My annual sojourn to Michigan to play golf with my good friend, Dan, has been well documented by now. I haven’t missed it for a few summers, and it yet again sets the stage for discussing the best public golf options in Grand Rapids.
Of course, our loyal Golfer’s Authority readers have plenty of say in what goes into these guides too. Without them, this nationwide prospectus wouldn’t exist.
But I digress. Dan and I visited Grand Rapids on one of our first treks and it didn’t disappoint. I haven’t been back for a while, but from what I hear, golf has become even more popular in the last couple years. #thankscovid.
After much deliberation, and plenty of correspondence with our readers, here are the consensus picks for the best public tracks in Grand Rapids.
The Meadows Course at Grand Valley State University
Like me, Dan is a big fan of courses affiliated with universities. When he told me about the Meadows Course at Grand Valley State University, we had to go play. We weren’t disappointed.
Ranked “#7 in the Top 25 College Courses,” and having received 4.5 stars from Golf Digest, this course incorporates both elements of links and target golf. You can certainly play shots along the ground, but there are a number of forced carries as well.
The greens are protected by wetlands and deep bunkers. Your approach shots need to be precise.
The Meadows is always in great shape, and the green fees are reasonable.
Dan and I can’t wait to play here again.
Macatawa Golf Club
Ray Hearn designed this beautiful track set on the shores of Lake Michigan.
This is a big golf course. The greens are expansive, undulating, and fast. A round without a three-putt is an accomplishment. From tee to green, water hazards and plenty of bunkers come into play. The need to be avoided if you’re going to score.
What golfers appreciate most about Macatawa is how much the course changes day to day, depending on conditions. You’ll never play the same course twice.
Quail Ridge Golf Club
You’ll find Quail Ridge Golf Club in the charming community of Ada.
The course opened in 1998 with the mantra of “a great golf course with classic lines that’s playable for golfers of all levels.” Mission accomplished in my eyes.
This layout clearly defines where you’re supposed to hit and how to play each hole.
The good news is that you have plenty of room to work with off the tee. If you’re driving it well, you can shorten some of the holes.
There aren’t many forced carries and you can run the ball into most greens. Perfect for higher handicappers and those that don’t hit the ball as far.
Challenging, yet playable for everyone, a day at Quail Ridge is always one well spent.
Cedar Chase Golf Club
Cedar Chase is a Scottish-style links layout. Designed by W. Bruce Matthews III, the course features generous bent grass fairways, fescue-strewn bunkers, and large, undulating greens.
The par threes here are remarkable. They vary in yardage, and a couple play over water. Not to mention they’re some of the most picturesque holes in the entire state. Don’t let the views distract you though, par on the short holes doesn’t come easy.
When you finish your round, settle in for a cold brew and a meal in the clubhouse. The elevated view overlooks the entire property and makes for a most wonderful setting.
Indian Trails Golf Course
Dan knows I’m a fan of old, traditional layouts that stand the test of time. That’s exactly what Indian Trails is. Having played here once, I can’t wait to get back and see it again.
Dating clear back to 1928, this course isn’t long by modern standards. But it’s full of subtle quirks and intricacies that make for a most compelling round.
True to the era, the greens are small. Most are sloped from back to front. Staying below the hole is essential.
The fairways are narrow too. Mature trees make playing from the rough difficult.
While this might not be the longest course in the world, it will find a way to test you.
Wallinwood Springs Golf Club
Wallinwood Springs is a tale of two nines. The front nine is windswept and wide open. On the back nine, you’re asked to play more strategically and keep the ball in play. The fairways are narrow and tree lined.
One the back, you’ll be treated to an island green and a peninsula fairway. Be sure to snap a picture, but make sure you hit it straight.
Course conditions are second to none. You won’t find any bad lies in the fairways and the greens are as true as you’ll see anywhere.
The Wood Grille is worth checking out too. The views overlooking the course are stupendous and the food is always fresh and plentiful.
Wallinwood Springs delivers on every level.
The Pines Golf Course
The suburb of Wyoming is home to the Pines Golf Course.
This is another classic layout with narrow fairways lined by mature fir trees. While length is an asset here, the real test is keeping the ball in play so you have clear shots into the greens.
The course isn’t long. Less than 5,600 yards in fact. If you have a good day driving the ball, you’ll be left with short clubs for approach shots and chances to score.
The Pines is a charming round of golf. The facility has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Not to mention, you can’t beat the price.
The Mines Golf Course
Just a few minutes from downtown Grand Rapids sits The Mines Golf Club.
The club opened in 2005 and was named the “10th Best New Course Under $75” by Golf Digest.
Built on an old gypsum mine, remnants of years passed can still be witnessed today. The course’s topography features dramatic elevation changes and meandering creeks that used to feed directly to the mine. Club selection and course management are paramount to get around here unscathed.
The layout is modern target golf. Forced carries are found throughout. The greens are protected by native grasslands and penal bunkers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tee options to accommodate golfers of all ability levels.
One of the best values in the area, don’t miss a chance to play The Mines Golf Club.
Kaufman Golf Course
If you’re in the mood to test your game, look no further than Kaufman Golf Course at Palmer Park.
Given four stars by Golf Digest and open since 1965, the course’s rolling fairways, undulating greens, and multiple hazards test you from the first tee to the 18th green.
Holes move in both directions and being able to move the ball both ways is an advantage.
It’s all about golf at Kaufman. You won’t find any fancy trappings or state-of-the-art bells and whistles. Simply come play, enjoy yourself, and add them up at the end.
This is my kind of golf, and I think you’ll enjoy yourself too.
This aptly named track is built on the banks of the Thornapple River. The backdrop is stunning.
The layout traverses rolling hills, more than 7,000 feet of river frontage, through hardwood forests, and alongside three enchanting wetlands. Don’t be surprised if abundant wildlife makes itself known during your round.
There’s plenty of room off the tee, so bang away at driver. The greens are undulating and the hole locations tricky. Being short-sided makes saving par difficult.
The hospitality is first-rate too. The staff are attentive and see to it that everyone enjoys themselves.
Thornapple Pointe is one of Dan’s favorite courses. He’s not the only one.
Out of all the golf trips I take every year, my boondoggle with Dan is among my favorites. Sure, his company is great, but the courses we play each summer are what makes the trip memorable.
That’s certainly the case about the tracks in and around Grand Rapids. Our readers seem to agree. The amount of positive things they had to say about the courses was compelling. Thank you to all that contributed.
If you have your own thoughts you’d like to contribute, we always love hearing from you in the comments.