Text: Brenna Buckwald
Only one thing can make spending a day playing golf even better— staying the night in a resort and waking up the next day ready to do it all over again. Luckily, for people who love to golf in Michigan, there is a plethora of fantastic golf resorts scattered across the fondly known Mitten State.
In this latest edition, The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf highlights some of great golfing destinations. These resorts not only supply golfers with unique courses, but also with comfortable places for respite, and plenty of attractions and activities to occupy them when they’re not on the course.
Bay Harbor Golf Club
Bay Harbor, Michigan
Boyne Highlands Resort
Harbor Springs, Michigan
Boyne Mountain Resort
Boyne Falls, Michigan
Ken Griffin, director of golf sales and marketing at Boyne Resorts, takes pride in the fact that BOYNE is a carefully controlled golf experience that is consistent in its quality across all ten courses that they offer.
“We have a lot of competitors that may have two courses, three courses, and some may even have four. There’s nobody else, in fact it’s a short list even in the U.S., where you have this many holes of golf, in those close proximity, all controlled by one company,” Griffin said.
“If you go to Myrtle Beach they are marketed together, but there are 40 different courses and 20 different ownerships. This is a golf experience where we can control the experience from the time you drive in to the time you leave,” Griffin added.
With ten unique courses and three different resort locations—Bay Harbor Golf Club, Boyne Highlands Resort, and Boyne Mountain Resort—all within roughly fifteen minutes of each other; the avid golfer has a large selection of courses to play based on their personal preferences for the game.
At Bay Harbor Golf Club, visitors have the option of playing the courses such as: Links, a course situated on the Lake Michigan Shoreline, inspired by courses in Ireland that hug the North Atlantic coastline, offering grand views of the water as the game is played; Quarry, designed by Arthur Hills, designed to leverage its location in and around a giant shale quarry, making for a one-of-a-kind course with features including 40-foot gorges, stone cliffs, natural ponds, and waterfalls; and the Preserve, a harbor located in a hard wood forest, close enough to Lake Michigan to hear the soothing sounds of crashing waves.
Ranging in levels of difficulty, The Heather, Arthur Hills, Donald Ross Memorial, and The Moor are all courses located at Boyne Highland Resort.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., The Heather was opened in 1966 as BOYNE Golf’s first course, and has been named 2019 National Course of The Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association, and 2018 Michigan Golf Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Association.
Designated as an AJGA Championship Course, The Moor is widely regarded by BOYNE members as a favorite for its twists and turns worked into the 18 holes.
In a phenomenal mountainside setting, also offering views of Deer Lake, The Alpine is one of three courses located at Boyne Mountain Resort. The Monument, constructed with design ideologies borrowed from famous golf course architects such as Donald Ross, Dr. Alister Mackenzie, Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Pete Dye, and Crooked Tree Golf Club are the final courses offered by BOYNE Golf.
“I’ve always said this and we backed it up with a survey this year, we don’t have a top one or two courses. We did send a survey out and there were four courses really close and one not far behind. We sent it out to our whole golf database,” Griffin said. “It came back even stronger than I thought, because we try and maintain that high level.”
BOYNE Golf not only maintains that high level of quality among its courses, but also among the resort stay at any of their three resorts—Inn at Bay Harbor, Boyne Highlands Resort, and Boyne Mountain Resort—for their guests. With the ability to choose lodging from the options of a standard hotel room, a condo, a townhouse, with varying locations and views, guests’ stay can be very personalized according to what experience they want to get from their vacation.
Each resort location has attractions outside of golfing that make it a fun stay for guests. At Inn at Bay Harbor, guests can relax at the spa and salon, enjoy local shopping, or splashing around in the lakeside pool. Boyne Resorts also offers a variety of dining experiences, from a quick burger before heading onto the course, to elegant moonlight dinners.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
With three exceptional championship courses—The Bear, The Wolverine, and Spruce Run— Grand Traverse Resort is a perfect getaway for golfers looking to play in the picturesque beauty of the lower peninsula.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus and open to the public on June 17, 1985, The Bear’s features that make it cherished by many— it’s Scottish terraced fairways, tiered greens, deep grassy roughs, moguls and mounds, and deep pot bunkers— are also the trademarks of the course that led Golf Digest to rank it the 18th toughest course in America, an opinion shared by many visiting golfers who have experienced the challenge of finishing the 18 holes.
Spruce Run, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s original resort course, has gone through many modifications among the years to become the course it is today. In the 1970s, the original nine-hole public golf course was expanded to 18 holes. Former University of Michigan Golf Coach William Newcomb redesigned the course in 1979, as a 6,741-yard, par-72 course, and renamed it The Resort Course.
