The following public golf courses make up the Great Lakes Golf Trail. They are the very best golf you can find in the region. In other words, no matter what course you chose, you can be sure you will find a great course. Also noted are our Editor's Picks of the Trail as well as golf courses that provide a Good Value on the Trail. Be sure to enable Java to view the golf photos.
ABERDEEN (Indiana) 219.462.5050
A-GA-MING RESORT SUNDANCE (Michigan) This 2005 Jerry Matthews course is just northwest of Traverse City wedged in between the Grand Traverse Bay and Torch Lake. Wonderful routing and some great scenery. Matthews has made a very modern American Links style course here which utilizes the elevations and scenery. It is easily the stronger of the two A-Ga-Ming courses. The front nine eases you into the round but still give plenty of challenge. Then the ninth hole, perhaps on of the best par 5s in the Michigan, signal the beginning of a truly outstanding run of ten fantastic holes. Nine is a par 5 that tees off down hill around a slight dogleg with a bog on the inside. Then it rises to the pinnacle of the course with terraced bunkers to collect short shots. Take plenty club on your approach to this stadium green. The par 3 seventeenth is an absolute beauty with a steep downhill tee shot with the world famous torch lake as your backdrop. Nice full practice facility which includes driving range, putting green and chipping green.
ANGUS GLEN (Ontario)
ARCADIA BLUFFS(Michigan) This Warren Henderson design from the Rick Smith design group is considered one of the best, if not the best, golf course on the Trail. It brings a serious Scottish links course to the Midwest, in the midst of all the "up-north" courses in Michigan. Standing on the veranda of the club house, you can see the spectacle unfold right in front of you. The course flows down hundreds of feet from sandy bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan to the very edge of the lake. Just about everywhere you stand on this course you have a spectacular view. Every hole is a postcard and you get a sense of golf paradise. The course has a raw look with all the wild areas and wind blowing in off of the lake, but the fairways, greens and bunkers are finely manicured. The first fairway is wide as a railroad yard, but each following one seems to get a bit narrower. By the time you get to eighteen, the fairway look like a winding sidewalks compared to the first hole. Not only do you need to drive the ball well here, you need to work on your lob shot for this course. There are many pedestalled greens where the only recovery from missed approaches is a high soft lob. You will also find different approaches to many greens. The best approaches are rewarded with a simple punch or run up shot to a long green but approaches from less than optimal positions to the same green will require semi-blind lobs over a deep sod-faced pot bunker to a narrow greens. Then you need to deal with sophisticated undulated greens which require shots to the correct zones. The eighteenth green has the most undulations and zones. Onlookers from the clubhouse often get a kick out of all the four putts here, so take extra care on your approach.
AVALON LAKES(Ohio) 18 championship holes just outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Recent host of LPGA events, the outstanding course is always in excellent condition, even in the dead of summer. An old Pete Dye design, but no signature railroad ties. The classic but flat layout has undergone extensive re-contouring and is deceivingly challenging and beautiful. Pete Dye returned in 2002 to work his magic again. He made a very good course great. All greens are guarded and elevated. Lots of sand and water hazards. GPS systems on the cart. Excellent fast and true greens, with undulations. At least four of the par 4s require careful club selection from the tees due to hazards such as water and tight doglegs. Has been the Host of LPGA events in recent years. Four sets of tees and well marked. Expensive.
BAY HARBOR(Michigan) 27 fantastic holes in Petoskey, about an hour north of Traverse City. Arthur Hills, in collaboration with Stephen Kircher, has laid out one of his most spectacular routings in the Great Lakes region. Arthur Hills has always been known for great courses but he out did himself here. Completed in 1997, it claimed the top spot in Michigan for a long time. The property is part of Boyne Resort and is cetainly their crown jewel. It does have private members but rotates tee times so that members tee off on one of the three nines while the public will tee off on another. There are three distinct nines, the Links, Quarry and Preserve, and each presenting their own distinctive feel and look. The Links nine is the most popular and characterized by having its tall fescue lined holes in close proximity to Lake Michigan. While great views may help your attitude, winds that can whip up from the lake and play havoc with your game. Four of the nine Links holes are treeless and hard against the lake in a splashy Arthur Hills Scottish-like effort. Standing on the edge of the fairway of Links hole 7, you can look straight down 150 feet to the crashing waves of Lake Michigan. The views from the bluffs overlooking Little Traverse Bay are probably worth the heavy greens fee alone. The Quarry nine has the most interesting holes of the three nines where several holes play around, down into and out of a rock-side quarry. As a bonus, your final two holes on the Quarry play against the lake. The Preserve nine might be the strongest in terms of hole layouts. It rolls through mature birches and pines and incorporates marshes and even a double green. The entire complex is nicely tied together with mostly wide and forgiving fairways which lead you to good sized greens which are not overly undulated. Mr. Hills really did an outstanding job with the par 3 on all 27 holes, especially where the greens hang against the lake. The bottom line is that you cannot go wrong with any of the three nines, all are a blast to play. But if someone held a gun to your head, chose the Quarry and the Links.
BENT TREE (Ohio) : (740) 965-5140 Located just a few minutes north of Columbus, right off I-71 in Sunbury. A par 72 championship course which is set in surprisingly rolling terrain in the pan flat north Columbus suburbs. This fine course has a wonderful country club look and feel while having all the modern design features you would want. It is not some flashy over the top resort course but the sort of course you could play every day. The flow of the course from hole to hole is seamless and you never see the same look twice. Architect Dennis Griffiths e xpertly laid this course out in 1988 over the property where he had less than 150 acres to work with. The mounding, routing and hazard usage all lend a sense of separation between holes and it seems the place is much larger than it really is. No housing here, just pure unobstructed golf. A great course for the driver where just about every tee box has something to look at and think about before you launch one. There is plenty of trouble on the course but it plays very fair and often wayward tee shots have hope of recovery. Beware of the elevated green on the par four 9th where your approach is from the lowest part of the course to an unprotected green on a ridge. Only as your ball gets knocked straight down into the deep fronting bunkers will you realize how strong the wind is blowing across the green. The test of the round comes at the par five 16th where your tee shot must carry the corner of a water hazard while squeezing between the trees on the left and a dangerous bunker on the right. The green in definitely a red light so make a solid layup on your second which is also not so easy with water all down the left.
BIG FISH (Wisconsin)
BLACK BEAR RIDGE (Ontario)
BLACK DIAMOND (Ohio) Located just a few miles south of Millersburg, Ohio on Rt. 83 and unfortunately, not really easy to get to from major cities. It is set in the serious foothills of Amish country, draped with curtains of dense trees and rock outcroppings, this incredible, par 72, championship course by Columbus architect Barry Serafin will stun you with the scenery and boggle your golf intellect. If you prefer courses where the holes are straightforward and the greens are fairly level, this is not for you. This course requires strategy, shotmaking, and a great short game. While not listed as a long course, it plays far tougher than its length. You still need to hit your driver here, although you might consider leaving it in the bag for two to four holes, depending on how you are hitting it that day. There is no other course quit like this in Ohio. Just the view from the clubhouse overlooking holes one, nine and ten is worth the drive alone. While there won't be any professional tournaments here, the serious and recreational golfer will appreciate, and sometimes curse, this wild layout. The front nine is characterized by fairways that are more forgiving and shorter than the back side but the heavily undulated greens require shot making to the correct pin position if you ever hope to score well. The back side is reversed. While Serafin tamed the back side greens, he requires you to be very good off of the tee to have a chance. Some of the tee shots, particularly the daunting par four 12th, are simply terrifying at first look. Water to be carried from the tee, water all down the left side, a mountain on your right and 419 yards of a thin ribbon of a fairway disappearing around a rise. However, this hole, like most holes, gives you more than can be seen. You really really need to play this one more than once and you will learn that it is far more playable than it appears. In fact, it's a blast to play. All lament the fact that there is no pin sheet nor yardage book. This course does seem to favor someone who can play a power fade off the tee. Higher handicappers will struggle a bit more due to the numerous carries and shot making requirements, but the four sets of tees helps ease their pain. While every hole sports something different, the most unusual hole is certainly the 650 yard par 6. Some speculate that a par 6 is sort of gimmicky but we found it nicely designed to give you a deserved chance at a really good number. The second shot is the key since the fairways narrows inside of 150 yards and trying to stuff a three wood close the green brings hazards and a bunker into play. There is no way to walk this course and even cart path only is a struggle. Dollar for dollar, this course is perhaps one of the best bargains in the Midwest with unbelievable twilight and replay rates. Nice range and practice facility.
BLACK FOREST GOLF RESORT - BLACK FOREST (Michigan)
BLACK FOREST GOLF RESORT - VALLEY (Michigan)
BLACKTHORN(Indiana) 219.232.GOLF Located in South Bend Indiana, only two minutes from the turnpide toll booth exit. If you have a chance, stop by and play it. Designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, this course gets rave reviews, a 4 1/2 star course according to Golf Digest. A fantastic course routed through glacially sculpted terrain. Lots of elevation changes and heavy woods mixed in with a few great linksy prairie-type and superb conditions. Alternate routes to the greens and split fairways which unfolded into stunning green views. The par fives here are some of the best in the entire mid-west and worth the trip alone, especially the signature 15th hole. Great first hole and each nine ends with a beautiful but dangerous hole requiring several well placed shots. They even have a great par four practice hole called the "Blarney Hole," a cool storm shelter rehabbed from a cow barn that you drive your cart right through, and GPS on the carts. Highly recommended.
BLACKWOLF RUN - MEADOW VALLEYS(Wisconsin)
BLACKWOLF RUN - RIVER (Wisconsin)
BLUE HERON(Ohio) 330.722.0227. 27 Championship holes in Medina, Ohio. The Highland and Lake nines opened in the summer of 2005. The River nine is to open in 2006. There is no doubt that this is some of the most interesting terrain of any golf course in North East Ohio. Stunning views from high elevations, deep gorges that must be negotiated, lakes to hit over, thick forests that eat wayward shots, you just have it all here. Plus it seems the developer has given plenty of respect to this course with minimal housing. Then there is the design of the course itself. A unique modern design with rolling and flowing fairways leading to many protected greens. Many forced carries from the tees and again to the greens, some quite daunting. You can pretty much play every hole several different ways. Good positioning and strategy are highly rewarded here. To fully appreciate this course, you need to understand what Robinson has done. Each nine seems to plays a different tune and you need to dance to the tune that is playing. The Highlands nine is an absolute shotmakers nine where your driver should pretty much stay in the bag except for perhaps one or two holes, unless of course, you're playing from the tips. Its not that its too tight for a driver, just that perpendicular hazards lurk out there around 220 to 260 all the time, even from the blues. You will find yourself puddle jumping around the Highlands and if you play it that way, you will be fine. The Lakes nine lets you use the driver more, but you can score as well hitting a fairway metal most of the time so long as you keep it out of the water residing on seven holes. The River nine has six holes on the other side of I-71 and is not some sort of spill over nine. It is every bit as strong as the first two nines. The first hole on the River might be the signature hole on the course where a hole opens over a gorge over a slight rise. River holes two and three are good holes to leave the driver in the bag even though you might think driver is the play. River hole two is noteworthy for the beautiful train bridge high over the narrow but extremely long green. Some long hitters get talked into playing the blue tees and then grumble about the configuration taking the driver out of their hands too much. They hit driver perhaps three times all day. They get a feeling the course is not well balanced. If you hit a driver more than 260 off the tee and are a mid-handicapper or better, suck it up and head to the tips. It is a totally different course from the tips and you will love it. Besides, the tips play shorter than you think with many downhill tee shots and the fairways are pretty wide. At Blue Heron, there is so much going on with each shots with incredible shot values that one can easy lose focus and let one's course management lapse. If that happens, you will pay.
