aptly named Evergreen Resort. Boasting two golf courses, two full-service restaurants, and 117 hotel rooms, this emerald property is sure to satisfy Cadillac-bound golfers and their families alike.
Originally founded as a resort overlooking Lake Cadillac in 1949 by Velma and Curly McGuire, the property first started as a single nine-hole course. Since then, the property has evolved to 27 holes including both the Spruce and Norway courses. Spruce, the 18-hole, award-winning championship course, offers a classic challenge in the form of rolling hills, small greens, and pine-laden winds in sight of a sparkling Lake Cadillac. For a more casual experience, golfers can take to Norway, a nine-hole course set in a quiet Evergreen heart side alcove. Once Spruce or Norway have worked up their visitors’ appetite, golfers can enjoy a hearty brewhouse meal at Curly’s Bar and Grill or fine regional cuisine from Passage North – The Grill at Evergreen Resort.
For those seeking to attune themselves with the outdoors, guests are welcome to hike, bike, snowmobile, or cross-country ski across trails planted throughout the expansive 327-acre property. In the event of inclement conditions, resort guests are also given access to an indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, and pickleball courts for any of their other leisure needs. With Lake Cadillac in close proximity, visitors are always a moment away from fishing and beach-side lounge sessions, making Evergreen Resort the prime destination in Northern Michigan for any golfers or general leisure-seekers.
LOCHENHEATH GOLF CLUB
Traverse City, MI
Set in what used to be a traditional Traverse City cherry orchard, LochenHeath Golf Club invites golfers in with top-notch views, one-of-a-kind hazards, and a large course totaling at 7,280 yards. Built around luxury home sites, fans of elegant architecture and the beauty of northern Michigan can both enjoy this links-style property.
Designed by Florida architect Steve Smyers, LochenHeath’s course is built in sight of East Grand Traverse Bay, resting in a mix between open fields and northern wooded areas. With elevation changes of 85 feet, 65 unique sand bunkers, and a vast array of holes designs, the championship course is sure to provide the challenge and satisfaction every golfer seeks. For those who still need to work on the game, LochenHeath also gives access to its renowned practice facility which includes, two large grass tees, two putting greens, pitching and short game practice areas, sand bunkers, and teaching aids to help improve your game.
Nestled in one of Michigan’s crown jewels, Traverse City, LochenHeath is in close proximity to a plethora of fantastic attractions including award-winning wineries and brewhouses, critically-acclaimed resorts, and the majestic sand hills of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011.
BUCKS RUN GOLF CLUB
Mt. Pleasant, MI
July 1st, 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary for an absolute staple of Michigan’s golf community—Bucks Run Golf Club. Almost a century-long history of hard work and dedication from Fisher Companies is to thank for the award-winning golf course’s beautiful location. The company’s most recent venture since starting as a gravel operation in 1925, Bucks Run’s 290-acre property is a golfer’s paradise that has been proactively offering its golfers new experiences ever since it opened in 2000.
The course takes golfers on a journey over natural wetlands, through woods, along winding rivers, and beside the coasts of lakes like Lake Fisher, an old quarry turned scenic water hazard. With attention to upkeep and with golfers’ best interests at heart, the course is currently trimming select trees to keep the golfing experience superb.
“When you’re 20 years in, as trees change, because the root structure goes underneath the green, its sucking all the moisture out. We don’t want to just get rid of trees, but we’re doing the ones that will help us prosper for the next 20 or 30 years,” said Jon Conklin, PGA member and general manager at Bucks Run.
In addition to trimming foliage, the course has recently been given extra distance, making it reach almost 7,000 yards from the last tees.
“We’ve been praised over and over again by our customers [for our conditions], and its an important aspect of what we’re trying to do moving forward,” Conklin said.
What Bucks Run focuses on most however, and what Conklin noted is the key to their success for the past 20 years, is the comfort-level of their golfers. The course offers a view that rivals northern Michigan, but without any distractions. There are no housing developments. There are no highways or cars you can hear on any of the tees.
“We are a full-service facility. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, tablecloth, white linen; everything we do is to make everyone feel comfortable,” Conklin said. “I want a guy who plays Oakland Hills to have a great time, but I also want the person who only plays a few times a year—who is using their disposable income—I want them to feel comfortable. I don’t want them to feel out of place.”
Part of this comfort-centered service influenced Conklin and company to implement an extra tee option for golfers of every kind so they can set their drives at a distance that works for their level without compromising their self-esteem or the satisfaction of a challenge. Conklin also noted on his own experience with provided comfort as a tenant of service.
“We all know that disposable income is hard to come by. For some people it’s a once-a-year type of thing. I put it into thinking about myself. I’m a big skier. I know that when I’m going up north, by the time you’re dining or lodging and everything else, it’s an expense. It’s nice to put that in perspective for these golfers,” Conklin said. “I like going to places that are family-owned and operated. It really makes you feel comfortable when you’re there. It’s very friendly. There are some places that are bigger where you’re just another number.”
