Expand Your Golf Adventures to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
By Steve Wetzler
Your next golf buddies’ trip should take you and your pals to a destination that’s nothing short of mind-blowing. To accomplish that, you might just need to expand your search east towards the Great Lakes region and Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula.
Michigan’s visually breathtaking Upper Peninsula is the sliver of land that runs above the mitten along Lake Superior, connecting Wisconsin on one end and Canada on another. With its many award-winning resort destinations and golf courses, Michigan is often referred to as “America’s Summer Golf Capital,” describing a craze that now extends west across the state’s Upper Peninsula.
Take a peek at our recent trip to appreciate the hype on this wildly underrated summer golf destination. Our journey took us to Harris, MI, a laid-back setting that’s just 15 minutes west of Escanaba, enveloped by towering pines and unspoiled by development. If we had been pressed for time, we had the convenient option of a non-stop flight from Minneapolis into Escanaba on Delta, but opted for the scenic 5.5-hour drive east across Wisconsin into Michigan’s U.P.
Our base for four days was the Island Resort & Casino, one of the Midwest’s largest golf, casino, and entertainment resort destinations. The resort now has 450-plus guest rooms, thanks to a recent $30 million renovation that added 128 rooms. These new rooms include golf suites, which served as our home base for the next four days, complete with panoramic views of the golf course.
The golf in this region has been described as “unforgettable” and “underrated.” The resort’s original course is the exceptional Sweetgrass Golf Club, designed by Michigan-based architect Paul Albanese. Opened in 2008 and ranked among the top 10 courses in the state, Sweetgrass was named the 2022 National Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA). The course is also 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 course 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 holes I have played. The 12th that 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 opened in 2018. Also designed by Albanese, it stands in bold contrast to Sweetgrass. Selected by Golf Digest as one of the “Best New” courses in America in 2019 and ranked 20th in Michigan’s top courses by Golfweek, Sage Run offers a more rugged experience with hardwoods, open areas, and a massive ridge that architect 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 17th a great short hole measuring 125 yards, and par-5 18th playing into the setting sun with scenic 30-mile views from an elevated tee.
The resort’s fully customizable packages offer 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-night lodging options with up to four golf rounds. The very competitive package price options range from $95-$758 depending on time of year. You can also experience their “Perfect 4-Some” package with 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, 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.