BOND HEAD - SOUTH(Ontario)
BOND HEAD - NORTH(Ontario)
BOULDER CREEK(Ohio) 330.626.2828 par 72 championship course located just south west of Cleveland conveniently near the Ohio Turnpike. Opening in 2002, this spectacular course lies in heavily wooded terrain with mature pines and oaks covering hills, marshes and deep lakes. No houses ! (cross your fingers) From the second you step onto the first tee, you know your in for something special. While bunkered conservatively, there are plenty of grassy hollows and bumps in addition to the challenging terrain of water, elevation changes and mature pines to keep you on your toes. There are no lulls in this gem. Starting with hole number one, this great par 5 requires a good tee shot so that you can carry a large marsh on your second. An interesting split fairway at hole number 6 and a beautiful waterfall accompanies the par 3 seventh. You can actually see the par 4 ninth hole from the Ohio Turnpike. A long and accurate tee shot is preferred there because your second shot must carry a large lake and bunkers to get home in regulation. The grand golf opera finale occurs at the beautiful island par three 17th hole where wind always tricks you into under-clubbing. Then the monster 600 yard par 5 eighteenth where you will be rewarded you if you can get to the fairway downslope. This course requires every shot in your bag. Sometimes you need to work the ball left to right, other times right to left. At times you need length, others times strategy and accuracy. The course may appears difficult, but the architect has tried to build in forgiveness to make it enjoyable by all. Heavy rough and uneven lies makes keeping the ball in the fairway very important. Fast and challenging putting surfaces with interesting green complexes. This course has fantastic drainage. Even after torrential rains the day before, carts were still allowed on the fairways at 90 degrees. Everything about this place is turning out to be first rate and it has already earned high national accolades. It is reassuring to see the owner actively tweaking the course to make it all it can be. Great grass range. Five sets of tees.
BOYNE HIGHLANDS RESORT - DONALD ROSS MEMORIAL(Michigan)
BOYNE HIGHLANDS RESORT - HEATHER(Michigan)
BOYNE HIGHLANDS RESORT - MOOR(Michigan)
BRISTOL HARBOUR (New York)
BUCKS RUN(Michigan) 989.773.6830 Located in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Designed by Michigan architect Jerry Mathews, this course exemplifies how a reclaimed quarry can turn into a first class golf course. Many mild elevation changes and great riverside holes with marshes. But the 34-acre quarry is the center piece of the entire complex. The quarry is completely filled in and has turned into a beautiful deep lake with five gorgeous holes playing all the way around it. The veranda of the clubhouse offers one of the nicest clubhouse views you will ever find. You will come away with the sense that this course has a wonderful natural feel natural despite the incorporation of a massive man made quarry. It also gets high points for its uniqueness and great conditioning. Many serious undulations on these greens force you to be aware of pin positions. A fascinating par 54 putt-putt course with true conditions is recommended if you have the spare time. The Indian casino Soaring Eagle as well as another great golf course, Pohlcat, are both down the road from Bucks Run. Those seeking a combination of gambling and golf will really enjoy this destination. Four sets of tees.
THE BULL (Wisconsin)
CHESTNUT RIDGE -TOM'S RUN(Pennsylvania)
THE CHIEF (Michigan) 800.968.0129 Opened in 2000 and located in Bellaire, between Traverse City and Gaylord. Cut mostly through wooded terrain and the high ground of Bellaire, Canadian John Robinson designed a very unique layout with plenty of Michigan "Up North" feel. Robinson gives you room off the tee, only to tighten up the approach with pedestalled greens and sparse chipping areas. Other times you need to be precise off the tee as well as your approach. There are few grip it and rip it holes here since much of the course is tight and tough for just about any golfer. It does play much longer than the yardage on the card. The first hole is the entire course in a nutshell. You've got to plan your line or you are in trouble. There is a constant presence of tall lumber lining the left side of the fairway and the opposite falls away into a ravine. The tree-lined side rises from the fairway with heavy rough and tall grasses which sometimes deflect balls back down to the short stuff but more often than not, the heavy grasses and uneven lies torment those intent on aggressive recovery shots. Now if your unlucky enough to miss a savior bunker on the right and end up in the ravine, take your stroke and distance. The approach is no picnic either since the green sits below your uneven lie defended with bunkers, ravines, and grassy hollows ready to rob you of par or bogie should your stray from your target even a little. The greens are receptive but expect a fast pace on the roll. This theme pretty much repeats itself for much of the course with wonderful twists in the story line. This is not your typical course where you can just bang it out there, direction and distance are key. There is almost always something to avoid. If you normally do not find many fairways you are going to find it a long round unless you take less club and register a fairway. The short par 4 fourth hole is almost like two par 3s in one. Your downhill tee shot most not only be accurate in terms of direction, you must also hit it the correct distance. If you do not manage that, you will be short of the corner or through the fairway, and either may turn your approach shot into a disappointing lay up. Hole 10 and 11 are absolute round killers so be forewarned. While this course is tough, the combination of nature and Robinson's fresh design makes this course stunning to the eye and thrilling to play, regardless of your score. If your looking for something different and engulfed by nature, here it is. Just don't expect something it is not.
COOKS CREEK (Ohio) : (800) 430-GOLF Located just south of Columbus. This par 72, Michael Hurdzan design, with consultation with PGA pro John Cook, is fun and relatively well priced. Opening in 1993, it has been awarded 4 stars according to Golf Digest. While in the middle of farmland America, it has a surprising amount of elevation changes. Driving to the course, you see just dead flat farmland then a solitary hill appears upon which the course is constructed. In fact, the majority of the elevations come from this hill which seems to rise from nothing in the middle of a flood plain of a river. The design expertly utilizes the river flood plain and the hill with its mature wooded areas. The end result is are some great river views and is an Audubon Sanctuary. Of the few flatter, low land holes, the design is supplemented with constant and interesting water hazards. Awesome par 5s with great and varied par 3s.
COG HILL - DUBSDREAD(Illinois)
COPPER CREEK(Ontario) : A 2002 design by Carrick just north west of Toronto Ontario. This is one of the premier courses in the greater Toronto area. This course has two distinct styles of play, park land and American links. About half of the holes are cut through thick pine strands in a deep valley where bridges span over marshes and small creeks. The valley corridors leading to the greens often appear narrower than they really are but there is some room out there, just do not stray too far from the fairway because there is are no adjoining holes down there. The upper part of the course is more open and plays up and over gentle rolling terrain where the strategic bunkering and contouring is contrasted with wild grasses.
COYOTE PRESERVE (Michigan) : 810.714.3206 Located in Fenton Michigan, just north of the Rt.23 and I-96 interchange and north west of Detroit. This is an awesome 18 hole par 71 championship Arnold Palmer signature golf course. Currently the holes are miss-numbered with golfers starting on hole 10 instead of hole 1. As it is now, and probably into the future, you start with a par 4 and we will call it hole 1 here. The side which starts with a par 5 is hole 10. Arnold starts you off easy enough with a gentle and flat par four with several bunkers framing the fairway. Hole two begins to get interesting and by the time you are at the difficult pedestal par 3 third hole, you get the idea of what is to come. From there on out, you will go over and around deep ravines, up and down ridges and hills, navigate cavernous and punishing pot bunkers, and land soft wedges over think marshes into heavily undulating greens surrounded by large boulders. Like Arnold played the game, you have numerous opportunities to be aggressive and play the hero. When you finish your round, you may curse Mr. Palmer for his unusually difficult designs but we are certain you will thank the golf gods for this golf course. Every hole following the 4th could be a signature at any other course.
CRANBERRY HIGHLANDS(Pennsylvania) : 724.776.7372 Located just north west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, off of the Pennsylvania turnpike. This designed by W.R. Love opened in 2002 and spans the tops of hills overlooking the hill country typical of the Greater Pittsburgh area. A fantastic designs that makes the course enjoyably playable even with all the elevations. This affordable course is owned by the City of Cranberry and should be the model for all municipalities. Even though it is only a par 70 with five par 3s and three par 5s, you have championship layout that is challenging for all levels of play. Most holes border each other but are separated by mounding and plenty of tall grasses giving the course a linksy feel. But a true links course it is not. While there are plenty of bunkers which are artfully positioned, none are pot bunkers like a links course. Further unlike a links course are the greens. Here they are pedestalled, hanging and well protected, requiring many soft high shots, especially to the back pins. There really aren't many trees on the actually holes that come into play but they are on the fringe of the course giving it a nice natural feel devoid of housing. Since the course occupies much "highland" of the Pennsylvania hills, wind can be a big factor at the highest part of the course. Pin position is very key here since the undulations of the greens are often significant.
CRIMSON RIDGE(Ontario) : 866.667.4343 Opening in 2002, this Kevin Holmes design is the best you will find in the Sault Ste. Marie area, on either side of the border. These latitudes do not sport many great courses but here is this gem just a few minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie casino in the golf barren north west Ontario. The greens are a bit tricky to maintain at high stimp meter numbers due to the less than optimal growing season at this latitude, but that's the only knock on an otherwise stellar layout. Every hole is isolated from the other by evergreen forests, fantastic elevations and gurgling brooks flowing over glacial era crimson rocks. Not only is the scenery worth the trip but the layout is top notch with inviting fairways and wonderful greens complexes. Immediately you are thrust into the spectacle and need to be on your toes as your long iron or fairway wood must be played safely down into a gorge with a narrow fairway. The wonderful variety holes includes two stylish short par 4s which tempt the long hitter to try to transcend the obstacles but the short hitter tends to score better playing conservatively. As if the course is not good enough, when you arrive at the par 3 seventeenth hole, you might be witnessing the most beautiful par three in all the Great Lakes. Slightly uphill into a mountain side with massive boulders guarding against all short shots. Then your cart ride to the green takes you past two small waterfalls cascading into the forest. And for the finale, a fantastic par 5 turns to the left hugging Crimson Ridge all the way down. From the height of the tees, you are treated to a spectacular thirty mile view which includes the International Bridge and the Straights of Sault Ste Marie connecting Canada and Upper Michigan. A good draw and you can get home in two but a weak fade will get you double.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT - MOUNTAIN RIDGE(Michigan)
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT - BETSIE VALLEY(Michigan)
DEERHURST RESORT - HIGHLANDS(Ontario)
DEER RIDGE (Ohio) : 419. 886.7090 This par 72 championship course is located in the Mansfield area halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. But it's right off I-71 at exit 165 and even visible on the east side of I-71. this affordable and unique course is a gem by Ohio golf architect Brian Huntley. This conservative modern design fits the land wonderfully without being too flashy or contrived. His well thought out holes utilize the land without much earth moving. This course is extracted from the land, not imposed upon it. The course has the most elevation changes of any course in all Northern Ohio. You will experience some breathtaking holes throughout this heavily wooded course. There is a slight reprieve on the back nine from the elevations, which then leads you to a fantastic finish. Perhaps the most spectacular hole is the par 5 16th which requires a forced carry over a gorge. If your drive is long enough, you will be generously rewarded as your ball cascades down the spectacular slope opening to the approach of the green. Then there is very cool finish at 18 which is reminiscent of a Robert Trent Jones trademark uphill par 4. If the elevation changes don't add a few strokes to your score, the very tough and fast greens are likely too.
