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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Travel Club
November 19, 2017

Mission Point Resort
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Mission Point Resort
Harbor Shores Golf Club
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Harbor Shores Golf Club
By E. Nolan

PREMISE: We all have a list of things we want to do before we "kick the bucket." We, golfers, set our sights on experiencing the best golf courses and destinations: Pebble Beach, Scotland, Michigan and Ireland, etc. The only problem is... not every place lives up to expectations, and we all HATE throwing money away on disappointments! This Bucket List Special Summer Edition takes you to SEVEN "Must Play" (public access) Golf Resorts in Michigan and lets you decide how long you want to Stay & Play at each.


Few golf road trips are more practical, reasonable, budget-friendly and/or rewarding for the Minnesota or Wisconsin golfer than a loop around Lake Michigan. Whether you drive from home or fly into Chicago and start from there, the full-circle swing from the Windy City provides an incredible assortment of high value, dramatic rounds. LITERALLY thousands of golf groups flock to Michigan each golf season and hit SOME of these places, but the shrewd and ambitious can EASILY hit them all.

Site 1: Harbor Shores Golf Club - It is 105 miles from Chicago to St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. St. Joseph is a very family friendly place to explore, just north of the sprawling sandy beaches of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and just south of the great coastal town and lighthouses of South Haven - home to the "Best in Michigan" ice cream at Sherman's Dairy Bar. Kids in tow will enjoy the famous Carousel and Spray Zone down by the beach in St. Joseph and golfers will be tested and impressed by the KemperSports managed, Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Harbor Shores. Stay close to the club and on the water at the towering Inn at Harbor Shores, where great views, rooms, and food are complemented by indoor and outdoor pools and phenomenal service.

Site 2: Gull Lake View Resort - Whether you play one or two rounds at Harbor Shores, move on when you're ready to Gull Lake View Resort, only 70 miles away, wedged between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Stop for breakfast (Crow's Nest) or lunch (Studio Grill) in Kalamazoo (try the Blueberry Burger... seriously) on the way. Gull Lake View Resort is ALL Golf and Food, with spacious villas awaiting when you've had your fill of the links, food, and drinks. The resort just opened a new course (Stoatin Brae) on May 18th, giving them a very diverse arrangement of five championship rounds with my favorite being the East Course on the main property, just down the hill from the sensational Ribs and BBQ options at Charles and Darl's (that also has incredible, huge, pancakes for breakfast).

Site 3: Forest Dunes Resort - If you're a "bucket lister" you'll have to play Arcadia Bluffs at some point, if for no other reason than to see Lake Michigan on all 18 holes. That said, no matter what the PAID experts say, the best golf in Michigan is found at Forest Dunes in Roscommon, only 210 miles north of Gull Lake View Resort. If Tom Weiskopf's "Original" course at Forest Dunes isn't Michigan's best public golf course, I don't know what is, but the other course(s) on property is/are among the contender(s). Architectural genius, Tom Doak, built a masterful, reversible 18-hole championship course - The Loop - that just opened last year and is unlike any other course in the world. Playable both ways (like the Old Course at St. Andrews was originally), The Loop has a Black (clockwise) and Red (counter clockwise) routing. Ask me, the Red Loop is better, but they're both great and you can really only appreciate the genius of the design by playing it both ways. Stay at the Lodge or in one of the HUGE villas, and make sure you play all three courses and the bonus gambling hole on the Original Course. You may ace it (like my son just did).

Site 4: Treetops Resort - This four-season playground with a massive Michigan mix of golf courses, is only 50 miles north of Forest Dunes (and not all that far from Gaylord's great apple fritters at Cops and Donuts). The place was built to host golf groups and skiers with lively eateries and spacious rooms above the fairways and slopes. The most popular designs are the Robert Trent Jones (my favorite) and Tom Fazio designs, but don't overlook THREETops, a 9-hole par 3 collection of knee-knockers with no pushovers.

Site 5: Boyne - Michigan's Golf Capital is undoubtedly the Boyne empire with it's three loaded resorts and 10 courses, two of them only 30 miles from Treetops Resort at Boyne Mountain. Play the incredibly scenic Alpine Course at Boyne Mountain, while your family chills among the thrills of Michigan's Largest Indoor Waterpark, indoor/outdoor heated pool and watersport amenities on nearby Deer Lake. Move on from Boyne Mountain to Boyne's Inn at Bay Harbor, 25 miles north in Petoskey. This is my favorite hotel on Michigan's "mainland" - built right on the shore - an absolute stunner in every way, right across the street from Boyne's Crooked Tree Golf Club. Grab lunch at Cormack's Deli at least twice while here, donuts at Johan's, and play all 27 holes at Bay Harbor Golf Club, where the Links Nine might be Michigan's "Best Nine." Just 14 more miles north, you'll find four more championship courses, with The Heather the most popular, the Ross Memorial the best conditioned, and The Hills... well, my favorite.

Site 6: Black Lake - I consider the Stay & Play combo at Black Lake in Onaway Michigan's best kept secret, no matter how many times Michigan's best resource on golf (Kevin Frisch of Fusion Media) told me it was incredible (Seriously, if you're ever taking a golf trip to Michigan, contact Kevin for advice!). The Black Lake golf course is masterfully managed by Nick Aune, and the lodging is exquisitely provided by the UAW Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center with a number of chalets, lakeside lodges and 2.5 miles of glass hallways weaving around lakes, ponds, bridges and a super-deep Olympic sized pool (with deer everywhere). Rees Jones's Black Lake Golf Club has so many fun holes, and a bonus 9-hole Par 3 course for extra fun/practice.

BONUS Site: Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island - Whatever superlatives I haven't used in this article I've saved for this place, essentially 40 miles north of Black Lake Golf Club. Is Mission Point a golf resort? No. Is it a place that literally every single person on earth should visit once in their life? Yes. Take the ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace over to the island and stay as many nights as you can afford to, feasting on amazing views, lemon bars and fudge, while living on the receiving end of spectacular hospitality by a family owned resort that is redefining "luxurious experience" by the day. I've always wanted to visit Mackinac Island for the history, architecture and unique resort experiences, but never thought it would be so hard to leave (for myself and the entire family). Mission Point Resort does work closely with a historic, century-old 9-hole course (with two sets of tees that make it play as 18 holes) - Wawashkemo Golf Club (they even have hickories you can use) - but golf is just one of many spectacular activities on the 8-mile-around island. Mission Point Resort has a Putting Course on the water, connections to bike rentals, carriage rides, Lake Huron facing restaurants, kayak trips and numerous other bonuses that will have every member of your family begging to go back. This place is amazing, and (just wait) it is seriously only getting better.

Site 7: Island Resort & Casino - 160 Miles across Michigan's famed Upper Peninsula is another booming resort (in the sense that it is daily getting better). Island Resort has one highly acclaimed golf course - Sweetgrass Golf Club - with another course opening VERY SOON on crazy dramatic land (I took the Sage Run tour and... wow!). I'd like to draw special attention to this property for all the Wisconsin and Minnesota readers so you realize how close you really are to great NEW Michigan golf. As soon as Sage Run opens... get up here and play them both! 350 miles to the Twin Cities, 220 miles to Milwaukee, and if you began your trip in Chicago, it's only 310 miles back there. You see what I mean? This collection of courses makes the perfect "Bucket ROAD Trip" for any guy, girl or golf group.

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