The Great Lakes State escapes

The Great Lakes State escapes

Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Nile Young, A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort, Lakewood Shores Resort, Manitou Passage, Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau

Part II of II

In this continued series from the latest edition of The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf Magazine, additional 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.

Harbor Shores Resort | Photography: Nile Young Photography


Harbor Shores Golf Course


The Inn at Harbor Shores


First opened in 2010, Harbor Shores Golf Course, the only Jack Nicklaus signature course on Lake Michigan, was made possible from the restoration of the land it sits on—a process that included demolishing more than 3 million square-feet of dilapidated buildings and removing roughly 140,000 tons of waste materials from portions of the Paw Paw River and other areas around the property. The revitalization of the land made Harbor Shores Resort possible, marking Benton Harbor as a must-visit golf destination for many.

“Our story is one-of-a-kind; just understanding what was here prior to the golf course, and everything it took to put it in place. When you basically transform 550 acres of land that was once abandoned by factories and things along those lines, doing an overall restoration to the land to bring wildlife back and to bring economic dollars back to Benton Harbor, I think that is a big part of the guest experience,” said Joshua Doxtator, PGA, general manager of Harbor Shores Resort.

“When people play the golf course, they’ll see signage of what was there before and what it looks like now, and it is nothing short of a miracle from a transformation side of things,” Doxtator added.

Harbor Shores is a not-for-profit development that strengthens its local community. A portion of the green fees is used to maintain the public areas in Jean Klock Park and its 12-mile walking system—promoting community health on-and-off the resort’s own golf course. Any revenue that falls above the operating expenses are also granted back to the community for job training and educational programs.

Through a partnership between Harbor Shores and the Benton Harbor Arts District, Josh Andres, a metal sculptor, and Jerry Catania, a glassblower, who both have studios in the Benton Harbor Arts District, crafted sculptures for every hole on the course. The metal sculptures feature at least one piece of blown glass and hold a plaque describing one of Jack Nicklaus’ major championships. Also tying in the local environment, each hole was named after plants indigenous to the area.

Doxtator noted that the course opening in 2010, the Champions for Change Golf Challenge, created a legendary moment within the golf community. At this event, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson competed in the 18-hole scramble with rotating two-man teams. A video from the opening event of Nicklaus showing Miller how to make a 102-foot putt on the 10th green, has since surpassed a few million views on Youtube across multiple accounts, although many people still don’t know that the famous moment took place at Harbor Shores.

After successfully hosting the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018, the 2020 event at Harbor Shores was canceled due to COVID-19, but the resort is excited to host the championship again in 2022 and 2024.

When staying with Harbor Shores, guests have the option of booking one of 92 luxury guest rooms at The Inn, or a high-rise condominium. Some of the benefits of staying at The Inn at Harbor Shores are the resort’s multitude of dining options—Plank’s Tavern on the Water, Rise & Vine, and Torch & Tapas—as well as a full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and a fitness center to be enjoyed during one’s stay.

Golfers don’t have to wait until they get back to their lodging to visit a restaurant, though. Doxtator indicated that two dining options are located on the 14th hole of the Harbor Shores course, including North Pier Brewery and North Pier Restaurant.

Guests of Harbor Shores can also spend some time out on the area’s waters, either with a kayak rental on the Paw Paw River, or a boat rental to take out on Lake Michigan.

“We have a relentless focus on knowledge, learning, and improvement, and I think that is the core of who we are,” Doxtator said. “There is no better story in golf than the transformation of the community, and the support of the community through the game of golf.”

Garland Lodge & Golf Resort, Reflections Course | Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau

Garland Lodge and Golf Resort


With 3,000 acres of unspoiled Michigan wilderness serving as a natural backdrop at Garland Lodge and Golf Resort, those who venture up to Lewiston experience a golf trip completely immersed in nature and the wildlife that lives around the four golf courses. An assortment of overnight accommodations, walking access to all onsite golf courses, and excellent dining form a rounded vacation, encouraging golfers to leave the stresses of their everyday lives behind.

Fountains, Swampfire, Monarch, and Reflections golf courses dive headfirst into nature, taking golfers on a journey through rolling meadows, lakes, streams, mature hardwoods, and great pines, while being greeted by the hawks, wild turkey, and bald eagles living around the resort. All four courses begin at the same golf shop, eliminating the hassle of having to take transportation from one to the next; groups can seamlessly play multiple courses in the same day.