DREAM (Michigan) Par 72 Jeff Gorney design between Saginaw and Gaylord Michigan which first opening in 1997. Very easy access from I-75. A nice combination of traditional and modern designs utilizing serious elevations changes in excess of 100 feet through a dense Michigan forests. It is like a picture book of golf holes engulfed in the wilderness. Nicely bunkered to accent the flowing and rolling fairways. Excellent starting holes on 1 and 10 as wells as classic finishing holes on 9 and 18. You certainly get the feeling that this course has a classic throwback feel while remaining contemporay. If someone were to say the course sort of reminded them of a poor man's Augusta National, they might be right. The Dream has a more modern sister course named "the Nightmare" which is just 2 miles down the road.
DUNMAGLAS (Michigan) : 231.547.4653 This par 72 expansive gem is laid over 842 acres just north of Charlevoix in the heart of summer golf capital land. Its sheer size and scope is breathtaking. Course designers Larry Mancour and Dean Refram's design first opened in 1992 but despite its beauty, it was allege to be too tough to play with sprawling and excessive bunkering. Since 1995, the course has been softend with the removal of many penal bunkers making way for more forgiving lines of play. But don't think the course is now a push over, it remains a stiff test, even for accomplished golfers, just a bit more enjoyable. There are more than plenty bunkers remaining. This blend of northern Michigan and Scottish style golf provides a golf exerience unlike almost any other. The underwhelming clubhouse and paltry entrance to the course might lead you just drive by, but don't. This beauty is hidden away in the dune hills, wooded valleys and expansive meadows. Not until you arive at the first tee can you begin to appreciate the golfing wonder you are about to embark on. The vistas, the serendety, the pure nature, the fascinating holes, all combine to reward your senses. The course doesn't bother slowly introducing itself. On the very first elevated tee box, wow, a dangerous but stunning looking tee shot down into a valley where the river like fairway flows slightly uphill to a protected green. There are many more famous golfing courses and resorts in norther Michigan, but this underappreciated golf experience can carry its own weight and then some.
EAGLE CREEK (Ontario)
EAGLE EYE(Michigan) 517.641.4570. This 2007 Chris Lutzke design has all the hallmarks of a Pete Dye course. Lutzke is a protégé of Dye and this effort will certainly guarantee demand for his services well into the future. The underlying terrain doesn't provide much in terms of elevations, but when you dig deep lakes and create very tall fescue mounds, add pot bunkers, wooden bulkheads, massive terraced fairways, you get a great effort at a links design. Attention to detail is a great way to sum up this demanding course. Typically on a quality course the greens will call for positioning relative to the hole. Here, even the fairways need to be minded. You need to chose tee shot direction on split fairways and direction bunkers and even the apparently straight fairways require tee shot positioning with all the undulations and roll in the fairways that can careen your ball both to a good or bad position. This course can stand on its own anywhere, but you are sure to be reminded a little bit of TPC Sawgrass, especially when you play the par 3 seventeenth, a exact replica of the TPC island green.
EAGLES NEST (Ontario) : Another Doug Carrick masterpiece just north of Toronto, Ontario which opened in 2004. This modern Scottish Links style course is considered one of the best public courses in Greater Toronto. Much of the course resides in a quarry so large that you hardly notice your inside it as the holes seamlessly flowing in and around its inside bowl. The balance of holes flow over the tree lined hill sides adjacent to the great pit. There are some patches of growth here and there, but in true links like fashion, all the holes are surrounded by heavy fescue, nobs and hollows. The mental imagery of each tee shot is usually more challenging than the tee shot itself. Fairways a well proportioned but there are plenty of gnarly leaf shaped bunkers lined with fescue to deal with. The real danger on this course are the many pot bunkers awaiting errant shots. They are only a few feet deep at the most so you usually do not need to worry about being swallowed up whole, but they do look mean. Course management is essential not only to stay clear of trouble but to engage the many risk-reward opportunities where appropriate. The greens complexes are very sophisticated with collection areas, pot bunkers and fescue fringes all in addition to the difficult putting surfaces which seem to break more than expected. Even simple chips are hard to notch close with ball falling away from pin locations. The view from the tee at the par 3 eighth hole allows a long distance view not just of the CN tower, but the entire Toronto skyline. It is hard to say that any hole is better than another but 16, 17 and 18 truly raise the bar. The course has a helicopter landing pad next to the windsock and excellent practice facilities. Very expensive but first rate all the way.
EAGLE STICKS (Ohio) : 800.782.4493 Located in Zanesville, Ohio, two hours south of Cleveland. About as mountainous as you get in Ohio. Lots of elevation changes, great conditions and extremely scenic. Only a par 70 but you would never know it. One of the very best courses in all of Ohio. This Michael Hurdzan masterpiece has beautiful panoramic views, and a cool variety of different holes. Stunning natural beauty unfolds before your eyes as each fairway invites you toward the green. The finishing holes on the back and front are perhaps the most awe inspiring in all of Ohio. Tee shots are launched from high atop a bluff overlooking the meandering fairways below where pot bunkers and rock outcroppings await you. Very good price for this type of quality and many great bargains are available. Not much else in Zanesville to talk about though. Four sets of tees.
ELDORADO (Michigan) : 231.779.9977 Located right off the US-131 highway in Cadillac, Michigan, an hour south of Traverse City. This 1996 design from Mat Meyer is refreshingly different from your run of the mill cookie cutter courses. Clever routing through plentiful marshes and tree covered hills. Besides the double green shared by holes 9 and 18, the course is famous for the classic Eldorados in the clubhouse. While perhaps not one of your high end resort courses that you would find in Northern Michigan, its natural relaxing environment, delightful design and reasonable price may encourage you to play here more often.
ELK RIDGE (Michigan)
FIELDSTONE(Michigan) : 248.370.9354 Located in Auburn Hill, Michigan, across the freeway from the Palace where the Detroit Pistons play. 18 championship holes designed by Arthur Hills which opened in 1998. Originally a nine hole Muny course, Arthur Hills transformed it into a fine layout which is partly wooded and partly links. Cool bridge over a road connecting the two sections portions of the property. If only all Municipalities could invest in open spaces this way.
FIRE ROCK(Ontario) : A 2004 modern industrial links golf course by Thomas McBroom, just west of London, Ontario. The Oxbow River valley gives the course superb elevations on the first and last holes of each nine with the balance of the course built upon a shallow reclaimed sand and rock quarry. The underlying terrain of the quarry holes is somewhat flat but McBroom gave it distinction by routing through the quarry digs and utilizing gravel spoil piles overgrown with wild grasses. It may not appear so, but the par 4 fourth hole has its fairway split by a large mound. Going right of the mound shortens the holes but is more hazardous, left leaves a longer approach and trying to carry the mound is not recommended.
FOREST CITY NATIONAL (Ontario)
FOREST DUNES (Michigan) 866.DUNES.MI 18 unique holes by Tom Weiskopf, about 15 minutes southwest of Grayling, Michigan. This expansive course has many golf great holes routed in natural sand dunes and an Audubon Signature Sanctuary forest of pines and ferns. Much of the course play through the solitude of the forest while others twist through the dunes in a sort of links like fashion. Weiskopf masterfully routed the holes to seamlessly fit into the environment. Much of the course has a bit of a rugged and wild feel which features dunes fashioned into waste areas surrounded and punctuated by wild grasses. Additional definition comes from the splashy, numerous and deep bunkers which are everywhere. While the terrain sports mild elevations, the utilization of every inch of elevation change coupled with natural contouring of tees, fairways and greens, makes the course feel more rolling than the underlying terrain. The par 3 ninth is completely over open water with little protection from the wind and usually features a small audience up at the clubhouse. If you fail to take enough club, you might opt for a stiff drink at the turn. The tenth hole contains a split fairway that at first glance might not appear so. Study your yardage book well. Sixteen is called "hell's acre," a brutal 231 yard par 3 over scrub brush and dunes. There is about twenty yards of an apron hidden in front of the green but anything short of that, you can forget about par and perhaps bogie. Don't ruin your round here. Seventeen offers a great chance for birdie with a short par 4 if you can stay our of the bunkers. Eighteen presents a perfect ending with a gorgeous and exciting par 5. Even though there is water behind the green, going for it in two is a good play for the long hitter because behind the green and before the water is a bunker and about ten yards of a collection area you might not be aware of. They are very proud of their greens here and rightfully so. They are large, undulated, always guarded and lightning fast and smooth. A first class full practice facility and clubhouse are at your disposal here, so take advantage of it. Four sets of tees and occasionally a fifth tee for juniors. Pricey and bring some bug spray.
FOWLER'S MILL - DYE COURSE (Ohio) 440.729.7569 18 championship holes designed by Pete Dye and a 9 hole short course (2,985 yards). Located just east Cleveland. A beautiful, natural and classic layout with excellent conditions. No gimmicks here, just great golf and no two holes alike. Although first opening in 1970, the Pete Dye design is timeless. It has the feel of a classic mature course with all the dangers and options of modern designs. A few undulations in the greens, but plenty of slope and roll. Absolutely scenic with wonderful mature trees. The Pete Dye 18 is definitely the better of the 27 but the third 9 has its own charm. Plenty of sand of water which includes a lake and numerous creeks and marshes. Wonderful natural elevation changes and two split fairways holes at 9 and 12. Present are the signature Pete Dye railroad ties and deep greenside grass hollows. Excellent starting hole to get rolling. The closing par 5 tops off the course which is a slightly downhill with a long, slow dogleg left to the elevated green. Position is key on your tee shot or you will have to lay up around the corner and have a long third to the green. Beware of the bunkers waiting on both sides to snag any misplayed shots. Fowler's Mill has been rated in various Top 100 Courses lists over the years. The only Ohio course to make the list in the old days. It still garners great respect and high points for tradition. Mat and grass range, but limited to irons. Four sets of tees.
GENEVA NATIONAL - PLAYER (Wisconsin)
GIANTS RIDGE - LEGEND (Minnesota)
GIANTS RIDGE - QUARY(Minnesota)
GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT - BEAR(Michigan) Located just outside of Traverse City and one of Jack Nicklaus's most difficult tests. Menacing pot bunkers, terraced fairways and tucked away smallish greens means you better bring your A game. It is mostly a linksy type of layout with lots of tall grasses, but there is a fair amount of wooded holes and some water. Jack designed this course when he was going through his "make it really hard" golf architecture faze. Most courses play easier than they look. Well, this one really plays harder than it looks. It has a very high slope rating and has been the undoing of many fine golfers. Nevertheless, if you keep that in mind, you can really enjoy this course. There are a lot of fantastic holes.
GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT - WOLVERINE(Michigan) Gary Player has crafted a very fun resort style course here at the Grand Traverse Resort. Turtle Creek Casino is also located just down the street. Wide fairways and large undulated greens in a nice mix of marsh holes and hilly wooded holes. Definitely a couple strokes easier than the Bear and a blast to play, but not easy by any stretch. Player seemed to put the most effort into 18 as it is far and away the craziest hole. It plays down hill from the tee which seems easy enough, but there is OB and high grass on the right, a bunker on the top of the landing area and a road down the left. There are two big bunkers dead ahead, but their distance is an illusion. 99% of golfers cannot reach them from the appropriate tees and they are really designed to challenge your second shot if you tee shot falls short. .he Resort's gleaming signature hotel is the backdrop of your approach.