Conklin also remarked on how Bucks Run was the first golf course in the area to use GPS and how the success and sustainability of Bucks Run stems from the support of the club’s leadership and team.
“[The team is] willing to take chances and do things a little bit out of the box. It’s amazing how we took to changes, how other people are doing it regularly. We’ve had it ingrained in our business philosophy for years,” Conklin said. “Being a maverick also means the people you work for and with want you to be that way.”
Bucks Run also has more to offer other than its immaculate greens and comfort-focused service. The amenities feature a putting island to practice in paradise, the Quarry Grill for golfer’s dining needs, and an 18,000-square-foot clubhouse to cater any event. As for golfer’s visiting the greater Mt. Pleasant area, they can find food and entertainment around Central Michigan University’s campus. For those seeking thrills, Soaring Eagle Casino is only eight minutes away, along with high-stakes rewards, top-bill concerts, and drinks aplenty.
EAGLE EYE GOLF AND BANQUET CENTER
Bath Township, MI
Whether the day calls for a casual links-style outing or a 27-hole golf enthusiast’s tour de force, Eagle Eye Golf & Banquet Center can offer up the perfect experience for anyone visiting East Lansing. Set just northeast from the Mitten’s capital, the enormous, award-winning property is built on what used to be a sod and potato farm. No strangers to obstacles, Eagle Eye’s designers dug up 800,000 yards of dirt to create eight unique bodies of water that effect twelve different holes and carefully plotted 97 sand bunkers ranging from three yards to two acres throughout the rolling greens.
The club houses six exclusively unique courses including both Timber Ridge, one of the only 12-hole golf courses in the country and Little Hawk, one of Michigan’s three natural grass putting courses. A well-seasoned golfer also has great reason to venture to central Michigan in the form of Hawk Hollow. Designed by Chris Lutzke and Pete Dye, the 27-hole champion course with a Jerry Mathews-inspired layout was opened in 2003. A 65,000-square-foot clubhouse rests in view of the unique 17th island green, developed considering dynamic shot values and re-playability for golfers seeking a thorough challenge. The clubhouse includes five banquet rooms, two restaurants, and even a fitness center.
After a long day, golfers aren’t far away from the state’s capital where they can reflect on their outing in Lansing’s Hopcat with a craft brew, talk clubs over a sublime seafood luncheon at Mitchell’s Fish Market, or plan their next outing over a gourmet steak dinner at Capital Prime.
Located in the thumb of Michigan’s bay area is Apple Mountain. With a course that is sure to provide an engaging challenge for seasoned golfers and new golfers alike and amenities to make their stay more than a simple tour of the greens, Apple Mountain is a must-golf stop for anyone visiting the mitten’s east central side.
Opened in 1998 and designed by John Sanford, the 72-par championship course has a healthy mix of water hazards, sand bunkers, and bent grass fairways to keep any of the four tees interesting. Golfers can also hone their skills at the driving range, chipping area, putting green, and practice bunkers. In addition, Apple Mountain offers two dining experiences in the shape of Putters Pointe’s classic American fare or Mountain View Restaurant’s varied high-end cuisine and views.
As for Freeland, the city offers plenty of top-notch bars like the Log Cabin Bar & Grill and 2nd Street Sports Pub. For a family outing, visitors of the city can also visit Leaman’s Green Applebarn for cider, donuts, and an authentic Michigan apple orchard experience.
At the southern tip of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, white pines and black oaks dot the landscape of Pilgrim’s Run. This 400-acre forest cove will melt away any inhibition golfers may be experiencing with its tranquil beauty and welcoming fairways. Even the wildlife is reported to be friendly.
Designed by Mike DeVries of DeVries Designs Inc. and opened in 1998, Pilgrim’s Run exhibits creeping bentgrass fairways, unique green complexes, and four tees for players of any level. The course promotes discounted packages with nearby hotels and offers casual dining in the Gravity Taphouse and Grille.
In close proximity to Cedar Springs, thirsty golfers can stop in for a craft beer at Cedar Springs Brewing Company, and families can greet furry new friends at Deer Tracks Junction.
COURSES NEAR GRAND RAPIDS
THE GOLF CLUB AT THORNAPPLE POINTE
Grand Rapids, MI
Tucked in the crook of the Thornapple River, The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe offers a picturesque water-laden view while golfers traverse a myriad of bentgrass fairways. This 18-hole course in Grand Rapids includes access to carts with GPS-yardage systems, real-time leaderboards for both tournament and casual outings, and golf lessons for beginners of all ages. After teeing off across 7,000 feet of the river fairway, guests are only twenty minutes away from Grand Rapids, where an endless list of fine craft breweries and eclectic dining experiences lie in wait.