Gary Player’s first signature course in Michigan, The Wolverine, features lowland terrain with wetlands dispersed around the first nine holes, and hilly highland terrain with views of East Grand Traverse Bay on the back nine. This course is enjoyable for players of all skill levels, offering four sets of tees to accommodate golfers’ range of abilities.
Guests staying at Grand Traverse Resort can enjoy the many entertainments the area provides, other than the beloved sport. Nearby, Turtle Creek Casino, which is also owned by the Grand Traverse band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, is only an eight-minute drive from the resort, and is great for guests who want to mix up their vacation with a break from golfing. For guests looking for recreation that is still active and outdoors, and even closer to their temporary home, Grand Traverse Resort also offers the opportunity to learn fly fishing, at Orvis Fly Fishing School. Students have the option of private lessons, one-day, or two-day schools.
With Traverse City in close proximity, guests have the option of making the short trip and enjoying everything the city has to offer during their stay—shopping downtown, visiting the Dennos Museum Center, lounging on the beaches of Clinch Park, or enjoying the wide variety of restaurant options that the city offers.
Widely known as a destination booked for ski trips, Crystal Mountain in northern Michigan also features two challenging golf courses: Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley courses.
Mountain Ridge presents beautiful views as the course weaves through forests and reaches high elevations in its 18 holes of championship-level golf. Betsey Valley golf course, having recently gone under a $1 million renovation, also embraces its environment in creating a unique course with stunning views.
Open to the public, Crystal Mountain’s practice and learning center is the place to go for beginning golfers, or players looking to improve or add to their skillset. Spanning a massive 10 acres of land, the center features a driving range, which encompasses a covered hitting area, a putting green, and two multi-tiered chipping greens with bunkers.
With a selection of different types of lessons offered, golfers visiting the practice and learning center can specialize their golf instruction to themselves; choosing lesson length or lessons specific to their skill level.
Crystal Mountain is unique in that it provides year-round entertainment for families; even in golf’s off-season. The resort provides a plethora of winter season activities on site for families to partake in; including downhill and cross-country skiing, fat-tire snow biking, snowshoeing, ice skating, and taking horse-drawn surrey rides.
Art admirers can hike the onsite Michigan Legacy Art Park and view more than 50 sculptures and poetry stones throughout the 1.6-mile-trail. To be enjoyed in the warmer seasons, archery and outdoor laser tag are available for the competitive guests wanting to practice their aim in challenging games outside of the golf course.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort
“Everything we do is geared around people who love to golf,” said Mike Brown, owner and general manager at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort.
When making this statement, Brown was referring not only to the resort’s four unparalleled courses— Sundance, Antrim Dells, Torch Course, and Charlevoix Country Club— but also the resort stay as a whole that completes the golfer’s ideal getaway experience.
“Golfers love the comradery of golf. That’s the whole idea. It could be college buddies that are a couple years out of college, or just a foursome, but having a condo to stay in is a real draw. A place where they can play cards and hangout,” Brown said. “People just enjoy the experience much more than a hotel room. That’s kind of our bread and butter.”
A-Ga-Ming provides the option of staying at any of their three onsite lodging locations; Maplewood Ridge, Cedar Hollow and Vista Town homes. The many options for room type and lodging size is enough to make anyone’s stay customizable to their travel group. At any of the three locations, patios and grills for outdoor cookouts are included.
Since 1996, when the original A-Ga-Ming course, now called Torch Course, was first opened, A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort has presented golfers with beautifully built courses overlooking Torch Lake. Now home to four courses, all offering views of water of some sort—Torch Lake or Lake Michigan—even the competition of the game can’t break the serenity of the natural lake-side views.
Brown named Sundance, built in 2005, as one of the resort’s anchor courses.
“Jerry Matthews, a local Michigan architect, was the lead architect, and he just built a really playable golf course. Golf is kind of a hard game, I’m sure every golfer would attest to that, so having a course with big fairways and big greens, that looks like it’s hard, championship level, and being very playable is what people love about it,” Brown said.
“Out of all of the golfers that play for the whole summer, they probably shoot one of their better scores when they play on Sundance. When you play a good score you’re in a good mood, you’re having fun, and you want to come back,” Brown added
A fan of Jerry Matthews’s architectural work, the resort acquired their second course designed by Matthews, Antrum Dells, in 2010. Having bought their fourth course, Charlevoix Country Club, in 2010, has drawn a lot more golfers looking to spend days golfing with variation in game play while on vacation to the resort.
“Being able to add the fourth course just a few years ago, it allowed us to keep all of our golfers in house. Obviously, they have to travel a little bit, ten or fifteen miles up the road, but it’s still all of our property so they can expect the same quality. All of the same food, the same hot dogs, you’re going to get a similar experience,” Brown said.
Drawing in golfers to the small town of Otsego in Allegan County, Otsego Resort displays two golf courses, The Classic Course and The Tribute Course, for players who love more traditional courses.