THE GRANDE (Michigan) : 517.768.9494. Located on the south east side of Jackson, Michigan. This par 72, 18 hole championship course by Ray Hearn has quickly become a favorite in the Midwest since its opening in 2001. Huge fast greens with tons of undulations. Check your pin sheet because there are 8 pin positions on these greens. A spectacular layout with unique holes, especially the par 5s. This course can be very tough and then you must contend with the difficult and protected greens. Several greens are over 45 yards in depth. Plenty of risk reward shots and strategic decisions abound. Nice moderate elevation changes accented by fancy oak leaf style bunkers.
GRAND NIAGARA - RIVER(Ontario)
GRAND NIAGARA - VINEYARDS(Ontario)
GREY HAWK(Ohio) : 440.355.4844 A par 72 championship golf course located 1/2 hour west of Cleveland, Ohio. A modern masterpiece from the Von Hagge design team which first opened in August of 2004. Von Hagge demonstrates how to dramatically use a bulldozer while not being too contrived. Ten very deep lakes were needed to get the material for the extensive mounding and contouring you'll find here, but the course does not resemble a manufactured Florida style course. Only three holes play through mature trees and some young trees have been planted throughout. There is no mistaking this course, it is a modern links style course where wind is always a factor. Here you will need to contend with over 82 bunkers, rough with difficult lies and tall grasses, bordering and dissecting lakes and streams and plenty of manufactured elevation changes. The course is tough and plays longer than indicated due to many raised and plateaued greens. The difficulty increases geometrically with the wind. Every green complex presents something interesting with a fair amount of undulation as well as tricky collection areas and grassy hollows. The par 4 third hole green is completely surrounded by sand. Only play driver on holes 7,8 and 9 if you are swinging well that day. You like par 5s? You get five stunning and varied par 5s which test your power, placement and courage. You will also find five beautiful but deadly par 3s, especially the signature island green at number 11. Bring plenty of balls to his course. The course resides in a new residential community and many of the homes have yet to be built. The mass of housing being built with its accompanying white stakes, detracts from this wonderful design and compromises the actual "links" design. If you build a course with no trees to showcase a windy "links" style course, stuffing tons of houses in between the holes sort of defeats the purpose of having no trees. I'll take trees over houses any day. If you're a railroad buff and a golfer, this may be your paradise. Great modern clubhouse and grass range. Five sets of tees.
GREYSTONE (New York)
GREYWALLS (Michigan UP) Opening in 2005, this Mike DeVries is part of Marquette Golf Club, in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Already the subject of great national reviews, the course's prominent features are rock outcroppings and views of Lake Superior.
HARBORSIDE INTERNATIONAL - PORT(Illinois)
HARBORSIDE INTERNATIONAL - STARBOARD (Illinois)
HAWK'S EYE(Michigan) 231.533.4295 This 2004 John Robinson design is the sister and neighbor course of the Chief and is slightly more popular with a little different flavor. Hawk's Eye dramatically captures the essence of the "up north" feeling this part of Michigan is famous for. Located in the City of Bellaire, half way between Traverse City and Gaylord, it occupies some of the highest and most beautiful terrain in the area with many scenic views from high atop the hills and down in the valleys. The holes are framed by tall grassy slopes and ridges full with nature and heavy pines which, at times, can help keep your ball in play but at other times, forces awkward shots from hanging lies. More importantly, the ridges and slopes providing great isolation from other holes lending a sense of privacy in your own golf world. While more forgiving off the tee than the Chief with wide fairways, there remains plenty of trouble out there with gnarly grassy hollows, deep grass sided bunkers and gorges to punish poorly struck shots. Elevation is a constant element and one always seems to be teeing off down hill or approaching a elevated green. While the fairways have their fair share of undulation, they give you a decent level lie, relative to the terrain, to approach the large greens. There is some housing on the course and they are trying to sell more wooded lots. But the sparse housing is nicely set back far from the course and the homes that are built are pleasing to look at.
HAWKSHEAD (Michigan) A wonderfully different Arthur Hills design southwest of Grand Rapids first opening in 1997. The terrain consists of rolling sandy dunes dotted with clusters of trees. Arthur Hills utilizes the land to create a dunescape of waste bunkers and sneaky greens. Since the course is relatively open and near to Lake Michigan, wind can be a factor. Mr. Hills provides you the opportunity to play a few bump and run type shots, just stay out of the tall grasses bordering most holes. As usual, Mr. Hills' layout is expertly laid down upon the terrain to provide a enjoyable and challenging diversion for one taking advantage of the summer resort atmosphere of South Haven.
HAWK HOLLOW(Michigan) : 517.641.4295 Located in Bath just outside of East Lansing, Michigan. 18 championship holes designed by Jerry Mathews. It is a modern layout with plenty of water and marshes and some housing. The final two holes play around a large lake with great views of the Clubhouse. The spill over additional nine, is like some futuristic course with extreme contouring, canyons and sculpting. Its like something from Mars and very fun. Several holes are so surrounded by water and hazards that if you miss the fairway, its gone. If your ball flies the hazard to the adjacent hole, forget it. There is no way to reach it. The first 18 is the true test of golf however. Eagle Eye is also part of the massive Hawk Hollow complex.
HAWKS NEST (Ohio) : 330.435.4611 18 championship holes about an hour south of Cleveland. Without a doubt one of the finest courses in the area. This 1993 design is the brainchild of Steve Burns who once worked with the Fazio Design group. While the course lies in the in the middle of farm country, the terrain is surprisingly perfect for golf. Every hole is a pure pleasure to play. Some of the holes play through a thick forest with great elevation changes and greens protected by creeks. Some holes play like true Scottish links, with mounding, wild grasses and rolling fairways. Even though a few holes are adjacent to each other, there is an extreme usage of the rough areas to create a feeling of privacy and solitude everywhere. Overall conditions are very good to sometimes excellent. No two holes are the same. Greens are usually fast and in good condition with a good deal of undulations and tiering. Decent value. Don't inhale the natural gas leaking from the gas wells on 15 or you may get a headache. Nice grass range. Four sets of tees.
HAWKS RIDGE RESORT - TIMBER RIDGE (Ontario)
HIDDEN RIVER GOLF & CASTING CLUB(Michigan)
HIGH POINTE(Michigan) A early and unique course by Tom Doak, just west of Traverse City. What is unusual about this fine course is that the front side plays like a links style course with a fair assortment of pot bunkers, tall grasses over a good bit of elevation changes. The back maintains the elevations but cuts through a thick wooded forest of pine. All the holes are smartly designed with a fair mix of let it rip holes to ones requiring careful placement. Lots of people say it's like two courses in one and that may turn some off. The skinny is that the design is seamless in the flow of fairways, contouring and greens complexes, tying the whole thing together nicely. Several greens have large undulation requiring approach shots to the right section of the green to avoid three jacks. The par 5 eighteenth is the most unique hole on the property and is a great way to end the round. It is a 3 shot hole for sure and divided by a small lake. Your tee shot must not only be accurate in terms of distance off the tee but must also steer clear for the marsh on the left and woods on the right, all to just set up you next shot over the lake. And how much of the lake should you cut off? The more the better because the green sits on a cape snug against the same lake. While conditions are not as pristine as perhaps other high end north Michigan layouts, it's still quality with a certain rugged charm. Besides, linksy courses are supposed to be a bit raw. The price is also reasonable.
HUNTERS POINTE (Ontario) : 905.714.4659 Located in the Niagara Falls resort area of Canada. A par 72 championship modern links style golf course from Graham Cooke & Associates. If you are looking for a truly different golf experience, this is it. You cannot get closer to real links style than this. Heavy grassy rough, devious bunkering, blind shots, run-up shots, and incredibly firm greens. While the Niagara Falls area is very flat, this course was built upon excavation materials from the Niagara Falls bypass canal, giving it wonderful elevation changes. One of the most unusual images happens here as you play the course. There is nothing out there but golf course then suddenly you see the bridge of a freighter passing on the canal behind the course. Very cool. No trees and plenty of wind. You need to bring a solid ground and wind game here. Forget trying to fly high wedges in. A nice change from the Casinos and resort courses in the area.
LAKEWOODSHORES RESORT - THE GAILES(Michigan)
LAKEWOODSHORES RESORT - BLACKSHIRE(Michigan)
LEELANAU (Michigan) : 877.533.5262 18 championship holes by Gary Pulsipher playing through forest and cherry orchards in the hilly terrain north west of Traverse City, Michigan. The course gets high points for a uniqueness in appearance and design. It definitely is a course when you can enjoy a round a golf a fantastic environment. Spectacular elevations on some tee boxes where you ball drops down to winding ribbons of fairways leading to semi-pedestal greens. Many great opportunities to play your driver but beware of the few tight driving holes where a go with a driver puts a lot of risk in play.
LEGACY (Michigan) : 734.854.1101 Located north of Toledo, just across the Michigan border, convenient from the freeway, about 2 hours from Cleveland. 18 championship holes from Arthur Hills. This course opened in 1997 and is top notch. The course is growing in nicely, and the many small trees planted on the front nine are filling in. Conditions are awesome as is the layout. One gets the feeling of playing tournament golf here. Built on flat farm land, Mr. Hills moved a lot of dirt to create definition and contours. The course has a linksy feel on the from nine turning into wooded and water holes on the back. Wind is always a factor as are the grassy hollows. There is a nice island green par three at hole number 8. The entire back nine makes for a fantastic finish. 178 and 18 are tough driving holes. The par four may be the most difficult tee shot as players try to cut off too much lake. Double trouble awaits you on 18 as double lakes border your landing area.
LEGENDS ON THE NIAGARA - BATTLEFIELD(Ontario) : 866.465.3642 Par 72 championship resort style golf located in the Niagara Falls region of Canada, about a four hour ride from Cleveland. Designed by Canadian Doug Carrick on the grounds of the famous 1812 Battle of Chippawa where invading United States armed forces fought English and Canadian forces. While the grounds are very flat, the course is a modern spectacle of links style golf. The winds usually blows across the rolling expanses of waist high heather. You will need your wind shots. Huge greens and very wide fairways make for great resort play. Extensive contouring with splashy bunkers everywhere give you plenty to look at. All the tee shot are exciting with many risk reward shots to consider. Eighteen is an incredible finishing hole with water coming into play on all three of your shots.
LEGENDS ON THE NIAGARA - USSHER'S CREEK(Ontario) : 866.465.3642 Par 72 championship resort style golf located in the Niagara Falls region of Canada, and sister course to the Battlefield. Designed by famous Canadian architect Thomas McBoom, this course offers a little different look than the Battlefield. It has medium sized greens and ample fairways. The terrain is slightly rolling compared to Battlefield and many holes are cut through mature forests with creeks. The bunkers are somewhat potted. Top shelf stuff.
