Destination US-131: From St. Ives to Brutus
Norm Browning and Bob Doerr first brought resort style residences and private golf to the heart of Mecosta County at Canadian Lakes. Then they brought upscale public golf to St. Ives Golf Club, an award winner for design and service. And now they might have topped even themselves. James J. Engh of Colorado, one of the nation's hottest golf course architects, has been busy creating another upscale public golf facility for Browning and Doerr. This one is called Tullymore, which conjures up visions of the overseas beginnings of the grand game of golf, and the design will not disappoint.
Dramatic bunkering, subtle green settings and a wide variety of green sizes and shapes make up the 7,000-yard layout just a few miles off U.S. 131. St. Ives is enough of a reason to get off at Stanwood and follow the signs, but Tullymore will make it a must stop for 18 more reasons. It's stunning, and it's less than 40 minutes drive from downtown Grand Rapids.
Engh, by the way, is the architect who in 1999 landed a two-year-old course, The Sanctuary of Sedalia, Colo., among Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses. His award-winning touch is evident at Tullymore, and it makes Mecosta County the perfect starting point for the second half of our 131 trek.
By the way, don't leave the county without a stop in Big Rapids and Katke Golf Course hard by the campus of Ferris State University. It's affordable and offers a quality golf experience.
Continuing north, golf courses are few and far between in Lake and Osceola counties. The Rose on 18 Mile Rd. in Leroy is worth a stop though. Wexford County is next on our trail, and here the golf turns plentiful for the rest of the ride.
A good place to stop is Eldorado as you roll into Cadillac. The name is great, the golf is a challenge around some significant hazards and its simply hard to resist the green expanse that catches your eye as you cruise near in your Cadillac.
McGuire's Resort, of course, is close at hand. It has been a regular golf stop for north country visitors for years, and the folks who run the place are friendly. Emerald Vale Golf Club is one of the newer stops. It's modern, priced fair and slopes at 130, which means a challenge. It's a pretty place, too. Oh, and check out Grandview. It's a good place to play.
Grand Traverse County is next. Take a left and you can stay a while here. The golf boom did a big boom in this neck of the woods. Grand Traverse Resort offers what may be the most popular course in Northern Michigan, The Bear. The Jack Nicklaus-designed course remains home to the Michigan Open, and it seems to improve with age. Golfers who visit this region, must wrestle with the Bear. Of course, the resort also offers Spruce Run, a solid golf experience, and the new Gary Player-designed, The Wolverine, a playable and pleasant layout.
High Pointe Golf Club is just a few minutes from the resort and Acme, by the way. It's a quality public golf course with some challenging design features. If you head east from that area back to U.S. 131, you can venture East a ways and run into the Gaylord area. It's a bit of a jaunt, but worth the trip to visit an area that boasts 22 area golf courses. That's right, 22.
It has everything from the resort tracks at Treetops to cozy Gaylord Country Club. It's a can't miss destination. Try The Natural, Marsh Ridge, Otsego Club, The Pines at Michaywe, Black Bear and the list can go on and on. You may never leave.
Back on 131, and heading north, a detour west is not a bad idea either. Check out Mistwood in Lake Ann, a 27-hole facility. Price and condition are great. Also, the Leelanau Peninsula offers the King's Challenge courses. The Arnold Palmer Co. course is outstanding, and The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms is a new place that is a jewel waiting to be found. But let's get back on track, headed north.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Club is a regular stop near Kewadin, Antrim Dells is worth a look in Ellsworth and Charlevoix, which requires a detour of sorts, has Charlevoix Country Club, an outstanding facility, and one of my all-time favorites, Belvedere.
Belvedere, a classic design and favorite stop for golf legends Walter Hagen and Tom Watson, offers limited public play, but it's worth any effort you make to get on it.
Boyne USA, of course, is the dominant player up this way. Boyne, in fact, is credited with starting the resort boom for golf in Michigan.
Boyne Mountain at Boyne Falls offers the wonderful Alpine course and tough Monument layout, and Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs offers The Heather, the Donald Ross Memorial and a new Art Hills course. My favorite is the Heather, though the others are all worth multiple visits.
Bay Harbor, of course, is affiliated with Boyne. The 27-hole jewel on Lake Michigan in the middle of a high-profile residential development is spectacular and very expensive. Most who play it consider it worth the money though.
My favorite resort, and the one place the Johnson family always stops when playing golf up north, is Shanty Creek Resort.
The Legend course, a Palmer design, is a must play. And that makes the new Tom Weiskopf-designed Cedar River layout an absolute must play. The friendliest resort in the north has four courses in all, so you really never have to leave.
If you do, a new place called The Chief is across the street. Reports are positive. Emmet County is our last section of county on the trip. It stretches to Mackinaw City and is rich in golf. Boyne Highlands is there, as Bay Harbor, but don't forget Little Traverse Bay near Petoskey. It's a grand course with some of the best vistas in all of Michigan.
A good place to finish this trip could well be Hidden River Golf & Casting Club in Brutus. Head north on U.S. 31 from U.S. 131 in Petoskey to find it. You will find some fine golf, a dandy restaurant and even fly fishing if you so desire. It was our last stop two years ago. We smiled all the way home.
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