Garland also encompasses more than 400 beds on their property, fit into different shaped and sized accommodations. Garland Lodge offers varying room sizes similar to that of a standard hotel. Single and Double Villas offer more space for golfers hoping to achieve a more home-like stay. Located on the Fountains course, two-story, three-bedroom French Villas, and three-story, four-bedroom French Country Villas offer an even more spacious unit, the four-bedroom villas being the largest accommodations at the resort. Also sitting on the Fountains course, Golf Cottages present four-bedroom units that sleep four to six people.

Two of Garland’s more popular dining options are Antlers Bar and the Tiki Bar Patio, both serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Groups can grab a drink after a round or two of golf at Antlers Lounge, which features many Michigan craft beer options, an expanded single malt Scotch selection, and small-batch bourbons. Tamarack Restaurant is also open for dining in on Friday and Saturday nights during June.

Courtesy Lakewood Shores Resort

Lakewood Shores Resort


Just minutes from the beautiful beaches of Lake Huron, Lakewood Shores Resort in Oscoda, Michigan transports golfers to three diverse courses—The Gailes, Blackshire, and The Serradella—that celebrate the spaces where the serenity of nature meets masterful course design.

For Craig Peters, general manager and PGA professional at Lakewood Shores Resort, one of the biggest accomplishments that has set the resort apart from others in the state was in 1993, when The Gailes, a course designed by Kevin Aldridge, first opened.

“It is only one of two courses in the state of Michigan that has ever received a number one new course ranking from Golf Digest, so we’re quite proud of that because there is a whole lot of great golf in Michigan,” Peters said.

“The Gailes is very distinctive; the whole concept was to create what you would see along the coast of Scotland. It is as close to that experience as you are going to find in the country,” Peters added.

Also designed by Kevin Aldridge, Blackshire offers a rugged feeling with hardwoods, large sand waste areas, and undulating greens—modeled similarly to the famous Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey.  

“[Blackshire cuts] through the trees like a lot of Michigan and northern Michigan courses, but the waste areas along the fairways, tees, and greens give it a much different look than what you would typically see in our region,” Peters said. “It is as different as black is white from The Gailes.”

Speckled with floral gardens of roughly 50,000 annuals and perennials, the Serradella is a Bruce Matthews design, highlighted with minimal hazards, wide fairways, and large greens.

“Those three courses give you three entirely different looks. A lot of groups are playing multiple rounds, so you can play three rounds here and never have the same look or style of golf,” Peters said.

Tucked behind the resort’s lodging facility, Wee Links is an 18-hole pitch and putt course, free to play for overnight guests. Perfect for beginning golfers, children and families, and groups desiring a friendly competition to round out the day, the holes range from 50 to 105 yards.

Peters noted that families staying at Lakewood Shores often take advantage of the nearby Lake Huron and Au Sable River, tying in beach trips and water activities such as canoeing and tubing into their golf vacations.

During their downtime at the resort, guests can also relax on the clubhouse’s patio overlooking The Serradella, enjoying drinks, lunch, or dinner.

“The whole theme behind Lakewood Shores is offering great golf at a value. Being general manager, I keep tabs where everybody is, and we’re a very good value for the level of golf we have. Especially for those just coming into the game, it’s a nice spot for them,” Peters said.

“We are very excited for 2022 and the bookings seem pretty strong. God willing, we will keep pushing it and get even more folks up here,” Peters added.

Sundance | Photography Courtesy of A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort

A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort


Resting on the shores of Torch Lake and Lake Michigan, this 72-hole golf resort and northern Michigan vacation destination stands true to its name—A-Ga-Ming, a Native American term meaning “on the shore.” A true golfer’s haven, at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort guests can try their swing on four different courses—Torch Course, Sundance Course, Antrim Dells, and Charlevoix Country Club—and when they’re ready to rest in preparation for the next day’s rounds, they have three unique options onsite for overnight lodging, along with dining paired at each site.

Torch Course, the original 18-hole game at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort that was renamed in 2005 after the lake it overlooks, is known for its natural scenery throughout the game. Water is featured on 11 of the course’s holes, and dense woods are seen throughout. This course is built for golfers that feel up to a challenge; playing nearly 6,700 yards from the tips, accuracy, rather than lengthy shots, is key to a good game.