LINKS AT FIRESTONE FARMS(Ohio) : 330.482.7888 18 Championship quality holes located just south west of Youngstown, Ohio. Great conditions and great value make this 2003 design a worthy trip. Once again, golf master-minimalist designer Brian Huntley has struck with a fun design in a unique environment. There are two basic style holes featured at this fine layout. There are farm-links type holes where contoured fairways run up and down hillsides bordered by windy farm fields. Then you have woodland type holes which carry over marshlands through thickets of pines with cool lakes. All the holes are smartly designed requiring some management skills. Placement and club selection is always an issue and the process does not end on the tee, it continues though to the deceptively difficult green complexes. The great putting surfaces are often seriously undulated, although the locals ought to be more conscientious about repairing ball marks. Well marked with critical hazard yardages nicely on the tee box plates. Everyone talks about hole three, a two part par 5 dissected by a deep creek ravine, causing you to pause for thought on the tee. It is possible to go for it in two, but you will need two amazing shots to get to the green tucked against a lake. The smart play is to lay up on your second shot. Hole 14 exemplifies how a fine golf architect designs the hardest hole in golf to design, that is, a short par 4. Take care not to hold up the rest of course with a lengthy discussions amongst your playing partners how to play this hole. Neat mini silo as well. You want to finish in style? You got it. The par four 18th is not only beautiful, it can be deadly with water all the way down the left side. You need to bite off as much of the lake as you can. There is some housing being built on some holes, but it seems they are well back from the course and should not pose a problem. This course will require all the clubs in your bag.
LIONHEAD RESORT - LEGENDS (Ontario)
LITTLE MOUNTAIN(Ohio) : 440.358.7888 18 championship holes from the design team of Hurdzan and Fry. Located in Concord, Ohio, with easy access from I-90. You can actually see the fine clubhouse on the southern side of I-90 west of the Rt. 44 exit. First opening in the fall of 2000, this modern course has become a favorite. While only a par 70 with five par 3s and only three par 5s, the course is very challenging and beautiful. Make sure you take the par 70 and the total yardage into consideration before selecting your tees. Although part of a new residential development, very few homes actually border the course, and the ones that do, are far recessed. The course runs up and down seamless elevations changes and mounding through a very mature forest of tall trees. While decidedly Hurdzanish, this course has its own unique feel and flavor due to the wonderful terrain. Well marked. Better bring your best sand game, tons of the deepest sand-faced bunkers you will find anywhere. You may find yourself eight feet below the putting surface. More than a few holes have the left side of the fairway bordered by hazardous deep gorges. Better not hook the ball off the tee on this course. A tough but great starting par 5 playing slightly uphill with a creek coming into play. Holes 10, 13 and 18 are long par 4s that are tough to get home in two with little room for error. Two shortish par 4s tempt you're your driver at holes 8 and 11. But beware, Hurdzan's bottomless bunkers can easily turn par into easy double bogies. Fine par 3s and a great finishing hole to a pedestal green protected by a deep ravine and menacing bunkers. You really need to bust a long drive on eighteen or you will be thinking about laying up. The greens here are very fast with nice undulations. Most green complexes require you to fly one in softly since they are so heavily bunkered and usually somewhat elevated. Not much water but numerous creeks and other hazards. The conditions here are top shelf. This course is actually a par 72 for the ladies. You cannot reasonably walk this course due to the long distances between several holes. Four sets of tees.
LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY(Michigan)
LONGABERGER (Ohio) : 800.430.GOLF Located just east of Newark, Ohio, east of Columbus. This Arthur Hills gem opened in 1999 and quickly became a favorite and may be the best in Ohio. Everything here at the basket king resort is top shelf; from the service, range, clubhouse, food and conditions to tee time spacing, vistas and the course layout. This golf paradise lies in a heavily wooded, very hilly and sparsely populated area of Ohio. Every hole is a postcard with wonderful elevation changes, and challenging risk reward options. Every hole is nicely isolated from another and you get the feeling that nothing else matters here but golf. Well, golf and wicker baskets. While heavily wooded, Arthur Hills has allowed for ample landing areas for all levels of play. Make sure you get a yardage book. Tee times are very hard to come by and yes it is very expensive, over $125 per round with no discounted tee times. However, you will want to book the replay which is more than half off. It is well worth it then. Our only complaint is that there is not enough variety in the par 3s.
THE MAJESTIC AT LAKE WALDEN (Michigan) : 810.632.5235 Located in Hartland Michigan, just north of Ann Arbor and west of Detroit, conveniently off of Rt. 23. Inspiring championship holes designed by Jerry Matthews which opened in 1994. This course makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world except golf. The course has over 18 miles of cart paths. No hole is near the next. Across plains, up into the hills, around lakes and marshes. It's like spending a day in a giant nature preserve completely isolated from civilization. It is hard to find this much nature and elevation change in south east Michigan with a massive lake as the centerpiece of the course. The first two nines are considered the best, but we feel that to get the entire experience, you should play all 27 holes. On top of the outstanding topography, Matthews weaves another outstanding layout around Lake Majestic. A good assortment of tight and open holes, strategy and power holes. You begin and end with Prairie type holes bordered by tall grasses and punctuated by bunkers. But the mass of the course lies in the woods of Lake Walden where majestic pines frame your holes and the tees and greens are elevated. There are two sneaky holes up there that should be noted. Hole 11, a par 4 which tees out into the woods, looks like driver might be the play, but it is not. Hidden from the tee, the fairway disappears on the left into a bog like depression where the fairway appears to narrow. Hole 13 seems like a shortish par 4 but it presents an optical illusion. The tee shot is uphill to terraced fairway running diagonally away from you. Its easy to get lulled into hitting toward the green straight away and find yourself coming up short and you ball bounding down thirty feet into the schnitzel with no view of the green. The best bet is to aim somewhat left of center and if you make the fairway, you will have a wedge or short iron in. The par 4 twenty-sixth hole appears to be a more daunting tee shot than it really is. A massive marsh must be carried, but in reality, the fairway is no problem and the green is reachable for the longest hitters. Full practice facility.
THE MARSHES (Ontario)
MAUMEE BAY (Ohio) : 419.836.9009 Located on the western side of Toledo, Ohio. This 1991 Arthur Hills creation is part of the Ohio State Park system and offers much more than just golf. Maumee sports championship quality conditions from tee to green and is a fine attempt at an Irish Links style course. While the underlying terrain is flat and there are virtually no trees, the course is mounded up to provide swales, hollows and bumps. Many semi-plateau greens which are made more difficult with sneaky undulations. In addition, all holes are bordered by heavy tall grass and water comes into dangerous play on eleven holes. Keeping it out of the rough is very important if you want to score. The bunkering is on the conservative side so don't expect to find ladders to get you in and out. But by far the most dominate feature on this course is the wind which is always blowing. Bring your ground and knock down game. When we played, it was foggy with a slight rain and very windy, perfect. The final finishing holes from 14 onward are just awesome and tough. All in all, this is a unique and very enjoyable golfing experience which won't break your bank. Good warm up facility and range.
MISTWOOD (Michigan) : Just west of Traverse City, this 27 hole complex is golf and nothing else but golf. An expansive course laid out over tons of acres. The first 18, White/Blue was designed by Jerry Matthews in 1993 and Ray Hearn added the third nine. Perhaps the best combination is Blue/Red, but its all good and they fit together very nicely. Each nine offers something a little different. All offer a wonderful mix of wooded holes and prairie type holes playing over hills and through marshes and woods. Decent price for northern Michigan and usually not very crowded. It can provide a very nice sense of serenity under the clear blue sky.
MOOSE RIDGE(Michigan) : 248.446.9030 Located on the far western side of Detroit, conveniently off of Rt. 23. This is no par 71 Rocky and Bullwinkle course, despite the name. There are no actual moose here, but you can almost image there could be in the heavily wooded ridges and marsh expanses. This 2001 Ray Hearn designed course features uniqueness in hole design and appearance. From the very beginning you are inundated with naturally gorgeous hole after hole that often require thoughtful direction in you aim and club selection. Well positioned tee shots can lead to scoring situations. Tee shots to less than optimal sections of the fairway may be safer but often lead to bogies. It may take more than one crack at this course to figure out the wonderful nuances. Even from the forward tees, you are looking at a high slope rating. Five sets of tees.
NEMACOLIN RESORT - MYSTIC ROCK(Pennsylvania)
NEW ALBANY GOLF LINKS(Ohio) : (614) 855-8532 Located just north east of Columbus in New Albany. Golf architect Barry Serafin takes his design skills to a links style course. Strategy abounds here with extensive and thoughtful bunkering which one needs to constantly negotiate. There is a fair amount of housing but the homes are sufficiently withdrawn from this premier design. Serafin moves a lot of dirt to provide additional strategy and aesthetics with very large fescue covered mounds surrounding wonderfully shaped fairways. The par 4 ninth looks like there is no room to hit your driver with the fairway running out into a large lake on the right. There is a sizable landing zone just behind the left fairway bunkers, so swing away. The opposite is true on the par 4 twelfth. It looks like you might be able to squeeze a drive into the landing zone but your best option is to play for the 150 stake. Awaiting the long hitter is water, a massive clam shaped bunker, gnarly grassy hollows and uneven lies. A decent lie is a must for this approach. Unlike a "classic" links like test, here you will also find plentiful ponds, dissecting greenside creeks and an unexpected number of holes with trees cover. Despite the liberties taken with the name "links" the course is unique and highly enjoyable and you will find the holes getting more beautiful and more sophisticated as you go through your round. Eighteen is a fine downhill finishing hole with a huge tree guarding the green from tee shots that have hung to far to the right. Full practice facilities.
NIGHTMARE (Michigan) First opened in 2003, this par 75 Jeff Gorney design between Saginaw and Gaylord Michigan is the sister course to its neighbor, the Dream, also with very easy access from I-75. While the name implies this course is penal to the point where golfers can't wait to wake up from their rounds, nothing could be further from the truth. This outstanding modern design is a pleasure to play and quit appealing to the eye. It differs from the Dream since more of the course is determined by design and not so much by nature and it is also a tad more open and forgiving. The Nightmare occupies what some have said is the perfect topography for a golf course. Ample elevations without being to extreme. None of this driving from a high tee box to a flat fairway and green stuff. The terrain is seamless. The consensus is that the Nightmare is ever so slightly more popular than the Dream. Modern bunkering and routing makes you think about different lines of play and there are ample risk reward opportunities. When we played the course, the nines were reverse and we started from hole 10. This is perhaps the best way to play the course since the finish is very strong on the front. Notable features include a double green shared by holes 7 and 17 and perhaps two of Michigan's most beautiful par fives at holes 6 and 8. No matter what name they give this place, it will still be and exciting course to play.
NORTHSTAR (Ohio) : (740) 524-4653 Located just north of Columbus, minutes off I-71. This 2007 design is brought to you by the talents of John Cook. Super wide fairways are contrasted against the stark non-descript background of farm lands. The resort style course is shot friendly and the bunkering is not as menacing as they might appear and the good sized greens are easily accessible. Besides the built in length and some interesting routing on longer holes, wind can play a major role since there is little to stop it from blowing over the north Columbus farms. At least for now when there is little housing. The early holes are solid but beginning with the par 3 eighth, a tough 235 yard from the tips over marshes, the course finally begins to reveal a quality of design and the terrain turns far more favorable. The back is characterized by holes routed through wooded elevations with steams, ponds and marsh expanses that must be negotiated. The final three holes are a great way to close out your round and will leave you with a very good impression. There are several forced carries on this course where carry yardage and exit points are essential. Note the par 5 third and sixteenth, both very fine holes, but require exacting brave second shots if you intend to shorten the hole instead of lying up. Many approaches have been dumped in these hazards so be sure you have enough club. The signature finishing hole, a stunning par 4 flowing down and around a marsh expanse requires a directional accurate tee shot. The landing area from the tee appears far more inviting and wider than it really is. Even the best well struck drives can find the marsh which sneaks up the right side of the landing zone and balls tend to kick toward the marsh. Keep your final tee shot to the left of the bunkers and finish in style.
