Jupiter Images; Brian Walters; all others courtesy their respective businesses.
You Want: A Course to Wow Women…and everyone elsePLAY AND STAY: The Heather, Boyne Highlands Resort Credit its gracious curves or the thick forest and blueberry bog it wends through, but beauty isn’t the only reason Golf for Women magazine named Boyne Highlands’ The Heather one of the world’s top 50 courses for women. Exemplary conditioning, fair play from the forward tees, and course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s ruthless demand for accuracy all played roles in the ranking, as did Boyne Highlands’ 415+ luxury accommodations. Hotel rooms, suites, condos and cottages are available here, though business groups may appreciate the recent hotel upgrades most: ultra-plush bedding and wireless Internet is available in each room, the latter in most common areas as well. Harbor Springs, 800-GOBOYNE, boynehighlands.com.
You Want: Short but Oh So Sweet
PLAY AND STAY: Threetops, Treetops Resort
No course offers so much fun in so few strokes. Huge on dense woods, sublime vistas and elevated tee boxes that make you feel like you’re swinging from a cliff top, the beauty of Threetops – besides the fact that it’s ranked the No. 1 Par 3 course in the nation – is that no matter how poorly you or your crew play, everybody’s got a shot at starting anew about 150 yards up. Heck, even nonplayers will enjoy this place – the twisty, roller coaster cart path ambles through some of the prettiest scenery in Northern Michigan. Bonus: Treetops resort offers excellent dining options – from catered meals to the resort’s secluded River Cabin. Gaylord, 989-732-6711 ext. 2660, treetops.com.
You Want: To Shake in Your Spikes
PLAY AND STAY: The Bear, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa
Home to Michigan’s oldest and most prestigious golf tournament, the Michigan Open, Jack Nicklaus’s The Bear is where scratch golfers go to test their mettle. Credit the links-style course’s menacingly deep pot bunkers, ten holes’ worth of water hazards, deep grassy roughs, moguls, mounds and the highest slope rating in the state. Surviving a Bear attack isn’t easy, but the resort makes it worth your while, offering at day’s end a retreat into a resort that’s fresh from a fabulous multi-million dollar renovation. Fine and casual dining, shopping, meeting spaces that can accommodate 10 to 2,500 people, and a 100,000-square-foot spa complex are on site. Traverse City, 800-236-1577, grandtraverseresort.com.
You Want: The Wilderness Experience
PLAY AND STAY: The Rock, Drummond Island Resort and Conference Center
The Rock is a course carved out of limestone. Each generous fairway is framed by dense stands of hardwood and cedar, ensuring that scenic solitude is the only standard of play. And besides the island course’s many ponds, lakes and waterfalls, you’re likely to find another awe-inspiring hazard: whitetail deer and other wildlife jaunting across the fairway. A true sanctuary – and certified as such by the Audubon Nature Preserve System – The Rock is the place to go for any golfer looking to get wild Up North. Waterfront cottages, full-scribe log cabins and a luxurious, rustic-chic hotel, plus a pizzeria-bowling alley, fine dining and excellent meeting accommodations are all par for the course here. Eastern Upper Peninsula, 800-999-6343, drummondisland.com.
You Want: A Course Everyone Will LovePLAY AND STAY: Cedar River Golf Course, Shanty Creek Resort
Working with Cedar River’s natural glacier-carved terrain may have been an odyssey for famed golf course architect Tom Weiskopf, but for golfers (and photographers), its breathtaking vistas, deep ravines and rolling terrain are an inspiration. Fives sets of tees and expansive, undulating greens accommodate golfers of all abilities. Likewise, while some holes demand accuracy and control at the outset, several offer a wide landing area to keep newbie spirits up. Bring clubs and a camera for this one. Cedar River Village, Shanty’s newest lodging offering, serves up 72 elegant suites and studios, 14 condos and 7,100 square feet of meeting spaces that come complete with Internet-connected task tables. A complimentary shuttle provides access to additional services and facilities at Shanty’s nearby Schuss and Summit Villages. Bellaire, 800-678-4111, shantycreek.com.
You Want: To Be a High Roller
PLAY: Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course
Hop in your GPS-equipped golf cart or summon one of the ready caddies – at the esteemed Arcadia Bluffs, you are king. Your kingdom? A course ranked No. 10 in Golf Digest’s list of 100 Greatest Public Courses in America. Arcadia provides nearly 300 acres of windswept lakefront property etched in the style of ye olde seaside Irish links and perched high above the roiling cerulean waters of Lake Michigan. Hole 16 – stretched out along a cliff of shoreline frontage with a 225-foot drop to the beach – is just one of the reasons folks call this place majestic and awe-inspiring. We call it the closest an American golfer can get to Ballybunion without boarding a plane. Arcadia, 800-494-8666, arcadiabluffs.com.
You Want: Unforgettable Golf and an Extraordinary Meal
PLAY: Black Forest Golf Course
Black Forest, the first masterpiece of the world’s preeminent minimalist golf course architect and Traverse City local, Tom Doak, is secreted deep in a forest of pine, oak and maple. But trust us, this hidden gem is worth finding. Each hole is isolated in the woods like an island unto itself, making it possible to go an entire round without ever seeing another foursome. Expect wildly contoured greens, dramatic bunkering, impeccable conditioning from tee to pin and – no matter how you play – a grand finish: the clubhouse’s elegant Osprey Grill feels more like a vacation retreat than a restaurant. Kick back with a cocktail on the richly appointed second-level deck, then cruise inside for Chef McKay’s always in-season, always Northwoods-inspired menu of freshwater fish and premium cuts of steak, pork and chicken. Gaylord, 866-585-7090, blackforestgolf.com.
You Want: To Bypass the Velvet Rope
PLAY: True North
Get in while you still can. True North Golf Club is private – an exclusive, first-class course built for True North Estates, the emerging gated community that surrounds it. But until the last home site and membership is sold, the club allows non-members to play once as a guest between June 19 and September 2 each year. The single-round restriction doesn’t apply before and after those dates, or for group and charity events, but however you slice it, time is running out on the chance to experience the course Golf Digest named best in the state last year. Harbor Springs, 231-526-3330, truenorthgolf.com.
Lynda Twardowski is travel editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.[email protected]
Note: This article was originally published in March 2008.