Best Public Golf Courses in Western Michigan

Maybe you’ve read some of our other course guides about golf in Michigan.  If so, you know that my best friend from college, Dan, lives in the wonderful community of Ann Arbor.  Every year, I make a trip out to see him and play some golf.  We try to visit a different region of the state every year.

Believe it or not, I just returned from my annual sojourn, and we tackled a few public tracks in Michigan’s western haunts. 

That’s why I felt it appropriate to come up with a course guide before the snow flies and snow mobiles replace golf carts.  I couldn’t do this all on my own, so I reached out to our readers like I always do. 

Below are the consensus picks.

1

The Crown Golf Club

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One of our first stops was in Traverse City.  Neither of us had ever been to Traverse City but Dan had heard there was some quality golf to be found.

The Crown Golf Club was our first round and didn’t disappoint. 

Located just ten minutes from downtown, this track makes its way over rolling hills and is generous off the tee.  We both were able to hit driver comfortably on most holes. 

The real story begins on the second shot, however.  Greens are well protected by bunkers and lakes.  And when the wind blows, which it certainly did for us, you’d best pick the right club if you want to putt for birdie. 

We had a late lunch in Mulligan’s Pub and Grill after our round.  The locals recommended any of the burgers on the menu, so of course that was my choice.  Dan being Dan, however, opted for a personalized pesto pizza topped with all kinds of rabbit food I can’t quite recall.  He’s a dirty hippy. 

Regardless, both our round and post-round meals were top-shelf.  We will most certainly be back.

2

Elmbrook Golf Course

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Our next stop was Elmbrook Golf Course.  Dan knows I love a good muni, and that’s exactly what Elmbrook turned out to be. 

An old school layout, the course isn’t overly long.  Set atop of a large hill, the views of both East and West Grand Traverse Bays are breathtaking. 

The Head Pro told us they do north of 250 rounds a day in the summer.  With that said, Dan and I were both surprised with how well conditioned the course was.

At just $42 with a cart, this was one of the best values we found on our trip.

3

Shanty Creek Resort – Cedar River Course

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There are a bevy of courses at Shanty Creek Resort.  We didn’t have time to play them all, but the Cedar River Course was a memorable experience.

Designed by Tom Weiskopf, it’s no surprise Golfweek called this course one of “America’s Top 100 Resort Courses”. 

Carved out of dense hardwood forest, you have to be accurate off the tee.  Just ask Dan.  He had to buy more golf balls at the turn. 

The greens were some of the best we played all trip.  I was fortunate enough to hit it close a number of times and made a bunch of putts.  Suffice it to say Dan was digging in his wallet after the round.

The resort proper was stupendous as well.  The amenities were first-class and the level of service unparalleled. 

Not the cheapest round of golf, but well worth it in my book.

4

Shanty Creek Resort – The Legend Course

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Dan knows that Arnold Palmer is my favorite golfer of all-time.  That’s why there was no way we were going to miss a chance to play Shanty Creek’s Legend Course.

Designed by the King, this track asks for your very best ball striking.  Elevation chances, doglegs, and plenty of hazards are waiting around every corner.  Unfortunately, I found a couple and Dan got some of his money back.

The views of Lake Bellaire were stunning and made what otherwise would have been a frustrating day, more than enjoyable. Having received “4.5 Stars” from Golf Digest, don’t miss a chance to play this Palmer gem.

5

Gull Lake View – Stoatin Brae Course

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Just like Shanty Creek, there are a number of courses at Gull Lake View.  Dan has played most of them, but his favorite is the Stoatin Brae Course. 

Unlike a lot of courses in this part of the country, this one is wide-open.  But it’s also windswept.  Solid ball striking and proper club selection are critical.  I’d almost classify this track as a links course because of it’s firm and fast conditions. 

A fun layout that stands out as a little different from other courses in the area, I can see why Dan likes this track so much.

6

The Golf Club at Harbor Shores

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While my favorite golfer of all-time is Arnold Palmer, Dan’s is Jack Nicklaus.  That’s why it was only fair that we played Harbor Shores on our trip.