NORTHVILLE HILLS(Michigan) : 734.667.4653 Located in the western Detroit suburbia sprawl, near the I-96 and I-275 interchange. A gorgeous 2001 Arnold Palmer signature design that provides a wonderful variety of holes with sophisticated greens. While it resides in an upscale housing development and home are present on almost every hole, they are set back a bit and you do not feel crowded. The course has a nice flow as it meanders up and down the Northville rolling topography. Water and marshes are present on at least thirteen holes with natural areas that provide a buffer between the homes and the course. The first hole starts off with a cool dual silo look to the par 4 where the play is to carry the inside bunkers which sets up the mentality of the course. There are often target bunkers or trees that you should played around or over. Poor lines of play can lead your ball into one of the many natural areas, some of them hidden from the tee. The par 4 ninth can be a good betting hole where your second shot must carry the largest lake. It looks like the best play it to hammer your tee shot down the left but a slight fade to the plentiful fairway on the right is a better option. Four sets of tees.
OGLEBAY - PALMER COURSE (West Virginia) : (800) 752-9436 Located in Wheeling West Virginia, this classy resort sports a superb Palmer gem. This par 71 championship course has an unusual combination of five par 3s and five par 5s. A morning fog leaves a lot of moisture on the course everyday, keeping it in great shape, even in drought-like conditions. Opening in 2000, this American Links style course has holes bordered by tall grasses, dangerous drop offs, plenty of mature trees and greens accentuated by sculpted bunkers. While the resort lies in a mountainous region, the heavy elevation changes are carefully tamed by Arnold Palmer's signature touch, giving the course a great deal of playability. With tons of bunkers, waving fairways and fast tiered and sloped greens, this course offers great challenges to those who dare. The high grasses will make you think twice about club selection. Numerous risk and reward options. This fantastic track is accompanied by awesome views, particularly the basin view, where from a height, you can simultaneously see six gorgeous holes. Oglebay also has an enjoyable and very tough Robert Trent Jones course which opened in 1970. The Jones course offers heavily wooded and hilly holes which would be a fine secondary test. At Oglebay, the Palmer course is the one you simply must play and play again. It seems the best rates are accompanied by an overnight package, but you do not need to stay at the resort to play the courses.
OLDE STONEWALL (Pennsylvania) : 724.752.4653 Located in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh and off of the PA Turnpike. With green fees of $135 and no discount times, you might ask, is a course in the middle mountainous pseudo-Appalachia worth it? Well, it is spectacular but the green fee is hard to swallow. The layout rivals any course within a days drive and aesthetically, it is the most beautiful course you will find in the Midwest that does not border a Great Lake. The owner did not bother to quarry 100 pound rocks, he opted to install thousands of two-ton limestone boulders around the club house, cart paths, tee boxes, water falls and some greens. On top of that, the club house resembles a medieval castle. Golf-wizes Hurdzan and Fry fashioned a mighty layout the takes you down through a forest valley to the river flats then up into the mountains and down again. Heavily contoured and bunkered, the course also sports wild grasses that will gobble up stray tee shots and twist hosels. While only a par 70, you will not notice it. We hate back to back par 3s but we did not mind them at holes 14 and 15. These par 3s are perhaps the most beautiful and exciting you will ever see. The course offers plenty opportunities to be brave, but will punishes those playing recklessly. Be sure you check out the view from the back tees on hole 16. Probably the only knock on this course is that the finishing hole is just a touch less spectacular than the rest of the course. Yes this price is high, but if you want a rare golf experience that you can brag about to your friends for years, this is it.
THE ORCHARDS(Michigan) : 810.786.7200 Located in Washington, Michigan, just north of Metro Detroit. 18 Championship holes designed by Rees Jones and voted in 1997 by Golf Digest to the top 75 you can play list. Stunning layout. A truly unique course which features joined fairways on 6 holes. Year in and year out, this is one of the top rated courses in the Greater Detroit area. It has a nice mix of marshes and hill holes.
ORCHARD AT EGG HARBOR(Wisconsin)
OSPREY VALLEY - HEATHLANDS(Ontario) : T his 1993 design by Doug Carrick, it is the oldest of the Osprey Valley courses and perhaps the hardest. The course has a Scottish links feel with the manufactured tall mounding and heather grasses hard against fairways.
OSPREY VALLEY - HOOT(Ontario) : Tall grasses bordering vast waste areas in this Caroline like design. First opened in 2001 in a former gravel quarry. Designed by Doug Carrick. Without any housing, just golf.
OSPREY VALLEY - TOOT(Ontario) : Like the Hoot, the name does not lend well to this type of course, it is no some comical rendition. Rather, it is a great design with outstanding conditions. Known as the most playable of the three Osprey Valley courses, it still has a lot of bite while also a very enjoyable and fair layout. It is a hybrid of American links and parkland with large rolling fairways with nice elevation changes and a bit of forgiveness. Some excellent short par 4s where club selection is critical as well as great par 3s. Doug Carrick did an excellent job defining landing areas and targets with delightfully place bunkers. The par 5 finale is just awesome. A great hole to bust a big tee shot by cutting off as much of the carry bunkers as you can. But it is very difficult to get home in two and the wise will lay up short of the water fronted green to the right which offers the best angle in. It could be said that Osprey Valley and its three courses would meet with approval for even the most demanding long weekend golf trip.
PEEK N' PEAK RESORT - UPPER COURSE(New York)
PILGRIM'S RUN (Michigan) : 888.533.7742 Located north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. An 18 hole par 73 championship golf course. That is right, par 73. If you like a golf course full of natural beauty on over 400 acres of hilly woodlands, marshes and lakes with pristine conditions and an almost holy golf atmosphere, this is it. Continuing the unexplainable phenomenon of awesome Michigan golf, this is worth the Pilgrimage. A decent price and super cheap replays. Opening in 1998, the course immediately rose to very high national accolades. Possessing a very challenging and varied assortment of holes with very undulated greens, you will not want to play this course only once. The final four holes can absolutely destroy you or make you known as invincible amongst your foursome. You must think you way around this course.
THE QUARRY(Ohio) : (330) 488-3178. Located just outside of Canton, Ohio, a few minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2007, Ohio golf architect Brian Huntley finished perhaps his finest design where every hole gets the full upscale treatment. When you drive car up into the hills toward the course, you notice immediately that the driving range is nicer than many golf courses. A huge and inviting clubhouse tells you this place is meant to attract golfers from around the Midwest. As your cart climbs up the steep incline to the first tee, the wonder of the layout is revealed. From the heights of the first tee you can see several of the holes rising and falling across a valley of trees, waste areas, cattail filled marshes and a large lake. You really have to look hard for evidence of the century old quarry this course occupies because everything looks so natural and grown in. Below the mature trees sitting high on ridges are the signature rock outcroppings which look like they have been there for a thousand years. Many holes are routed down and through the high walled valleys providing a good sense of solitude and separation of the holes. Launching a tee shot from 100 feet above a river shaped fairway that flows around a ravine is a sight to behold. Thankfully, most of the resort style wide fairways provide alternative targets to advance the ball. A good number of tee boxes play from a height so the course plays shorter than the listed yardage. Be sure to take enough club when you come upon the elevated greens. Huntley likes to reward course management and strategy and followers of his philosophy will fair well here. It is hard to imagine these kind of elevation changed in north east Ohio but it does play fair and easier than it looks. Sometimes with "mountain golf" one can tire of all the up and down holes repeating all day. That won't happen here where there is a nice balance of elevations with more level holes. The green complexes and protective bunkering are top notch and reveal a pinch of the Arthur Hills influence on Mr. Huntley. You can expect fast greens but conservatively sloped surfaces. Crazy tiering just would not work with this design. The third hole is the only blind tee shot which passes through a chute opening to a wide left to right fairway. There is hidden O.B. on both sides of this fairway so be sure you take the correct line. The fourth hole is one of the very best short par 4s in the area. It is drivable, even with a three wood, if you can play the tee shot up into the hill to the right of the bunker guarding the entrance to the green. Then the ball might just careen down the slope onto the green for an eagle try or at least a kick in birdie. Be warned that the fringes of this green are shaved down and the surface slopes mostly from front to back which rejects poor chips and pitches. Most holes set up nicely for a little fade, especially the par 5 eleventh. This cape hole has a retention lake running all down the left side and your tee shot can reach the trouble unless you cut your tee shot on the inside of the trees guarding the right side of the fairway. Any hook will find the hazard. The back tee of the par 3 seventeenth is the highest point on the course and besides the spectacular views of the course below, you can also see downtown Canton peeking just over the horizon. Listen, we could go on and on about how stunning the visuals are and how well designed the holes are. More than a handful are outright world class spectacular. You won't find many courses where a missed shot is so heartbreaking. Not because the golf course is penal, but because you feel the despair of a lost opportunity and a certain distastefulness your errant shot leaves on such a breathtaking canvas. Not to worry, there are ample chances to be the hero and make it right again. The par 4 eighteenth plays harder than it looks, especially with a little wind coming in off the pond protecting the green. Great food and service are standard here, so hang around for a beer on the veranda and take in the enjoyable view overlooking the pond fronted 18th green.
QUAIL RIDGE(Michigan) : 616.676.2000 Located just east of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This 1999 Ray Hearn gem is laid out over a sprawling parcel of land full of marshes and good sized rolling hills. This American Links design still sports a good bit of trees Decent price with championship conditions. Many varieties of holes with a special emphasis on the very interesting par 5s here.
RAVINES(Michigan) : 269.857.1615 A fine Arnold Palmer design just south east of Grand Rapid which first opened in 1999. Fist class all the way but we feel the course was a misnamed. Most of the holes are bordered by tall grasses and patches of timber accented by marshes and sandy expanses. Most of the course is relatively flat except for about three holes that actually have ravines in them. Just don't come here and expect the course to play all around ravines and valleys or you will be disappointed. Remember that it is more like an American Links course and with that in mind, you can enjoy the experience without being disappointed. It truly is a fine course with a great design, but too many players come away expecting something else. I suppose we were guilty of that the first time as well. Beware of the par 5 ninth. Its sneaky tough with water coming into play almost on every shot. It easy to rack up a big number here and ruin your round. Play smart. Another excellent and sophisticated par 5 awaits the end of your round in classic Palmer-the-gambler style.
REBEL CREEK(Ontario) : Course architect Alan Chud brings a top notch design to Waterloo Ontario. The club house of this 2002 design sits high upon a hill as the course unwinds down and away through the Oxbow River valley. While the holes are in close proximity to each other, there are extreme efforts made to separate them with the use of heavy mounding carved from the hillsides. Most fairways are wide with some roll but the rough can be penal since it usually yields a very uneven lie. The bunkering is big, splashy and in your face. Mature large sentinel trees guard the line of play and scrape the sky. Chud uses contouring and over 62 bunkers to give some mystery to the flow of the holes but the course is eminently fair. Some might say this course is a bit over the top and too contrived but this doesn't pretend to be your traditional layout. Chud does a fine job of mixing up the holes while sewing them seamless together. Holes 17 and 18 require laser like tee shots and approaches if you hope to save your round. You have been warned.
