A Golf Road Trip To Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

By Steve Wetzler






There is no shortage of great golf destinations across the country. From East Coast to West, in the South and Midwest, golfers have a plethora of places to go with their buddies. And while we could easily plan getaways to many of these destinations again, we decided we wanted to make our next golf trip a road trip.

For years we have been hearing about the golf buzz in Michigan with all its great resort destinations and award-winning golf experiences. The states often referred to as America’s Summer Golf Capital, which has now expanded to the western part of the Upper Peninsula, that sliver of land that runs above the mitten along Lake Superior connecting to Wisconsin on one end and Canada on another. Like our home state of Minnesota, this beautiful region, located a 5.5-hour ride east of the Twin Cities, offers a short summer season (May-September). In addition to golfing, it’s known for great hunting, fishing and snowmobiling and delicious meat pies called pasties.

Our group decided to load up the SUV for a golfing road trip with the excitement and anticipation of Clark Griswold heading to Wally World. Heading east out of Minneapolis on I-94, we made the journey across Wisconsin into Michigan’s U.P. Our destination: Harris, Michigan, a laid-back setting just 15 minutes west of Escanaba, enveloped by towering pines and unspoiled by development.

There is an option to fly into nearby Escanaba, which offers non-stop flights on Delta. Our group loves road tripping with golf clubs and passing through idyllic small towns reminiscent of a land elegantly suspended in time. Just before crossing the Wisconsin-Michigan border, we see a nostalgic-looking restaurant with towering letters that bluntly, but invitingly, spell “EAT.” It’s Micky Lu’s Bar-B-Q, established in 1942. Known for its simple menu, Micky Lu’s sandwiches include all-beef burgers grilled over a vintage charcoal pit oven. From the bar stools to the prices and décor, the place is straight out of Norman Rockwell, unchanged for decades and frequented by loyal locals.

Our base for four days was the Island Resort & Casino, one of the Midwest’s largest golf, casino, and entertainment resort destinations, spanning 408,000 square feet featuring a top casino, spa, and a variety of dining options. The increased demand for golf packages was the driving force behind the resort’s $30 million expansion in 2022. Renovations featured the new 11-story Palm Tower, with 138 guest rooms and golf suites, bringing the property’s guest room total to 454. Also included in the expansion are Horizons Steakhouse, located on the top floor of the Palm Tower featuring the best views in the region, and Splash Island, a new family pool with waterpark features. Their golf rooms offer panoramic views of Sweetgrass Golf Club, a Paul Albanese-designed gem.

The golf in this region has been described as “unforgettable” and “underrated.” The resort’s original course, the exceptional Sweetgrass, opened in 2008 and consistently ranks among the top 10 courses in the state. It was also named the 2022 National Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA), and is home to the Island Resort Championship, one of the premier stops on the EPSON Tour – the official “Road to the LPGA.”

The prairie links-style Sweetgrass layout meanders to a wide-open vista where many greens and flags can be seen in the distance. The highlight of this course was the most fun green complexes I have ever putted. For course architecture geeks, you have a Redan, Biarritz, Island, and Double-green. The back nine also included arguably two of the best par-3’s I have played. The 12th features one of the coolest Biarritz holes and the par-3 15th requires an accurate shot with a short iron into an island green. 

The resort’s second course, Sage Run, which opened in 2018, was also designed by Albanese and is a bold contrast to Sweetgrass. Selected by Golf Digest as one the “Best New” courses in America in 2019 and ranked 20th in Michigan’s top courses by Golfweek, Sage Run offered a more rugged experience with hardwoods, open areas, and a massive ridge that Albanese likened to Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.

Sage Run starts off on top of the ridge with scenic views that stretch for 30-40 miles and plays down to an open area with wide fairways and rugged fescue grasses set off by warm earth tones. The 3rd, a strategic par-5 with rugged bunkers, sand areas and a small elevated green, places a premium on accuracy and has a Pine Valley feel. The par-3 5th is the first experience with the drumlin ridge; although a short hole, it requires a blind uphill shot to a large green.

We loved the short and strategic par-4 holes on the back nine. The 13th is an uphill par-4 with strategic fairway bunkers that golfers can take on for a better angle to the elevated green that’s guarded by rugged bunkering to the left. Players must be ready on the short 16th to attack the ridge uphill to a large blind green. A straight drive up the right side left a short pitch to a large and undulating green. The finish at Sage Run is fun and plays up and down off the ridge with the short 16th, par-3, 125-yard 17th, and par-5 18th playing into the setting sun with scenic 30-mile views from an elevated tee.

The resort offers fully customizable packages with 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-night lodging options, including up to four golf rounds. The very competitive package price options range from $110-$758, depending on time of year. You can also experience the “Perfect 4-Some” package that includes rounds at the nearby Greywalls and Timberstone courses. Compare these rates with those from other noteworthy golf destinations and you’ll have yet another convincing reason to choose this destination.

Plan your trip now – whether it be for this summer, the fall, or next year. You won’t be disappointed. Book now to save on your out-of-this-world golf experience today.

For more information about Island Resort and Casino and its golf packages, visit www.islandresortgolf.com or call 877-475-4733.