A Nicklaus design, Harbor Shores has hosted the Senior PGA Championship on a number of occasions. 

The course is set on the shores of Lake Michigan and reminds me a lot of Whistling Straights.  Native sand dunes and seaside grasses eat up errant shots.  Keeping it on the green stuff is paramount. 

A mix of both long and short holes make this track interesting.  While some holes are brutally difficult, others afford a chance for birdie if you execute the proper shots.

One thing is certain above all else though, the wind can flat out blow. 

Even though our scores weren’t the best, Dan and I both enjoyed our experience at Harbor Shores.

7

Macatawa Golf Club

Macatawa Golf Club
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Also set on the shores of Lake Michigan is Macatawa Golf Club.

Even though Dan and I didn’t have the chance to play this track, our readers unanimously insisted it’s one of the best in the western part of the state. 

A wide-open design and large green complexes make Macatawa playable for everyone.  A common theme, the wind can blow here too, however. 

If you just want to get some practice in, the facilities at Macatawa are world-class.

8

Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club

Pilgrim's Run Golf Club
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We don’t have enough room to list all the accolades and awards Pilgrim’s Run has received.  Suffice it to say this is one of the finest upscale daily fee facilities in all of Michigan.

Dan and I played here near the end of our trip, and we may have well saved the best for last. 

Set on more than 400 acres, you’ll feel far away from civilization on this track that wanders through a majestic forest. 

One thing we both appreciated about this course was the bunkering.  While some bunkers come into play and can prove penal, others are situated in ways that frame the hole and guide you where you’re supposed to hit it. 

The greens are pure too.  If you get the speed dialed in, you can have a banner day.

You can bet, I’ll be back to Pilgrim’s Run again.

9

Bucks Run Golf Club

Bucks Run Golf Club
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Mt. Pleasant, Michigan is quite the spot.  Dan has vacationed here with his family and had high remarks for Bucks Run.  So much so that he wanted me to see it with my own eyes. 

Set on more than 290 acres, this is a big golf course.  The greens, features, and hazards are sizable.  There’s just no other way to put it. 

With Mount Pleasant in the background, the course meanders through natural wetlands and wooded areas.  Shimmering lakes are beautiful as well, but also present a real challenge. 

The bent grass playing surfaces are some of the very best I’ve ever played on.  There’s not a blade of grass out of place on the entire property. 

The Putting Island was a kick in the pants too.  Set in the middle of a lake, this 18-hole putting course features rough, bunkers, and some crazy holes.  Dan had played it before, so he had to give me a couple of shots.  He still won.  I won’t get hustled like that again any time soon.

A wonderful property that we both can’t wait to get back to, play Bucks Run if you have the chance.

10

Indian Trails Golf Course

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We didn’t have a chance to get to Indian Trails in the city of Grand Rapids, but our readers insisted this place is a hidden gem. 

This isn’t a long golf course, but it’s the perfect place if you’re a beginner, or just want to play a casual round with the family.  It’s less than 5,000 yards and plays to a par of 65. 

This course is right in front of you.  No blind shots and not many doglegs.  Bunkers and hazards are few and far between. 

The dress code is laxed here to.  Come as you are and enjoy yourself.  That’s what the game is all about at the end of the day.

Conclusion

When Dan moved to Michigan right after college, I thought he was crazy.  I knew the hunting and fishing were world-class, but those pursuits don’t interest him.  I also knew that the winters were cold and long, and that the mosquitoes were the size of birds in the summer.

That was then and this is now.  Having been to Michigan a number of times since then, I’ve fallen in love myself.  Am I about to move there full-time?  No.  The winters in Scottsdale are pretty wonderful.  However, the people are as nice as you’ll find anywhere and there’s no shortage of top-notch golf to be found.

Thank you to Dan for having me out, and of course to all our readers that contributed their thoughts to make this guide possible.  If you have more you’d like to add, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 

Paul Liberatore
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Paul Liberatore

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