RED HAWK (Michigan) : (989) 362-0800 Located in the marsh laden rolling hills of eastern Michigan, about an hour north of Saginaw. Arthur Hills crafts a championship caliber course with wonderful views and interesting routing. The course contains about a 50-50 mix of hilly holes and flat ones. The flatter holes generally have outstanding design features which demand placement and strategy from tee to green. The hilly holes posses the same design attributes but have the addition of elevations and ridges to contend with. You start nice enough with a solid par 4 but the second hole immediately confronts you with a complex short par 4. You can try to drive the green but there is little room to miss. Then again, laying up with a long iron or wood brings the bunkers, tall grasses and lumber into play. Arthur Hills often gives you interesting options and varying lines of play to keep you on your toes. Design features include a few semi blind shots, false fronts, large fairways and alternate landing zones. The multitude of bunkers are semi-high grass sided with flat sand bottoms. The terrain contains a nice blend of tall grasses, marshes, fairways bordering ridges through thick pine, birch and oak forests. Perhaps one of the most beautiful par 5s in the Midwest lies here at hole 16. A stunning hole where you need three outstanding shots just to bring home par. Your tee shot has to favor the right side of the fairway to avoid a large bunker and trees on the left. If you can't pull that off, you may not be able to carry the large marsh to the approach landing zone. You need to advance your second shot far enough into the approach landing zone so that you can use a high lofted wedge to stick this smallish and severely pedestalled green.
RED HAWK RUN (Ohio) : (419) 894-4653 Located just east of Findlay, Ohio. This 1999 farmland masterpiece from Arthur Hills harkens to Scottish links courses. You are driving along nondescript Ohio farmlands and boom, there is this course, surrounded by a barrier of mounds and high heather. For pan flat Ohio, this course sports wonderfully surprising, albeit mild, elevations changes which are sufficient to really make the course interesting. Mr. Hills has splendidly routed fairways which twist and turn in and out of sight. Many bunkers are steep sided with heavy grass which lend to the Scottish feel. You are often asked to challenge a corner bunker or sneak between others. With the course being mostly Spartan with trees and a little housing in the distance, your main competitor will likely be the wind and your own mind. This course requires careful deliberations on many tee shots as well as approaches over pesky creeks. Beware the par 5s as they can be confounding. Fortified and pedestalled greens will scoff at soft shots hit into a stiff wind leaving your ball in a difficult collection areas. Being sort of out of the way also means many specials and a reasonable rate. We really liked a unique yardage feature here. They place a black and white stake exactly 200 yards away from a large rock on the tee box. From there, you can figure your needed carry from any tee. The rest of the course is also very well marked. Great grass range.
THE ROCK (Ontario)
ROCK HOLLOW(Indiana) : 765.473.6100. Located in Peru, Indiana, west of Ft. Wayne. 18 Championship holes with many marshes and water hazards. Awesome conditions and an awesome 1994 layout brought to you by Tim Liddy. This is your prototypical modern course that offer many unique style holes. The majority of the course lies in a giant quarry that has been expertly utilized to yield nice elevation changes and boulders to accent the course. New highways makes this course accessible from the north using Indiana highway 31 and from the west utilizing Indiana highway 24, but it is still in the middle of no-where-land Indiana. But being in the middle of no where equals a great price for this type of course for golfers making the trip. Golf Digest give this course 4 1/2 stars. Four sets of tees.
ROYAL AMERICAN GOLF LINKS (Ohio) : (765) 473-6100. A wonderful par 72 just north of Columbus about ten minutes from the I-71 exit in Sunbury. A good value with not a single weak hole plus it is easily walkable. The slope rating, even from the tips, is in the mid 120s so don't be shy about the length. The course is very fair and provides many opportunities to score if you can keep it in the fairway. No housing on the course but some crossing powerlines that slightly detract from an otherwise pleasing look. The underlying terrain is flat but when Michael Hurdzan applies his architectural magic, you receive a wonderful design though perhaps not as flashy as some of his other big named projects. As the name implies, this is an American Links design and not really a true "links" course. The entire complex does not occupy a whole lot of acreage, but the design really makes the best of things. The generally ample and carefully undulated fairways are often bordered by marshy creeks and lots of wild grassy areas. There are also a good number of holes with thick trees cover and there is plenty water on this course. The bunkering gives nice definition to the layout without being to penal and as usual, Hurdzan's greens and greens complexes are outstanding. The third hole, a shortish par 4, can easily set you back a few holes. From the elevated tee it is visually intimidating because all you see is carry over a large lake to a tight fairway hemmed in by mature trees. There really is no place to miss so hit a precise hybrid or fairway wood here giving yourself enough club to carry the water. The 5th hole is memorable for a nice effort at a bunker resembling the "church pews." The ninth hole is such a great hole it almost deserves to be the 18th. It is one of the four exciting par fives. It's initial landing area is rather wide but you need some depth because the real trouble is the second shot. A large lake occupies the left side of the fairway which most be crossed at some point to approach the green. You can shorten your approach if you deliver a solid fairway wood into the landing area which gets wider as it nears the green or lay up well short to but to a tighter fairway. Pick your poison. The 18th is an excellent finishing hole in its own right. The well designed par 4 hole finishing hole requires a long tee shot to a fairly wide fairway or your looking at over 200 yards to a protected green. Perhaps that is not so bad, but thirty yards short of the green is a dissecting marsh which will put pressure on your long game. All things said, you will have a good time on this fine course which won't beat you up to much.
ROYAL NIAGARA (Ontario)
SEVEN BRIDGES (Illinois)
SHALE CREEK (Ohio) : (330) 723-8774 18 hole par 71 semi-private course in the golf booming Cleveland outskirts of Medina. First opened in the fall of 2006 and conditions are coming along very nicely. Brian Huntley designed this American Links style course to utilize Rocky River and Shale Creeks as the defining natural characteristics. While not Fazio flashy, Huntley usually gives you a solid modern course which is what you have here. Surrounding the course is farmland and a new housing development which for the most part does not encroach on the course but for 2 holes. The terrain has mostly modest elevation changes with the most elevations coming from the Rocky River and Shale Creek basins. Where the terrain was less than interesting, Huntley went to town with some of his most sophisticated contouring yet. Many young trees have been added to supplement the few trees that remain and it will be some time until they become factors. Wind is always a factor here and this course plays harder than it looks. The starting par 4 will play tough for those not warmed up since a big retention lake down the right stands ready to eat all slices. It can be reach with the driver right over the right side bunker, but a more prudent approach would be to take the trouble out of the hole with a fairway metal to about 100 yards. Either way, if you stay out of the water, you can definitely score here. The par 4 seventh hole is a great example of the wonderful nuances this course possesses that will keep the low handicapper very interested. The approach on the seventh dictated by the pin position of this protected green. A right pin demands an approach from the left side of the fairway and a left pin from the right, in order to score well. However, choosing to favor one side of the fairway on your tee shot is not so easy as there is a pot bunker guarding the middle which force the errant golfer into a approach which is either longer, from the rough, the wrong side of the fairway or heaven forbid, all three. You might not appreciate these feature the first time you play but local knowledge can yield lower scores. Bunkering and routing force you to decide on power or finesse for most of your shots.
SHANTY CREEK RESORT - CEDAR RIVER (Michigan) The highest regarded course of the four golf courses at the Shanty Creek resort and one of the top tracks in Northern Michigan. Filed with boundless nature and upscale signature Tom Weiskopf treatment. This course has it all, the views, the design features and the nuances. Expansive greens and sophisticated green complexes. One of the most notable feature is that the tee shot selected landing areas tend to reward or feed your ball to a better position. Sometimes the best line you see from the tee is not necessarily the best line. Local knowledge and repeat play are really needed to benefit from very nice feature. The best stretch of holes is 12,13 and 14. The par four 12th is a scenic downhill tee shot to a green tucked away behind a grove of trees to the left. The par four 13th is the most unique hole on the course with many options to play. You can lay up short to the left avoid all the trouble but the most exciting option is the carry the bunkers and ridge to the right of the sentinel tree and your ball will gently roll down to the green. The par three 14th is an Irish style hole where your view is partial obstructed by tall grasses and hillside nobs. There is more room than it seems. 18 is a marvelous par 5 where three solid shots are needed to score on this par 5. Your tee shot should favor the right side as the fairway kicks your ball back to a great center fairway position. A tee shot that is even a hint left of the fairway brings the hidden gorge into play which dissects the fairway. Your second shot is blind up over a ridge. Be cautious of your distance because a pond begins to encroach upon the fairway about 100 yards out.
SHANTY CREEK RESORT - THE LEGEND(Michigan) About equal distance from Traverse City, Petorskey and Gaylord Michigan. Arnold Palmer put together a strong test of mountain golf in the big Northern Michigan resort of Shanty Creek. Shanty Creek boast 4 courses. The course plays through very dense forests with challenging elevation changes. Many holes are expertly cut into the valleys between hillsides giving a great sense of privacy. Right from the git-go you have a fantastic downhill par five. It is easily reachable in two, but you have to hit the left side of the fairway in order to go for green which is protected from the right by trees and bunkers. Even though many tee boxes are elevated, you often find yourself playing a second shot to an elevated green which tends to make the course longer and harder than you think. Outstanding par 3s and par 5s. The are some beautiful homes tucked way up in the wooded hillsides and there are some great lake views on the front side. The eighteenth is a great Palmer go for broke hole, beware of the semi false front.
SHEPHERD'S HOLLOW(Michigan) : 248.922.0300. Located in the north-west Detroit Michigan suburb of Clarkston. 27 holes built on land that is leased from a large Jesuit monastery which sits concealed on the highest ground of the course, here, Arthur Hills has crafted another masterpiece. Tall pine forests, cool lakes and rolling ribbons of fairway punctuated by strategic bunkers define this course. All three regulation par 36 nines are equally fantastic. The first 18 seems to be the most popular and strongest of the holes. However, the third nine is perhaps the most scenic and fun with slightly more complex greens. Some say the third nine is slightly "tricked-up" but we found it every bit as good as the rest of the course and a great way the end the day. If you play all 27, you will see an immense variety of holes. Strategic holes, power holes, penal holes, risk-reward holes, elevation holes, water holes and so forth. You must play all 27 holes to have the complete experience. The price is a little steep because of the course's proximity to major metropolitan Detroit. However, the "holy" feeling you receive from these hallowed grounds is well worth the price. Five sets of tees.
ST. IVES RESORT- ST. IVES(Michigan) : 800.972.4837. Located halfway between Traverse City and Grand Rapids. This 1996 design by Jerry Matthews once was considered the best public course in Michigan. While its luster has been eclipsed by the likes of Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbour and even its sister course, Tullymore, St. Ives' first course is truly a treat to play. It plays though mature forests with large marshes and a good deal of elevation changes. There are a few holes out here where you really have to play smart. Your brain power is tested right off the bat on the first hole where you are tempted to drive your ball over the ridge of the fairway toward the green but the smart play is to leave it on the upper level. Hole nine is inviting enough from the tee but the steep hillside on the right gobbles up shots steered away from the marsh. Fourteen looks like a par five but it is not. You absolutely need to get every inch out of the fairway without going into the marsh since your approach is the toughest and most terrifying on the course. Fifteen is the most interesting hole where anything from a short iron to driver can be utilized off the tee. We opted for the three wood and that worked well.
