The Great Lakes State escapes

The Great Lakes State escapes

Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Nile Young, BOYNE Golf, Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek Resort, Brian Walters

Part I of II

When Michigan’s warmer months roll in, daylight hours extend, and snow melts off the golf courses—individuals, couples, friends, and families alike with a passion for the game begin planning their golf season. In this edition of The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf Magazine, several resorts around Michigan are highlighted for their unique play-and-stay opportunities, allowing golfers to find the right fit for this season’s golf vacation.

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Wolverine, Hole 15 | Photography: Nile Young

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa


“The thing that is really special about Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is it is an experience for everyone of all ages. We have relaxation, we have fun, we have fine dining, we have special memories. It is an all-encompassing, 900-acre property that has a little bit of everything,” said Caroline Rizzo, public relations manager at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Michigan near Traverse City.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa provides guests with a rounded golf vacation, starting with three unique golf courses, and ending with other fitness activities and the onsite full-service spa.

From The Bear, designed by Jack Nicklaus; The Wolverine, which was Gary Player’s first signature course in Michigan; and Spruce Run, the resort’s original golf course that was redesigned by Bill Newcomb in 1979; golfers at Grand Traverse Resort can attain varying golf experiences, each conveniently beginning at The Clubhouse.

For golfers looking for something more after playing the three championship courses, or looking for indoor activities, The Golf Academy at Grand Traverse Resort awaits. The Golf Academy is a 2,000-square-foot space open year-round, featuring three heated indoor-outdoor hitting bays equipped with mirrors and motion-capture technology for swing analysis. During the colder months of the year, The Academy houses the Winter Golf Center, which offers lessons, SuperSpeed golf training, practice sessions, and golf simulators for guests to play.

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa also offers an onsite full-service spa and health club located conveniently in the same wing of the resort, ready for golfers once they step off the courses for the day. Hair artistry, nail care, body massages, facials, waxing, and lash services are just a few of the treatments available to guests of Spa Grand Traverse. Saunas, hot tubs, and pools sit within that same wing, and an award-winning tennis program, workout facilities, and pickleball court are also part of the health club at the resort.

Eight eateries sprinkled around the resort ensure hungry guests have a lot of options when it comes to grabbing a snack or sitting down for a meal. Rizzo indicated that the most well-known restaurant at Grand Traverse is Aerie Restaurant and Lounge, an establishment that sits on the 16th floor of The Tower, offering panoramic vistas of the property, as well as views of Old Mission Peninsula and Grand Traverse Bay.

Some of the other dining options at the resort comprise Sweetwater American Bistro, a family-style bistro nestled just off the Grand Lobby; The Grille Restaurant, an eatery providing lunch and dinner, overlooking the 18th hole of The Bear golf course; and Jack’s taproom, the resort’s go-to spot for craft beer and upscale pub fare.

Grand Traverse Resort has been steadily gaining popularity throughout the past couple of years, with the number of golfers playing the sport increasing, according to Rizzo.

“Last year we were super excited to say, ‘2020 has been a record setting year,’ but 2021 blew 2020 out of the water. It is incredible,” Rizzo said.

“We have never seen golf grow like we did last year, until now this year. It is amazing to see what is happening with old golfers returning to the game and rekindling their interest and love for the sport. Also, new golfers who are just learning it and picking up a club for the first time, anxious to get outside and be part of that incredible golf atmosphere,” Rizzo added.

#8 and #13 – Donald Ross Memorial, The Highlands, BOYNE Golf | Photo Courtesy of BOYNE Golf


Bay Harbor Golf Club


The Highlands At Harbor Springs


Boyne Mountain


Crooked Tree Golf Club


BOYNE Golf delivers the same high level of excellence in quality across ten courses and three resorts, while still creating distinct experiences at each stop within their 30-minute radius in northern Michigan.

For Ken Griffin, director of golf sales and marketing at Boyne Resorts, each property under the Boyne umbrella is so unique, that when one first visits Boyne for their vacation, it feels as if they are stepping into a different part of the world. Griffin described the village at Boyne Mountain, the original resort at Boyne, as similar to European or Bavarian style in the building’s architecture and décor.

As the name denotes, Boyne Mountain features wide elevation changes on its mountainous terrain, allowing golfers the opportunity to begin their game at the summit of the slope with views of Deer Lake below that stretch as far as the eye can see, playing down toward the blue waters—an experience wrapped into the two courses, The Alpine and The Monument.

During the winter months between the 2021 and 2022 golf season, Boyne Mountain underwent some resort updates, such as the 35 upgraded suites at Edelweiss Lodge at Boyne Mountain, the transformation also including a shift in the lodging’s name to Chalet Edelweiss. Griffin noted that the new rooms weren’t just modified to stay current in style, but also were expanded for guests to have apt space during their stay.