Designed by William H. Diddel in a traditional “country club” style, The Classic Course overlooks the Sturgeon River Valley, and offers a quick-paced straight forward game to golfers looking for relief from some of the more complicated courses in the area. Situated only a mile from Downtown Gaylord, the course has become the founding course of the Gaylord Golf Mecca.
Covering 1,100 acres around the Sturgeon River Valley, The Tribute Golf Course guides players through natural forestry, greenery, the flowing river valley, and stunning elevation changes—and is a course suited for all levels of play.
Otsego Club welcomes the individual traveler or group vacationers with cozy units styled for a northern Michigan experience stay. With 80 guestrooms and suites across five different lodging locations—Hilltop Lodge, Blue Spruce Lodge, Tyrol Lodge, Loft, and Chalet—guests of Otsego Club can tailor their stay based on their own needs and desires.
There are three different dining options available on-site at Otsego Club; guests can enjoy a sit down meal of pastas, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees at Duck Blind Grille; a quick bite in between games at The Pro Grille, located conveniently at the pro shop next to the putting range; or in the winter season, for the golfers who have made this resort their year-round vacation home, The River Cabin provides a cafeteria-style dining environment.
Garland Lodge and Golf Resort
Home to four championship golf courses set in 3,000 acres of Michigan wildlife, Garland Lodge and Golf Resort utilizes the elements of the natural environment to create an organic golf experience.
Garland is for the golfer that is looking for absolute convenience; having every course entrance within walking distance of the golf shop, guests can choose which course to play with ease of access— Fountains, Monarch, Swampfire, and Reflections.
Golf course designer Ron Otto designed all four of Garland’s courses to embrace the elements of their environment. He was able to design challenging and unique courses without swiping away the feeling of being immersed in the wilderness.
Fountains was ranked as 12th of the Best Golf Courses in Michigan 2018 by Golf Advisor. With an emphasis on strategy, the course offers six packs of par-3s, par-4s, and par-5s, and just like its name, incorporates fountains into the gameplay.
One of the shorter games, Swampfire, features a plethora of natural bodies of water, with acres of ponds, lakes, and wetlands.
For guests looking to stay overnight, the resort offers lodging types to suit all group sizes and needs. At their very own Garland Lodge, guests can stay in king bed and two bed guestrooms, or, for bigger groups or guests looking for a roomier space, the penthouse suite provides two bedrooms and two bathrooms, the master bath including a Jacuzzi tub, as well as a spacious living area and full-sized kitchen.
Single and double villas, golf cottages, and condos and French villas are also available for guests staying overnight. The golf cottages sleep four to six people, feature a gas fireplace creating a cozy space in each living room, and are located right on the Fountains course. With only a few available to rent, the condos take a more modern route with an open floor plan, jacuzzi tub, and patio available for grilling and enjoying the natural views and fresh air. The French villas, with options for either two- or three-story units, offer fully equipped kitchens and laundry facilities, providing ease comfort for those planning extended stays with the golf resort.
Tullymore Golf Club
A stay at Tullymore Golf Resort allows the golfer, and non-golfer, to fully immerse themselves in the game of their choice—whether that is out on either of the two distinct courses, Tullymore Golf Course, or St. Ives Golf Course; or inside at the Topgolf Swing Suite, an arcade that welcomes all ages and skill levels to play virtual golf, or other games such as dodgeball, baseball, or hockey.
Designed by course architect Jim Engh, Tullymore Golf Course has been drawing visitors back since it first opened in 2002. The same year as it opened, the course was named by Golf Digest, number one new upscale course in America, and it continues to live up to the name. Since then, Golf Digest has honored the course by including it in their list of the 100 Greatest Public & Resort Courses in America, ranking the course in the top 15, numerous times.
Tullymore course weaves its way through wetlands, meadows, and wooded areas, presenting beautiful natural scenery to golfers as they play through the course. Featuring five par-3 holes and five par-5 holes, the course is also adaptable to the individual’s skill level, with multiple sets of tees offered.
Golf course architect Jerry Matthews utilized the natural environment in creating St. Ives course; carved from glacial tills, presenting dramatic elevation changes of 40 to 80 feet, secluded woodlands, and wetlands, it is a course with subtle transitioning elements in the surroundings, continuing to grab and hold the attention of golfers as they play through the course. First opened in 1995, St. Ives has been awarded with a five-star rating from Golf Digest, as well as being named among the Top 10 courses in America for women by Golf for Women magazine.
Staying at Tullymore is staying in the lap of luxury, no matter which housing option—The Residence Club, Tullymore Custom Cottages, or The Lodge at Tullymore—you choose for your stay.
