The Great Golf Getaway

Whether you’re seeking a course to just swing easy or want to amp up the game on more challenging greens, Michigan’s buffet of fairways are more than fun to savor with friends.
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Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain // Photography by Crystal Mountain

Who doesn’t crave more buddies time on the golf course?

Let’s face it. Between life’s priorities — family, jobs, obligations — it’s the friends who get squeezed.

My last golf buddies trip was too long ago, way back in 2010. I gathered up a foursome for the inaugural Butch Harmon Showcase at The Loon Golf Resort in Gaylord. We were bummed a ridiculously low score from some sandbaggers won the tournament, but we still had a blast staying in the new cottages next to the clubhouse. Beers, cards, tunes and banter were the evening agenda. We somehow ended up laughing hysterically on the putting green somewhere around 3 a.m. the final night. Ah, the memories.

Michigan is ripe for golf trips with friends. My own recipe for a great getaway is simple. It revolves around comfortable accommodations and easy access to multiple courses and good restaurants. Going to a place with entertainment away from golf — say casinos, bars and fishing for the guys or wineries, spas and shopping for the gals — is another route to go.

Package prices at golf resorts around the state are still pretty good these days. Just throw the clubs in the trunk and go.

Where to is up to your crew.

Gull Lake View
Gull Lake View // Photography Courtesy of Gull Lake View

Meet At The Mecca

While I enjoy playing most courses in the Gaylord Golf Mecca — the Tribute at the Otsego Club & Resort in Gaylord, Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway and Elk Ridge Golf Club in Atlanta among them — I’d be silly to steer you anywhere else than Treetops Resort. It’s all right there: Solid rooms pair well with five premier courses (the Tom Fazio Premier and Rick Smith Signature fight for my affections), and the nightlife and food win points, too. Some sort of Par-3 challenge on Threetops will mix things up one afternoon.

Birdies At Boyne

It’s tough to argue there’s a better vacation spot in Michigan from June through September than Petoskey and Harbor Springs along Little Traverse Bay.

To maximize your dollar, save the Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey for a couples’ getaway and stay at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs. Your group can always play Bay Harbor’s 27 holes for a change of scenery from the four courses at the Highlands. A walking caddy at The Heather will enhance a classic experience normally only found at the best private clubs. I like soaking in the resort’s outdoor hot tub after a long day of golf. Night owls who can’t relax can hop a free shuttle to Odawa Casino in Petoskey.

Buddies who have already done the “Boyne” thing can stray off the beaten path for the value of a “Big Fore” package, including Belvedere Golf Club and Dunmaglas in Charlevoix, Black Lake in Onaway and Little Traverse Bay Golf Club & Restaurant in Harbor Springs. All off the radar. All pretty good. This past June, Belvedere hosted the Michigan Amateur for the 40th time.

Hawks Head
Hawks Head // Photography Courtesy of Hawks Head

The Fab Four Near Traverse City

Nobody can pin me down to name a favorite among the four golf resorts surrounding Traverse City. Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, Crystal Mountain Golf Resort & Spa in Thompsonville, The Homestead in Glen Arbor and Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme are all so different. What I can do is point groups in the right direction.

A bang-for-your-buck golf binge remains Shanty Creek’s specialty. Crystal Mountain and The Homestead (with the Par-3 Mountain Flowers and Manitou Passage Golf Club in Cedar) might be slightly better for couples, families and women, but they’ve both got superior instruction programs worth trying (the Homestead’s is a Dave Pelz Scoring Game School).

Grand Traverse sells comfortable luxury with its many amenities. Foodies and pub crawlers can sample Traverse City’s booming restaurant scene. Gaming enthusiasts can shuttle to Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg. Egomaniacs can attempt to slay The Bear. Many — me included — have tried and failed.

Explore The Shore

Here’s a new concept. Why not explore the quaint tourist traps and trail of “Beachtowns” along Lake Michigan from St. Joseph/Benton Harbor in the south through Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Manistee, Ludington and Arcadia for an impromptu 192-mile golf trail?

This might be too ambitious for most groups, but there’s good golf galore — Harbor Shores Golf Club and Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, The Ravines Golf Club in Saugatuck, HawksHead in South Haven, the 36-hole Manistee National Golf Resort in Manistee and the Hemlock Golf Club in Ludington, with the grand finale being Arcadia Bluffs.

(Bring along the fishing poles, too.)

Sweetgrass Island
Sweetgrass Island // Photography by Brian Oar

Golf Grand Rapids

The breweries and pubs of Grand Rapids — named BeerCity USA in 2012 and 2013 — cater to thirsty golfers.

After a round at Thornapple Point, grab a few more at Hopcat, voted the No. 1 brew pub in the country by ratebeer.com. Thousand Oaks Golf Club, the 36-hole Tullymore Golf Resort in Stanwood and Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club in Pierson are a bit further away from downtown, yet well worth the drive.

Aim For Augusta

Further inland, Southwest Michigan might not be as regaled as Lake Michigan’s scenic shoreline destinations, but it can scratch a golf itch at nearly half the price of a trip Up North.

I always find it amusing that Michigan has its own golfing Augusta, home to the Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort and Yarrow Golf & Conference Resort. The fairway villas at Gull Lake serve as a comfortable home base to play Yarrow and Stonehedge North and South (the others are optional).

For more risk-reward thrills, drive 30 minutes to Firekeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek.

Package prices at golf resorts around the state are still pretty good these days. Just throw
the clubs in the trunk and go.

Meander Through Mid-Michigan

A casino and convenience (just a short drive from both metro Detroit and Grand Rapids) is the draw for a golf bender in mid-Michigan. Hawk Hollow Golf Properties in Bath near Lansing, including Eagle Eye and Hawk Hollow, now offers nearby condos for stay-and-plays. Further north, Mount Pleasant combines the Buck’s Run Golf Club with the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort for fun day and night.

Head Up To The U.P.

I put this last simply because few people will consider it. That’s a BIG mistake. This might be the most unique destination of the bunch.

The Perfect 4-some package is ideal for buddies: Rounds at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris, TimberStone in Iron Mountain and Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club and rooms at the Island Resort & Casino. This trip requires some long drives — to Yooperland, between the courses and on them as well — but memories will certainly be made along the journey.

And that’s the point, right?

Jason Deegan is a contributing editor for Michigan GOLF Magazine.


Treetops Resort
Treetops Resort // Photography Courtesy of Treetops Resort

Inspired to Play

When he asks people why they aren’t golfing more — or at all— what Treetops Golf Director Kevin McKinley most often hears is this: “I don’t have enough time.” Or, “It’s too expensive.”

Across the country, groups like the Progressional Golfers Association of America are working to remove those obstacles through a variety of initiatives, everything from enlarging holes on greens to ease frustration to adding twists like “footgolf,” a soccer/golf combination that lets you kick the ball around the course.

At Treetops, McKinley is counting on a second annual Womens Golf Festival to do the same.

During the Aug. 3-7 event (which offers special discounted rates on golf and lodging), learning seminars on topics like better putting or connecting with your iron are $10 apiece, with women invited to participate in all five days or just one.

“A lot of women…are very selfless,” McKinley says. “For them, spending money on a big golf vacation can be a barrier. Our goal is to remove these obstacles.”

To learn more, visit treetops.com.

— Kim Schneider

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