If you’ve lived in the state of Michigan, or have spent any significant amount of time here, you know the rivalry between those that live in the central and southern parts of the state, and those that live up north. Especially on the Upper Peninsula. These folks are affectionately called Yoopers. They refer to their fellow citizens as trolls, because they live under the Mackinac Bridge (to the south). If you want to know more about the inner workings of this relationship, I’ll leave it up to you to do some of your own research. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers.
One thing I do know is that Northern Michigan is home to some great golf though. Even though the playing season is short, people are diehard about the game they love so much.
It’s with their help that we’ve compiled a guide of the best courses you can play.
Forest Dunes Golf Club
Not only is Forest Dunes one of the finest golf courses in Northern Michigan, it’s one of the best in the entire state.
Located in the town of Roscommon, this Tom Weiskopf design has both elements of links and target golf. Many holes are bordered by expansive waste bunkers that give you the sense you’re on a windswept links. However, there are some forced carries that garner your attention too.
What golfers love most about Forest Dunes is the opportunity for risk and reward, and its excellent condition. The greens are notoriously fast, and the diversity of holes is flat out fun to play.
One of the North’s best, I’d highly recommend a round at Forest Dunes.
The Masterpiece Course at Treetops Resort
When the Masterpiece Course opened in 1987, it was named the “Second-Best Course in the Country” by Golf Digest.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., this track is built into deep, mountainous ravines. Plenty of elevation change makes for some interesting shots and difficult club selection.
The course is narrow in spots, so keeping it in play is key to scoring well.
Expect to hit every bag in your bag as well. Variety of both short and long holes makes the Masterpiece Course one that’s both fun and enjoyable.
The Legend Course at Shanty Creek Resorts
My favorite designer of all-time, Arnold Palmer, gets all the credit for designing the outstanding Legend Course at Shanty Creek Resorts.
As you might expect from a Palmer design, this track is meant for people to have fun, while being a proper test for better players.
There’s no shortage of risk and reward either. The par fives in particular offer both feast and famine. If you go for the green in two, you’d better be precise.
Don’t forget to bring your camera either. The Legend Course affords views of Lake Bellaire and the distant coastline that are to die for.
Black Lake Golf Club
Locals say that there are 18 signature holes at Black Lake Golf Club.
This Rees Jones design was the creation of nature, not man. That’s evidenced by the abundant wildlife and lack of infrastructure that’s visible from the course.
Most golfers agree that, along with the tremendous layout, the relaxing atmosphere and friendly service is a step above here. There’s never a sense of being in a hurry.
One of the best kept secrets you’ll find anywhere, Black Lake is well worth the trip.
The Bear Golf Course at Grand Traverse Resort
It’s only fitting that this course is called the Bear. It was designed by the Golden Bear himself.
When it opened in 1985, this track was ranked the “18th Toughest Course in America” by Golf Digest. It still has plenty of teeth today.
A big design, this track is full of tiered fairways, undulating greens, mounds, and penal pot bunkers. You have to be on your game to play well.
In addition to being a great test, this course is always in great shape. Don’t expect many bad lies.
If you’re looking for a stern test in a beautiful setting, this is the spot in Northern Michigan.
The Heather Course at Boyne Highlands Resort
The Heather Course at Boyne Highlands was named “National Course of the Year” in 2019. Though I haven’t played here personally, I’m told it’s more than deserving of such high praise.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened in 1966, this course has a history rich in prestigious championships and great players.
The layout is traditional, yet timeless. Tree lined fairways, slick greens, and a number of hazards render this course fun, fair, and challenging.
If you’re a fan of classic courses, great service, and a fair price, the Heather Course is for you.
The Tribute Course at Otsego Resort
The Tribute Course sits on 1,100 acres of pristine ground in the heart of the Sturgeon River Valley.
Here, you can expect breathtaking views, dramatic elevation changes, and excellent playing conditions during the summer.
Even though this golf course looks intimidating in pictures, it’s actually quite playable for golfers of all abilities. That’s due in large part to six sets of tees that vary greatly in yardage.
Pay attention when you get to the putting surfaces though. They’re undulating and being on the wrong side of the hole can present some real problems.
Another premier resort course in the northern part of the state, the Tribute comes highly recommended.
Mountain Ridge Course at Crystal Mountain Resort
A true resort course in every sense of the word, the Mountain Ridge Course is downright fun to play for everyone.
Set amongst the towering pines of the Northern Michigan forest, this course will have you feeling like you’re a long way from civilization.
During your round, expect to see whitetail deer, bald eagles, and a host of other native creatures.
If you’re looking for a user-friendly, mountain golf experience, you’ve come to the right place at Mountain Ridge Golf Course.
Cedar River Course at Shanty Creek Resorts
The Cedar River Course is another gem designed by Tom Weiskopf.
Set on what was a glacier thousands of years ago, this course is classic Northwoods golf today.
The fairways are narrow and tree lined. Green complexes are subtle and can be tricky to read. Locals say it’s important to take note of putting against the mountain or away from it.
The other courses at Shanty Creek aren’t anything to dismiss either. This is the perfect place for a stay and play vacation.
Tullymore Golf Course
Tullymore was named the “#1 Upscale Public Course in America” by Golf Digest when it opened in 2002.
Golfers of all skill levels revere Tullymore for it’s outstanding condition and it’s unique layout. The course meanders through more than 800 acres of woods, meadows, and wetlands.
The green complexes are some of the most diverse you’ll find anywhere too. Some are small, while others are large and sloped.
Another unique feature about Tullymore is the presence of five par threes, and five par fives. These are the holes that can make or break your round.
Regardless of what side of the Mackinac Bridge you call home or decide to visit, one thing is certain: there’s plenty of great golf to satisfy any appetite.
Even though the playing season is condensed, golfers take full advantage during the warm months. I recommend you do too.
To all of our readers that made this guide possible, I extend my sincerest thanks. I couldn’t do it alone.