ST. IVES RESORT - TULLYMORE(Michigan) : 800.972.4837. Tullymore is special. 2001 brought architect Jim Engh design skills to the Great Lakes region. You know when you play one of his courses. Signature clam shell bunkering, greenside water hazards, hidden pins and multiple lines of play will have your camera snapping away. Even though the course is much flatter than the Matthews' St. Ives course, it has vaster expanses of marshes and Engh moved more earth to create the experience. Every tee shot will inspire you and you're often left with a desire to re-tee and try a different line. The line of play is often dictated by lone a "sentinel" tree or a fairway bunker. The line you choose directly affects the difficulty of your approach to a protected green tucked behind a pond, mound or bunker. Five par 5s and five par 3s and all are outstanding and varied.
STONEHEDGE - NORTH(Michigan) : 616.731.2300. Located a few mile northwest from Battlecreek Michigan in Augusta. There are actually five course that make up the Gull Lake View Resort, but the Stonehedge South and North Courses are the best. The other courses are fine themselves, but a bit short. Great golf packages and sweet accommodations. The North course is perhaps the most fun of the resort courses. Great elevation changes and natural settings that remind you of a northern Michigan resort. The North course has more an American links feel with less tree cover, but plenty of tall grasses to gobble up and stray shots. It also has the unusual combination of six par 4s, six par 3s and six par 5s. Fantastic finishing hole on this sporty track.
STONEHEDGE - SOUTH(Michigan) : 616.731.2300. Par 72 resort course across the street from the Stonehedge North Course. This gem is the toughest of all the Gull Lake View courses and perhaps the best, certainly the toughest. Great elevation changes, very heavy wood cover, and some tight fairways. One of our crew actually scored a hole-in-one on the 16th hole in 2004. The South course also sports many 3-foot high walls made entirely of small stones on the perimeter of many holes. Hence the "stonehedge."
STONE RIDGE(Ohio) : 419.353.2582. A par 72 championship course in Bowling Green, just south of Toledo. While built on flat farm land, Arthur Hills moved a lot of ground on this gem. Most holes are expertly framed by very large mounds, topped with club twisting heather grasses, which gently dissolve down into wide fairways. There are homes on perhaps half the holes, but they are somewhat standoff-ish. Very few holes have trees but there are six large lakes in this American-links style course. When the wind blows, as it usually does, you will need your wind shots here. Lightning quick medium-sized greens which are protected with classic Arthur Hill green complexes. Many greens are pedestalled requiring a extra club in. Plenty of great holes, but 5, 9 and 14 are very memorable. The par four cape hole at 18 is as dangerous as a poisonous snake, give it plenty of latitude. Unlike your typical great new course going private, this private course actually went public. With a housing development surrounding this course, you do not get a golfing in the wilderness experience here. However, if you want a country club feel on an outstanding championship layout, this is it.
TARTAN EAST (Ohio) : (614) 855-8600. Formerly a private country club now open to public play on the north east side of Columbus in New Albany. A great Arthur Hills design that incorporates the abundant natural environment of plentiful trees, cool lakes and greenside creeks. Even though the underlying terrain has very modest elevations, it is unencumbered by housing. Then Arthur Hills takes the canvas and paints in his contoured fairways, signature bunkering and mini grassy hollows. He even utilized a little Pete Dye with some soft terraced fairways. The entire complex has a serious upscale feel with plentiful practice amenities. Watch out on the par 5 eighteenth because the fairways severely narrows with a lake on the right of the green at about 100 yards out making at an extremely difficult to get home in two. Best to lay up and use a sure wedge in.
THORNAPPLE POINTE(Michigan) : 616.554.4747. Located on the west side of Grand Rapids, Michigan, this par 72, 18 hole championship course by William Newcomb not be confused with Thornapple Creek in Kalamazoo. Often referred to, semi-affectionately, as plane-trains-and-automobiles because of an airport nearby, a train track running through the middle of the course and a highway visible from several holes. Don't let this moniker fool you. This course is a wonderful mix of American links style holes bordered by tall grasses, several holes bordering a winding Thornapple River and rolling wooded hills. So much great scenery and fun here you won't notice the occasional airplane or train. Good rates and a good replay rate. One of the Grand Rapids best courses. GPS on the carts. Many improvements, particularly the bunkering, completed in 2003.
THOROUGHBRED (Michigan) : 800.344.0040. Promoted as a horse back riding and golf resort where the riding trails actually weaver around the course and for good reason. This 1993 Arthur Hills course is stretched out over a vast forest of dunes and marshes in west Michigan, north west of Grand Rapids. Every hole is secluded from another and you might actually see more horseback riders than other golfers. Outstanding green complexes with good undulations are often protected by marshes, pedestalled or uniquely tucked into hollows. Hole number two is perhaps the hardest par 4 you will see in the Midwest. The landing area runs away from the tee diagonally to the left up to a ridge where you are supposed to hit your second shot from. The difficulty is that you have to carry your tee shot to the landing area which runs away from you nearly perpendicularly and it is easy to hit your tee shot through the fairway into the wood. Furthermore, shots left or short end up in the marsh. The heart wants to cut off as much of the hole as possible, but it may well be better to take three shots and try for a one putt par if you feel the butterflies. The hole is brutal in regulation and doubly so if you have to take a drop. The par 5 eighteens wraps around a large marsh-laden lake to a beautifully protected green. It is one of the best finishing holes on the entire Great Lakes Trail, not only in shot value but also in its sheer beauty.
THOUSAND OAKS (Michigan) : 616.447.7750. Located just northeast of Grand Rapids Michigan, this beautiful 1999 Rees Jones masterpiece is like an unfolding art gallery, sporting a fantastic utilization of heavily wooded and hilly terrain that has been made into a very playable course. Many opportunities to be heroic and strategies abound. Virtually no water or lakes, but with all the hills, elevations, oaks and bunkers, you might thankful the water is missing. This course has well deserved its high national acclaim and holds you mesmerized from hole one until the finish. This is one of the best courses in the western lower Michigan area that sports several other top notch courses. Jones has crafter great par 5s here, particularly the 9th, which rises to a very elevated green hanging against the wooded hillside.
TREETOPS RESORT - MASTERPIECE(Michigan)
TREETOPS RESORT -SIGNATURE(Michigan)
TREETOPS RESORT - PREMIER(Michigan)
TREETOPS RESORT - TRADITION(Michigan)
THUNDERHILL(Ohio) : 440.298.3474. 18 hole championship course in Madison, Ohio, between Cleveland and Erie. Easy access from I-90. This was an old fish hatchery that was then turned into an impossible and poorly-conditioned golf course years ago. In 1997, the course underwent extensive renovations to make it one of the best golf course and golf experience in Ohio. It's in the middle of wilderness, no buildings or houses visible from the course with a good deal of solitude on each hole as you play among the tall pines and weeping willows. The course is very difficult, so even low handicappers will find themselves on the middle tees. Don't go there if you can't carry a tee shot 200 yards. Back tees must be just for show, they are way too long. Tons of trouble if you miss the first cut of rough. Bring lots of extra balls, there are about 100 small ponds and lakes that come into play on all but one hole. Must be played at least twice to overcome the immense intimidation each hole holds out to you. It's not as hard as it looks. The first time is torture the second is pleasure. Many shot strategies on most holes. Shot values are extremely high. Every hole has at least several sand traps. Even in a heavy downpour, the course drains great. Every hole could be the signature hole at any course in Ohio. Nice elevation changes and great all around design with rolling and flowing fairways. Too many favorite holes and every one has a different feel or theme. The par 5 eighth is notable for several reasons. A nice slightly downhill tees shot to set up a cool second shot over a big lake to a protected landing area. Plus a "skunk bunker" of black sand and heather to cost you at least two shots to get out of. Near the green is a plaque to commemorate a skunk that once dug up the course. The course finishes with a beautiful par 3 over water at 16 with circus undulations in the green. The par 4 seventeenth has to be one of the most exciting tee shot in Ohio with its big downhill slight dogleg right around a giant tree. An extremely undulated green makes a birdie very rewarding. Awesome finishing par 5 at the eighteenth, third shot over a big lake or you can go for it in two if your tee shot is long enough. Spectacular scenery all around with tall pines and lots of signature weeping willows providing a backdrop curtain effect. It seems the course has been here for seventy-five years, yet it is very modern. Price is reasonable considering the high quality. Replay is a great value and strongly recommended. Grass range. Six sets of tees.
WASHINGTON COUNTY (Wisconsin)
WHIRLPOOL(Ontario) : 800.563.4397. Located near the Canadian Casinos of Niagara Falls. Originally built in 1950 by the famous architect Stanley Thompson, this classic course remains extremely popular. It has undergone extensive renovations keeping conditions up to the expectations of the modern golfer. Unexpected nice natural elevations for Niagara, mature trees, modern bunkering and a traditional hole designs mesh with a country club feel. This course is very popular with the Resort crowds.
WHISTLE BEAR (Ontario)
WHISTLING STRAITS RESORT - IRISH(Wisconsin)
WHISTLING STRAITS RESORT - STRAITS (Wisconsin) Hosting the 2005 US Open and having a ton of international acclaim doesn't hurt a courses rating does it? This Pete Dye modern masterpiece actually harkens back to old Scottish cliff-side courses hard against the ocean yet has every modern design technique incorporated. Truly a masterpiece.
WHITE HAWK (Indiana)
WILD BLUFF(Michigan UP) : A very solid layout suitable for tournaments which is known for the phenomenal views of White Fish bay off of Lake Superior. Its a championship layout with medium width fairways and subtle green complexes that occasionally feature the illusion of a false front. The main feature, obviously, is the bluff which rises from Lake Superior over a hundred feet. There are a few straight away hole here but when your tee or green has a view of Lake Superior, any plainness in the layout is quickly made up by the view. You tee off the bluff down to the low areas only three times, but several other greens hang hard against the bluff. Except for teeing off from atop the bluff, the course is relatively flat with pleasant but conservative contouring. The par 5 ninth might be our favorite. The front of the green is guarded by a large gorge and the back of the green seems to disappear into the infinity of Lake Superior. The course finishes strong over the last four holes. Everyone loves the par 4 eighteen where you can really go for your long drive of the day by teeing off from high on the bluff toward the club house and lake. The course is part of the Bay Mills Indian reservation and resort and they can package a casino and golf deal for you which is very reasonable.
WILDERNESS AT FORTUNE BAY(Minnesota)
YARROW(Michigan) : 800.563.4397. Located just north of Battle Creek, Michigan, this 2002 Ray Hearn, par 72 masterpiece sports jaw dropping holes on 300 acres of pure and original beauty. Lots of exciting elevation changes and plenty of thought needs to go into your tee shots. Most tee shots require you to navigate a bunker, mound, wild spaces or carefully placed tree. The wind, the elevations, mature pine forests and the wild fescue, all factor in at some point. Thankfully, the fairways are somewhat wide and forgiving and you have plenty tee boxes to chose from. The greens, like those at the Grande in Jackson, Michigan, are very large but very fast and difficult. Many greens are hanging and being in the wrong spot of the green will surely yield a 3-putt. The opening par 5 will blow you away and get you into the proper mind set for the day. The par four 14th contains another of Hearn's signature crazy hole with an expansive split fairway. Take some time to linger on the veranda over looking 18 following your round, it is very beautiful.
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