Upper Peninsula’s gaming paradise

Upper Peninsula’s gaming paradise

Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Island Resort & Casino

“There is no resort in the Midwest that has the big casino, over 340 rooms, a showroom, a spa, convention center, multiple restaurants, and two championship courses,” said Tony Mancilla, general manager of Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Michigan.

“When you look at all the resorts in the U.S., we actually have everything. When golfers come up here, the golf takes three or four hours, so then what do you do the rest of the day? That is what makes us unique,” Mancilla added.

Island Resort & Casino is more than a golf getaway, but rather a vacation destination with its two golf courses, Drift Spa, RV Park, hotel, dining venues, and immersive gaming floor experience. With its championship-level courses, Sweetgrass Golf Club and Sage Run Golf Club, guests not only can challenge their game-play on course, but also at the table while discovering all the other amenities onsite afterward.

Having been built within the past 15 years, both golf courses at Island Resort and Casino are fairly new installments with the open, parkland-style layout of Sweetgrass debuting in 2008 and Sage Run course opening in July, 2018. In contrast to Sweetgrass, Sage Run is a prairie, links-style course designed by Paul Albanese.

“Golf-wise, they’re both very highly recognized courses and they’re great courses. Over the years, the superintendents have modified things, so it is more friendly for the player,” Mancilla said. “For example, when you hit into the fescue, it is not as thick as it once was. You can hit out of it, find your ball— just little tweaks around the edges. It is really more for the player.”

This golf season, the LPGA Symetra Tour’s 10th Island Resort Championship is scheduled to be held at Sweetgrass Golf Club on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of June, 2021. At this event, 144 rising professional golfers play to compete for a $200,000 purse and to graduate into the LPGA, furthering their golfing careers.

On Labor Day Weekend of the 2021 season, Sage Run Golf Club will also host a Division I NCAA Men’s Collegiate Golf event that is free to the public. The event is 54 holes in total; 36 holes on Sunday, September 5th, and 18 holes on Labor Day, the following Monday.

“If you haven’t played the course and want to see it, that is a good way to do it—get out there, walk around, and see the players,” Mancilla said.

Mancilla also noted that Island Resort & Casino is currently in the process of expanding their lodging from approximately 340 guest rooms to 455 rooms. The renovation began in the latter half of April, 2020, and in total will take about 18 months to complete.

“Last summer was our biggest summer ever, we grew by about 10 percent We’re on schedule to grow again this year, and that’s all based upon our early sales packages. We anticipate a very busy summer,” Mancilla said.

“I just think for the money, we have probably the best package out there in golf. We own all of the components—the hotel and the courses—so you can get a great deal by coming up here. We do about 24,000 to 25,000 rounds in a very short season, so a lot of people come up and take advantage of it,” Mancilla added.