Coming this summer to Boyne Mountain, the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge, called SkyBridge Michigan, will stretch between the peaks of McLouth and Disciples Ridge. Guests will experience a walkway 118 feet above the ground after riding a chairlift to the mountain’s top, strolling across the 1,203-foot-long bridge. After the attraction opens in June 2022, it will be available to walk year-round—the perfect escape into nature in-between rounds of golf.

The guest rooms in the main lodge at the newly rebranded The Highlands At Harbor Shores have also been recently remodeled, as Boyne continues to stay updated for overnight guests at their resort locations.

“When you go to Boyne Highlands, the idea was to give you an experience like you would get going to a Scottish island. On the way in you see the shaggy, long-horned, Scottish Highland cattle; that is the start of your experience,” Griffin said.

Home to Boyne’s first golf course, The Heather, which was established in 1966, The Highlands also includes the courses Arthur Hills, Donald Ross Memorial, The Moor, and an extra nine-hole course, Cuff Links Executive Par 3, which offers a friendly, quick game at the base of The Highlands Day Lodge.  

Granting magnificent vistas of the sunsets reflected on Lake Michigan’s waters, the Inn at Bay Harbor, opened in 1998, was designed in homage to the grand hotels of the late 19th century. The 125-room establishment provides a five-star stay for visitors, with an onsite full-service spa and salon, and numerous dining options to fit any occasion. Visitors who would like to stay in Bay Harbor can also choose to book one of the resort’s Lakeside Cottages or Crooked Tree Cottages, both of which offer access to all the amenities at the Inn at Bay Harbor.

Largely influenced by the nearby Lake Michigan, the courses at Bay Harbor Golf Club complement the natural landscape, each offering at least one picturesque view of the bay. The Links, The Quarry, and The Preserve diverge dramatically from one another in style, with each set of nine holes a combinable experience to play a unique 18-hole round. Crooked Tree Golf Club marks the final golf course one can play while in Bay Harbor.

“Beyond the golf, there are very few places in the United States where the sun comes up at 6:30 in the morning, it doesn’t set until 10 o’clock at night, and your average temperature is 75 to 80 degrees,” Griffin said.

“The largest spa in Michigan is at Boyne Mountain; it is an 18,000-square-foot spa. If families and younger kids want to go to the waterpark, there is an 88,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, and you have a 450-acre lake out back where we have a private beach on it. There is just a lot of variety to make a well-rounded vacation still centered around golf that can be a main reason for it, but it is not the only reason for it, which is what happens with a lot of great golf destinations,” Griffin added.

#1 – The Links, Bay Harbor Golf Club, BOYNE Golf | Photo Courtesy of BOYNE Golf

Crystal Mountain


At Crystal Mountain, the two golf courses—Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley—are just the beginning to entertainment available at the resort during one’s stay. The 36 holes offer distinct play, fun challenges, and panoramic views from the height of the mountain.

Open to the public, a 10-acre Practice & Learning Center allows golfers to sharpen their skills before trying out Mountain Ridge or Betsie Valley golf courses. The center is home to the nationally renowned Crystal Mountain Golf School, as well as a driving range, which includes a covered hitting area, putting green, and two multi-tiered chipping greens with bunkers.

Guests staying overnight at the resort can play a free round of golf during their stay with a Crystal Mountain golf package. Of course, an overnight vacation at the golf destination also allows guests to take advantage of the other activities available during the warmer months, such as archery, tennis, pickleball courts, disc golf, approximately 25 kilometers of mountain biking trails, an outdoor pool, hot tub, and water playground.

“We have Michigan’s only alpine slide, where you control the speed with a knob, and you ride down on a wagon. My 80-year-old grandpa went on it, so it is [for] all ages from kids to elders, as long as you have the need for speed,” said Brittney Buti, public relations manager at Crystal Mountain.

The chairlifts used in the wintertime serve a different purpose during the warmer months: they become scenic chairlift rides, bringing guests to heights overlooking three counties of rolling hills and forest, with the option of hopping off at the top and enjoying a hike back down the mountain.

Inside the resort, guests can venture to the Crystal Spa for a bit of relaxation in the form of facials, massages, or spending time in the sauna or steam room. An indoor pool and fitness center included in guests’ resort stay makes it easy to keep up the workout regime one might have at home.

“I would say, keep your mind open when you come here to play golf. Look around and enjoy everything that we have to offer, including the hiking trails and especially the Michigan Legacy Art Park; it’s a unique feature that a lot of other golf resorts don’t have,” Buti said.

“It is a little cliché, but there really is something for everyone,” Buti added.

Crystal Spa | Courtesy Crystal Mountain Spa


Summit Village


Cedar River Village


Schuss Village


Hawk’s Eye Village


It is no secret that Shanty Creek Resort is commonly known for its expansive golf experience, with a variety of courses spread across its villages and 5,500 acres of property. This year, with the resort’s recent acquisition of Hawk’s Eye Golf Club, Shanty Creek now boasts an impressive 90 holes of golf across five unique, championship courses.