The Residence Club, with four units available, is within walking distance of Tullymore Clubhouse, and each unit comes with flat screen TVs as well as the non-digital, but just as intriguing views of the 18th Fairway at Tullymore, from each patio or deck connected to the units.
Tullymore Custom Cottages have four similar cottages available, located in a quiet cul-de-sac, each one has four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms, as well as a stone fireplace and patio for guests to enjoy.
In a secluded woodland setting, The Lodge at Tullymore features 10 bedrooms and a community kitchen and living room, housing entertainments such as a pool table, poker tables, and flat-screen TVs.
For guests looking to stay in a hotel, there are two locations available; The Inn at St. Ives, and The Hideaway.
Tullymore offers two restaurants to choose from—Tap Room at Tullymore, an irish style pub, and St. Ives Grille, a more casually styled pub open for lunch and dinner.
Forest Dunes Golf Club
Golf course architect Tom Doak’s reversible golf course design, The Loop, is a check off the bucket list for golfers looking for a unique golf experience, and an experience they can get in the small town of Roscommon, Michigan, right at Forest Dunes.
One big infinity sign, the two courses intertwining The Loop, the Black course and The Red course, run opposite each-other in difficulty levels from start of game to finish; the Black course beginning with trickier holes and easing up as the course is played, and the Red course being a more traditional game, starting with simpler holes for players to warm up on. Adding flair to the already unique course, Forest Dunes just added electric golf cars for The Loop experience.
The Loop is not Forest Dunes’ only course available; with three others—the resort’s namesake, Forest Dunes; Hilltop putting course; and Par 3 Course—guests have an array of original courses to choose from.
The Forest Dunes course, opened in 2002 and designed by British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf, sits in the Huron National Forest, and features natural challenges built into the game, including open meadows, hardwoods, century-old red and jack pines, rugged native dunes, scruffy sand areas and water features to play around.
Currently under construction, the 10-hole, par-3 course is on its way to being revealed with its grand opening in summer of 2020. Golf course designers Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb have paired up to create a shorter, but visually stimulating, course. One of the highlights of the course will be the first hole and the 10th hole, crossover holes with a tree protecting from direct ball flight issues.
For the golfer that wants to stay and play, Forest Dunes offers two lodging options onsite: Lake Ausable Lodge, which features 11 standard rooms and two suites; or for guests looking for more privacy and space, staying in one of the villas or cottages.
Guests dining at Sangomore’s Restaurant experience the small-town charm as they eat delicious traditional American cuisine in one of the three restaurant’s settings. The grand dining room presents intricate woodwork in its design, floor-to-ceiling windows for views of the Forest Dunes course, and a fieldstone fireplace adding to the overall ambience. The restaurant’s covered outdoor area is highlighted in cedar and stone, has a full-service bar, and is divided into three wings, each featuring a stone wood-burning fireplace and a big screen TV. For a more casual dining experience, the grille room and bar serves lunch and dinner, and welcomes guests to the patio for drinks by the fire pit.
Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort
“Being a resort that’s been here over 50 years and family-owned, there’s just a friendly atmosphere. We’ve always been known for service friendliness. There’s an ease to our whole resort that makes everyone feel comfortable,” said Bill Johnson, vice president of Gull Lake View Golf Club and Resort.
A large part of what makes staying at Gull Lake View Resort so enjoyable for guests is how comfortable the lodging is. Located on the Gull Lake View East course, the Fairway Villas sleep four people, have two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a balcony or patio, and a community barbecue area. The villas are within walking distance of the main clubhouse, Gull Lake, and the resort’s local restaurants.
For guests seeking an upgraded lodging experience, deluxe suites and luxury cottages are also available.
Gull Lake View provides guests with two exceptional dining options: Blue Stem, located across from the golf course Stoatin Brae; and Charles & Darl’s Smokehouse & Grille. Blue Stem offers a relaxed atmosphere for a sit-down meal of modern American cuisine, as well as a full-service bar. Charles & Darl’s menu can be enjoyed from the comfort of guests’ own lodging, or in the actual barbecue restaurant, with the option of ordering to go or dining in. Charles & Darl’s serves breakfast through dinner.
Guests of Gull Lake View are not only impressed with the lodging and food that the resort has to offer; the six championship golf courses—West Course, East Course, Stonehedge North, Stonehedge South, Bedford Valley, and Stoatin Brae—are a large part of what draws guests back every year.
With four of the six courses at Gull Lake View designed by members of the Scott family, every course is consistent in its quality, each one earning a rating of 4.5 stars or higher from Golf Digest.
The resort’s newest edition, Stoatin Brae, provides golfers with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, the links-style course sitting at one of the highest points in Kalamazoo County.
“People come and stay with us, and many of them have been coming back for over 30 years,” said Johnson, attributing the resort’s success to the excellent service and amenities provided to guests during their stay, on and off the courses.