MACATAWA GOLF CLUB
Grand Rapids, MI
Built by architect Ray Hearn in 2005, this lakeshore course gives golfers a front-row seat to Lake Michigan’s waves lapping on the shores of Holland. Amenities include a fitness center, tennis and pickleball courts, and a swimming pool. Even as winter takes its icy grip on the lakeshore, visitors can take part in state-of-the-art golf simulations hosted in the LiveGolf lounge. For those looking to settle somewhere along Michigan’s lakeshore, the course is hosted by the Eastbrook community which includes award-winning single-family homes and condominiums. After the game, goers can feel free to venture to Windmill Island Gardens, or Nelis’ Dutch Village for an authentic Holland reprieve.
RAVINES GOLF CLUB
Envisioned by Arnold Palmer himself, Ravines Golf Club is a top Saugatuck destination for those seeking only the most unique golf experiences. Established in 1999, the club has dedicated itself to keeping each hole an entirely different experience, complete with wide fairways, generous landing areas, and four tee positions per hole. Guests who find themselves needing new equipment for Ravines’ one-of-a-kind course can find it in the state-of-the-art pro shop and treat themselves to an authentic Arnold Palmer in the bar at Arnie’s Cottage. Less than 20 minutes away from Saugatuck’s pristine Oval Beach, splendid beach-side spirit bars, and plenty of local artisan shops, Ravines offers the cherry on top of the coastal sundae that is Saugatuck, Michigan.
THE MINES GOLF COURSE
Grand Rapids, MI
Built 150 feet above the old Gypsum mines, Mines Golf Course offers a robust golfing experience for the intrepid Grand Rapids golf enthusiast. The facility offers up both an 18-hole premiere course and a nine-hole par-3 for casual play. The main course features rustic hardwoods, loose sand-packed soil, rolling hillscapes, and forgiving tees. Once golfers sink their last putt, they are welcome to enjoy refreshments and classic American cuisine in the lounge area overlooking the ninth green. Located five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, Mines is the perfect location for Beer City locals and passersby alike.
QUAIL RIDGE GOLF CLUB
Quail Ridge Golf Club is the brainchild of former PGA tour professional Randy Erskine and famous architect—as well as Michigan native—Raymond Hearn. Opened in 1998, Quail Ridge Golf Club is home to an 18-hole championship golf course with vibrant greenery and natural rural Michigan beauty. Key characteristics of the scenery involve large trees, Bermuda bentgrass greens, and blue water bunkers. While there are hazards, five sets of varying tees allow for an enjoyable outing, regardless of experience or skill level. Full facilities include a full driving range, putting green, and The Grille at Quail Ridge Golf Club where one can watch their favorite sports over a beverage from the full-service bar. For golfers looking to see what else Ada has to offer, Quail Ridge is only moments away from the Averill Museum, Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery, or any of Ada’s natural parks.
LYNX GOLF COURSE
Halfway from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo lies Lynx Golf Course, one of the premiere entertainment spots in southwest Michigan. Boasting a challenging and sense-provoking 18 holes of golf, as well as a litany of other activities, Lynx Golf Course seeks to satisfy visitors’ entertainment needs.
The course, built in 1999 by Chris and Jon Scott, features bent fairways and plenty of elevation changes including an 85-foot drop on the tenth hole from tee to hole. Golfers at Lynx are offered a full tree-top view and six holes along the flowing Kalamazoo River. Other golf facilities include a full driving range, chipping area, putting green, and pro shop.
While golf is the main attraction, Lynx offers its guests plenty of additional activities. The Lynx Grill offers a scenic view of the Kalamazoo River Valley and delicious, yet responsibly priced entrees. Other fun to be had at Lynx includes euchre night, comedy night, snowshoe-outings, cross-country skiing, and holiday parties.
For those heading south afterward, or for those seeking night on the town, Lynx is only 20 minutes away from one of Michigan’s best hidden gems, Kalamazoo. Here visitors can enjoy a show at the Kalamazoo State Theatre, find out about the city’s eclectic history at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, or grab hand-crafted cocktails while being serenaded by one of Kalamazoo’s spectacular performing artists at The Union Cabaret and Grill.
South Haven, MI
From the first hole at HawksHead Links, one can smell the fresh air rolling off the shores of Lake Michigan. Set moments away from the brisk, sandy beaches of South Haven, HawksHead is a prime example of quality golf and quality real estate.
The 18-hole resort course was built in 1996, designed by Arthur Hills, and maxes out at a little more than 7,000 yards. Littered with fescue grass and sandy dunes, the course embraces the variety and aesthetic of the lakeshore in every way, including gales that require golfers at longer tees to carefully assess their drives. However, HawksHead is more than just a golf course and features an entire resort in the vein of an English inn. HawksHead Restaurant offers a comfortable pub vibe with gourmet dishes and a renovated Old English Tudor Mansion serves as guests’ place of respite.
As mentioned, visitors to South Haven will be minutes away from beautiful beaches, a maritime museum, and wine-tasting at Cogdal Vineyards.