“We essentially just catapulted among the largest golf resorts in the world. I believe from the research we’ve done we are among the fourteen largest golf resorts in the world that have 90 or more golf holes at one destination. That is a pretty nice feather in our caps,” said Chris Hale, vice president of sales and marketing at Shanty Creek Resort.

At Shanty Creek, guests can hop on a shuttle and experience golf across the resort’s many villages—Summit Village, Cedar River Village, Schuss Village, and Hawk’s Eye Village—as one doesn’t have to be staying in accommodations specific to that village to enjoy golf, or other activities, there. Hale compared Shanty Creek’s village system to Disney World, noting that although the different areas are distinct in resembling the eras they were built in, together they represent one unified Shanty Creek experience.

“It is all one resort and one daily ticket will get you into each of the [villages]. Even our transportation systems connect you to all those venues, but they are separated by two miles this way and three miles that way. Ultimately, it is not as stuffed together as a center point village would have it,” Hale said.

Often referred to as the original Shanty Creek, Summit Village holds an abundance of overnight accommodations ranging from a room at the Lakeview Hotel, or for a little extra space, one of the condos: Crosswinds, Ridgewalk, Sawtooth, Timber Ridge, Trappers Lodge, or Windcliff.

Although staying overnight at Summit Village does not bound visitors to that area, it does offer easy access to two fantastic golf courses right on the premises: Arnold Palmer’s The Legend and William Diddel’s Summit—as well as the abilities to rent a bike or electric bike to pedal through nature or unwind at the onsite Wellness Spa and Fitness Center.

Cedar River, Shanty Creek Resort | Photography: Brian Walters

Guests can start their morning off right with a trip to The CoffeeBAR within the Great Room of the Lakeview Hotel, serving Starbucks coffee just how you like it—hot or cold—and fresh breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and lunch items.

For in-between rounds of golf, Grab-n-Go outlets are available at most of the golf clubs for a quick snack or cold drink. For those playing The Legend and Summit courses, Arnie’s Grab-n-Go is conveniently located.

One can also choose to dine in the glow of the sun setting over Lake Bellaire at The Lakeview, a dining experience that Shanty Creek calls “simple local social dining,” highlighted by its menu of award-winning steaks, pasta, and homemade desserts.

At Cedar River Village, golfers can stay overnight in Slopeside and Golfside condos, or room in a spacious, architecturally modern suite at The Lodge. Summer activities within Cedar River include hiking Schuss Mountain and playing a round on the Tom Weiskopf-designed Cedar River Golf Club course.

Overlooking the 18th green of the Cedar River course, The River Bistro offers a year-round patio for guests to observe the surrounding activities while enjoying a selection of chic appetizers, sandwiches, specialty sides, and fresh fruit cocktails. Inside, the eatery also has tavern sports such as billiards, air hockey, and darts.

Privately available in The River Bistro, Shanty Creek just added a Topgolf Swing Suite to their list of entertainment, for groups to go and play a variety of virtual golf simulation games on a massive screen.

During the summer, those visiting Schuss Village can celebrate the warm weather with rounds on the Schuss Mountain Golf Club course, designed by Warner Bowen, that draws golfers through a course of pine-dotted forests, wetlands, and rolling hills. Guests can also hike Schuss Mountain and stop at the Grab-n-Go eatery, Schuss Grill. Visitors that want to stay in Schuss Village overnight can choose among The Schuss Lodge, Bergrand Condos, and Vienna Woods Homes.

The resort’s newest addition, Hawk’s Eye Village presents the Hawk’s Eye Golf Club course, a John Robinson design that will challenge players of all skill levels, highlighted by incredible, open vistas and water hazards on half of its 18 holes. Chipper’s Pub at Hawk’s Eye serves a great solution to hungry stomachs before or after playing a round of golf.

While a vacation destination in-and-of-itself, Shanty Creek Resort’s shuttle system can also take guests to nearby cities to explore other local amenities and experiences.

“It is almost a small town; we have a transportation system with complimentary shuttles and various vehicles to get people in-and-around the villages, but also in-and-around downtown Bellaire. Because of the size of our place, it does sometimes feel like its own little zip code,” Hale said.

“The town of Bellaire is so important to that guest experience. It is, to be fair, a small town, but it is rather cosmopolitan and progressive in its small-town feel. It doesn’t feel like the kind of place you would go for meatloaf and mashed potatoes; it has got a cool factor to it that I don’t think many small towns quite embrace the way that Bellaire has. Bellaire has figured out a way to not let size dictate how cool you are,” Hale added.

A stay at Shanty Creek Resort unlocks the potential to enjoy all 90 holes of golf, the surplus of outdoor activities and dining options, and the ability to shuttle to nearby cities such as Bellaire for a night out on the town.

Hawks’ Eye | Shanty Creek Resort

Originally published in The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal To Incredible Golf: Volume 6. The Great Lakes State escapes continues in Part II