First opened in June of 2005, Sundance Course weaves through glacier-carved bluffs, offering serene lake views in many directions, as it sits in between Torch Lake and Grand Traverse Bay. With features such as wide, playable fairways, vast windswept bunkers, sculpted greens and heather-clad mounding, Sundance is enjoyable for golfers of all experience levels.

Often described as fair and fun, Antrim Dells leads golfers through the classic parkland setting of the front nine, featuring acres of lush, freshly mowed grass—a clean slate that complements the woods and creeks of the back nine. This course, along with the resort’s more recently acquired Charlevoix Country Club, is a Jerry Matthews design.

After a round, golfers can head to one of A-Ga-Ming’s four onsite eateries. Within walking distance of all lodging facilities at A-Ga-Ming, Duffers, inside the A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort Clubhouse, is a great spot to grab a burger with family. Located inside the newer Sundance and Torch pro shop, Sundance Brick Oven features a menu of brick-oven-style pizzas, sandwiches, and a full bar. To enjoy a meal overlooking Lake Michigan’s waters, people can head to Sunset Grill. Shanahan’s Pub is the final option for dining when golfing at A-Ga-Ming. With a daily lunch and dinner menu, golfers can finish playing a round at Charlevoix Country Club and grab a bite to eat at the pub.

Overnight guests have options when it comes to their stay at A-Ga-Ming. One-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom layouts highlighted by open floor plans are available across the onsite Maplewood Ridge, Cedar Hollow, and Vista Town Homes, offering lodging fit for any size group.

Courtesy Manitou Passage

Manitou Passage Golf Club


The Homestead


Since 2009, when the owner of The Homestead, a beachfront resort on Lake Michigan, led a group of avid golfers from Leelanau County to purchasing Manitou Passage Golf Club, both the resort and the golf course have been closely tied—a partnership that traveling golfers can now reap the benefits.

A course intertwined with the local area’s charms—vast green meadows, towering coastal forests, and vistas of the nearby waters of Lake Michigan and rolling dunes—the Manitou Passage Golf Club course provides an escape into the depths of Michigan’s natural world. After finishing a round on the 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Course, one can learn more about Arnold Palmer and satisfy their hunger at Arnie’s Grill, where an extensive collection of memorabilia from Arnold Palmer’s career is displayed.

The experience at Manitou Passage Golf Club is only made better by the other activities one can do at The Homestead after playing a round of golf. At the beachfront resort, guests can splash around in the waves of Lake Michigan, enjoy smaller, inland lakes, dive into one of the several resort pools, or play a round at the nine-hole, par-3 executive course onsite known as Mountain Flowers. Other available activities on the water include boating and fishing.

For those in search of land activities, lakefront clay tennis courts allow groups to hit the ball around while soaking in lakeside sunshine, and hiking and biking trails of all difficulty levels are within proximity to the resort. If a solo indoor workout is preferred, New Leaf Health and Fitness is an onsite fitness center, offering a variation of workout machines to personalize one’s routine.

With signature treatments featuring locally sourced herbs, plants, and minerals, Spa Amira takes guests on a journey to ultimate relaxation several hundred feet above Lake Michigan. The spa opens to panoramic views from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Manitou Islands.

During the warmer months, The Homestead features a few onsite eateries for guests to choose from. Café Manitou is a private dining experience for the resort’s members and guests, offering simpler meals during the daytime, and gourmet dining during the evenings. A newer addition to the resort, Cavanaugh’s is half-grocery-store, half-restaurant, with ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat fare such as coffee, desserts, pizzas, ribs, and salads. At Whisker’s, families can enjoy fire pits, games, and watching their food cooked right before their eyes on outdoor grills or an indoor display kitchen.

Like their dining scene, the lodging at The Homestead also supplies guests with a variety of options for their overnight stay. Four Lake Michigan hotels ranging from surprisingly affordable to increasingly decadent allow guests to customize their stay based on their group size and vacation goals. Villas and vacation home rentals, also sitting along Lake Michigan, vary in style and size from one to five bedrooms.

Tying in golf with a trip to The Homestead is also made simple with Manitou Passage’s golf packages, which allow golfers to personalize their trip and cultivate a golf vacation that is fun for everybody.

Originally published in The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal To Incredible Golf: Volume 6.