By Dianna Stampfler
Did you know that Michigan ranks #3 nationally (#1 in the Great Lakes region) for the number of public golf courses. More than a few are found within close proximity to those shoreline areas providing unique experiences and unparalleled views.
Harbor Shores Golf Club, Benton Harbor
Jack Nicklaus – The Golden Bear – is more than a golf legend; he is considered one of the premier course designers in the world. In Michigan, there are just four Nicklaus courses including Harbor Shores Golf Club which opened in the summer of 2010 as the only one on Lake Michigan. Four distinct terrain areas can be found throughout Harbor Shores, including the woodlands that wind through hardwood forests and ravines, as well as five holes which border the wetlands of the Paw Paw River and Ox Creek. The 436-yard hole #7 is the most difficult par 4 on the course, from the island tee box to the long right dogleg to the green. Golfers will find the best water views from the dune areas around holes #7, #8 and #9.
Lincoln Hills Golf Club, Ludington
The property which houses Lincoln Hills Golf Club in Ludington has a rich history, dating back to the late 1800s when it was part of the Sterns logging empire. During WWI, it became a military site, complete with artillery fields surrounded by sand dunes. A 9-hole golf course opened in 1921, making it one of Michigan’s longest established clubs. Among the early members was Henry Haskell, founder of the Haskelite Company and inventor of the Carrom board (another Ludington treasure). Now encompassing a complete 18 holes, this award-winning semi-private par 72 course is set among towering trees and rolling fairways, making it a West Michigan hidden gem. The signature hole is the par 5 #11 which stretches 493 feet within sight of Lake MIchigan and a stone’s throw from the southern portion of Ludington State Park.
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, Arcadia
One of Michigan’s most esteemed courses sits on a 240-acre parcel that was once an orchard full of apple and cherry trees in northwest Manistee County. Utilizing the land as a guide, the course follows the natural slopes and formations for its links style layout with five sets of tees to accommodate all levels of play. The iconic hole #12 offers both a left and right green giving players a choice at the end of the par 4 run. A highlight of this course – beyond the unparalleled views of Lake Michigan – is the appearance of a bagpiper who plays every Thursday through Sunday (from 7pm until sunset, weather permitting) between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Those looking to add another round should check out the South Course, just one mile south of the original course, featuring two distinct nine-hole loops spread out over 311 acres.
Manitou Passage Golf Club, Cedar
Situated in the heart of the Leelanau Peninsula and not far from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Manitou Passage Golf Club is one of only six courses in the state designed by Arnold Palmer (aka The King). Originally called King’s Challenge, this signature course was carved out of the woodlands near the base of the one-time Sugar Loaf ski resort. It was subsequently acquired and updated, reopening under its new name in 2010. A true up north setting, this course delivers tree-lined fairways, noted elevation changes and fantastic vistas. The signature hole is the par 5 #8, with tees that sit at the highest point on the course. From here, golfers can soak up views of the Manitou Passage, North Manitou Island and the North Manitou Shoal lighthouse.
Bay Harbor Golf Club (Lynx/Quarry), Bay Harbor
Commonly called “The Pebble Beach of the Midwest,” the Bay Harbor Golf Club boasts three distinct 9-hole courses – Links, Quarry and Preserve – all sprawled out along the shore of Little Traverse Bay on the southwest side of Petoskey. Typically played in pairs, these Arthur Hills designed courses are as distinct, challenging and stunningly beautiful, reminiscent of those found in coastal Ireland. Links/Quarry are considered showstoppers with the par 5 #7 on The Links called one of the finest golf holes, anywhere. Perched along a towering cliff above the lake. At the end of the day, make sure you’re wrapping up on The Quarry #9 (the final hole played in this Links/Quarry combo) which lies right along Lake Michigan where sunsets never disappoint.
Five Inland Golf Courses Worth the Drive
- Angel’s Crossing Golf Club, Vicksburg—This W. Bruce Matthews III designed course offers rolling greens, generous fairways and bunkers overlooking native wetlands and prairie grasses.
- Pilgrim’s Run, Pierson—Set on 400 sprawling acres and surrounded by lush woodlands, this hidden gem is regarded as one of the most beautiful and playable courses in the state.
- St. Ives Golf Course, Stanwood—Consider by many to be noted architect Jerry Matthews’ best work, carved out of glacial landscape with sprawling wetlands, rugged highlands and memorable natural surroundings.
- Forest Dunes Golf Club, Roscommon—The Loop, a reversible course designed by Tom Doak, is essentially two courses in one and the only such of its kind in the world. One day, the course is played clockwise and the next, counterclockwise, both in an English heathland style.
- Wawashkamo Golf Club, Mackinac Island—This 9-hole links course – the site of the 1814 Battle of Mackinac Island – has retained much of its original 1898 design features. It is considered one of the state’s oldest operating courses and is listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Places.
Dianna Stampfler has been writing professionally since high school. She is the president of Promote Michigan and the author of “Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses” and “Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes”, both from The History Press.