For those itching to take to the Northern Michigan outdoors and get a jump on golf season, resort packages and early season deals make it easy to spend May working out that pent-up desire for green (and greens). Here’s how to binge on Northern Michigan golf, along with a few new twists on the game.  The following content was first featured in the 2014 May edition of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Man vs. Golf

It’s particularly easy to binge on golf at Treetops Resort and Spa in Gaylord, where you could theoretically play 63 holes in one day without switching golf carts. Now the new “Man vs. Golf” challenge seeks to make that a regular challenge for diehards. You get a healthier version of the food-challenge phenomenon and (if you make it through), a commemorative gift and your name on a plaque. But better ask for lunch and dinner to go. To best the challenge, you have to move fast enough between sunrise and sunset to golf through Treetops North, the Rick Smith Signature course—the designer’s first—the walkable Rick Smith Tradition Course and Threetops, a Par 3 notable for its dramatic elevation changes. The golf part of the package starts at $128, a room within stumbling distance of your last hole, $89 (989.732.6711;

A Golf Vacation

Boyne Highlands spreads the golf binging over five nights and eight courses when you book the Great Escape Golf Vacation and make Harbor Springs your base for play at some of the state’s prettiest courses: expect wildflowers, spring woods and views. The package includes play at The Monument, The Alpine, The Moor, Donald Ross Memorial, The Heather, Crooked Tree Golf Club and Hidden River Golf and Casting Club, and the $855/person rate also covers lodging, five days’ worth of lunches and dinners and vacation-rounding entertainment from the high-energy Young Americans. And there’s more: a Wednesday scramble; a $25 gaming voucher; a reception and unlimited range balls (if there’s time left for practice). A bonus addition is especially popular with couples golfing together—the choice of an extra round at the Bay Harbor Golf Club, a spa service or a $75 food and beverage credit. Have just one night? Opt for the unlimited golf package, $137/person (231.526.3000;

Luxe Lodge

The new craftsman-style Lake Au Sable Lodge is the centerpiece of some of this May’s packages at Forest Dunes, the Tom Weiskopf–designed course that a Golf World Reader Survey once named the top public course in America, and Golf Digest called one of America’s most fun courses to play. A one-night stay, with golf, in the lodge starts at $119 a person for 18 holes and breakfast. A popular couples package adds dinner and wine. Stay and play packages start at $119 a person/night through May 12 (989.275.0700;

Forget the Clubs

Have foot, will putt—and drive (well, kick off) with a new trend called Footgolf that’s gaining a foothold at a handful of courses around the country—including Bellaire’s Shanty Creek. This year, be careful not to step in the whopping 21-inch holes, big enough for a soccer ball to settle into. In fact, there’s a whole set of holes now on the Summit course, much like the variety offered in tees. The more skilled will aim for the standard hole, the less-skilled for the eight-inch hole, the true hacks a new 15-inch hole and those who want to forego clubs altogether and “golf” with soccer balls, the 21-inchers. The experiment is designed to grow the game among the slowest growing golf demographic (those aged 25–40), and comparable rules for Footgolf and standard golf are said to make it possible for the drivers and kickers to play a round concurrently (231.533.8621;

May 2014 coverMore Northern Michigan Golf

Photo(s) by Carly Paszek