Island Resort And Casino – Credibly Incredible
By E. Nolan
Thousands, upon tens of thousands, upon hundreds of thousands of golfers will come to Michigan and Wisconsin to golf this year (and to watch golf, thanks to the Ryder Cup being in Kohler). Those golfers will be looking for places to stay and to play – new places, easy-access places, great places… trending places. What if I told you there’s a golf destination that’s essentially in both Michigan and Wisconsin with a new course, a great course and with easy package-access to two other very trendy courses (four courses total), all based out of a central Casino Resort. Would you want to know more about this place?
I did. Out came the map. Harris, Michigan, only 350 miles from Minneapolis; 200 miles north of Milwaukee; 75 miles south of Marquette. That’s a beautiful area, that strip of forest and waterfalls bordered by Lake Superior and Lake Michigan known as the Upper Peninsula -Michigan’s UP. I wanted to visit the Painted Rocks National Lakeshore east of Marquette. I wanted to ride on that rope boat across the blue lagoon at Kitch-iti-kipi near Manistique, and explore all the waterfalls of the Porcupine Mountains with my kids. Yes, I had plenty of reasons to visit that specific region of Michi-sconsin, but it was on a long list of “Bucket List” vacation destinations in my book, and only one thing was going to get me there – golf. Great golf.
“Welcome to one of the most scenic golf resort destinations in the Midwest.” That’s a bold greeting against some pretty stiff local competition. Enticing. I bought in. Once. Twice. Three times – three visits in four years. I get it and now I want you to. If you’ve never been to Island Resort & Casino in Michigan, it’s time to change that. Here’s why:
When you’re at Island Resort & Casino you can look out the window and see a beautiful golf course, with waterfalls cascading down from the 9th and 18th greens. That’s Sweetgrass. Sweetgrass is a Paul Albanese creation that plays like a links course, but looks like a course in the southern United States, with trees (on four holes), lakes, wetlands and well-mounded fairways throughout. While close to the lake it is not physically on Lake Michigan, but with many of the holes wide open you can expect crisscrossing lake winds to factor into the playability equation. Sweetgrass is a long course from the tips, at 7,273 yards, and with water in play on at least ten holes, it’s a sufficient test no matter how “easy” it looks. In fact, the LPGA determined it such a perfect test, that Sweetgrass will host the Symetra Tour’s 10th annual Island Resort Championship in June of 2020! It was interesting listening to Paul describe how he tried to weave Potawatomi Nation history into the design and the yardage book provides a good collection of those stories. One of the many signature-worthy holes, the 3-par 15th with its island green, and the uphill closers tend to be the most photographed.
An easy 8-mile drive from the Resort (only 25 miles from the Wisconsin State Line), Sage Run is one of Michigan’s (and essentially Wisconsin’s) newest courses. Another Paul Albanese creation, Sage Run is anything but sage. It is wild…built on wildly moving landscape. This course is (for some crazy reason) not yet on the “Best in State” charts, but very much should be. It’s a common refrain to hear Sage Run compared to Sweetgrass as “incomparable” because it’s the most accurate way to describe the two – they are nothing alike, except that they are both very fun. Sage Run is built on and along a large drumlin – a steep “glacial chicken leg,” as my son described it. Having walked the course before it opened, I wasn’t sure how Paul was going to pull off some of these hole designs – the drumlin was that intrusive and dramatic. Suffice it to say, he did so masterfully, mixing uphill and downhill shots off the glacial feature like it was nothing. Sage Run can be played up to 7,375 yards, and where many might describe Sweetgrass as “easy,” almost no one would suggest that of Sage Run. There is little water here, but plenty of trees, hills, tall grass, blind shots and wetlands. You absolutely must play them both on a visit.
And, quite frankly, why stop there. Island Resort and Casino is famous for their Perfect 4-Some Package. One of the best deals in Midwest Golf (if not American golf), the Perfect 4-Some includes rounds not just at Sweetgrass and Sage Run, but at Timberstone in Iron Mountain (only 42 miles away) and at the highly-acclaimed and ranked Mike Devries-designed Greywalls Course at Marquette Golf Club (only 80 miles away). You can select from a 3, 4 or 5-night option with those courses and as a bonus you’ll receive a handful of $5 rewards to be used in the casino, at the bar, the restaurant and the spa. Four rounds of golf and four nights starting at less than $500 a person in peak season! Do you see now why I couldn’t resist making the trip?
HOTEL & SPA
With so much great golf at their convenient disposal, it makes sense that Island Resort and Casino is immensely popular amongst golf groups and buddy trips. This growing popularity has evolved into the resort announcing a $30 million expansion that will be completed in 2021. More than 100 new hotel rooms will be added, which will be connected to the south end of the current 11-story Palm Tower.
A high-end dining venue and convention space are also planned for the top floor, as well as a pool and water park area for kids and young adults. Add in the new Drift Spa, and the destination has become a popular escape for couples, and now families.
The resort currently has 312 guest rooms and 14 spacious, luxury suites, some with whirlpool tubs and kitchenettes, others with golf course views. There’s a swimming pool, hot tub and salon, with a gift shop and even an RV Park with 42 full-service sites. As a golfer you’re unlikely to spend much time in your room, but it’s nice to know that if you need to, you’ll do so in comfort.
RESTAURANTS & CASINO
You may, on the other hand, spend quite a bit of time eating and having fun on the Casino floor. Island Resort has an assortment of dining options from the fine-dining 5 Bridges Steak & Seafood House (with chef-prepared specials), to the 5 Bridges Pub (with the UP’s largest selection of craft beers), Firekeeper’s Restaurant (casual Midwest cuisine), the Coral Reef Grille, Signature Subs & Pizza, T. McC’s Sports Bar (with TV screens everywhere and a late-night menu) and the grab-n-go Coffee & Custard Shop. That’s seven unique food experiences to keep your visit as diverse in taste potential as it is in golf.
When you’ve had your fill of food or golf for the day you can still have some excitement on the gaming floor. Island Resort has a massive collection of modern table, poker, bingo and slot games. Plenty of play options, plenty of laughter, plenty of amenities and even more great golf. Now you can probably understand why I’ve been there three times recently and need to go back again.
Whenever you’re coming to Michigan, Wisconsin or even Minnesota for this year, keep Island Resort & Casino in mind for your golf excursions. It’s an easy drive from pretty much everywhere in the area to a beautiful part of the Midwest with some credibly incredible golf.
For more information about Island Resort and Casino, visit www.islandresortgolf.com or call 877-475-4733 to book your golf package today.