Upper Peninsula Golf
By Art McCafferty
Ah, the Upper Peninsula; just saying the words conjures up visions of beautiful land, clean air and water. Our Upper Peninsula has 150 waterfalls, white water streams and rivers, 30 varieties of wild orchids, 19 state parks, 40 lighthouses, skiing with runs of over 6,000 ft and 600' vertical and, of late, plenty of golf courses.
The U.P. has been undergoing a golf course building boom. Since last we wrote about it in 1996, new courses include the spectacular Timber Stone, a terrific course by Jerry Matthews; Wild Bluff, the latest and arguably the greatest from designer, Mike Husby; Boulder Creek designed by Mike Cameron and The Homestead from Don Childs. In addition, new nines are being added at Newberry, Indian Lake, Tri Valley and Chocolay Downs. These new courses are joining Pine Grove, The Rock at Woodmoor, The Jewel, Hessel Ridge, Kincheloe Memorial and Red Fox Run in establishing a golf course inventory that is notable.
The U.P. has also gotten more market savvy in promoting its industry. The golf courses, area golf associations and convention and tourism bureaus are starting to organize themselves much as they are in the L.P. They already have one of the best golf discount programs around. If you are a member of an Upper Peninsula Golf Association course or club, you can play golf at any other Upper Peninsula participating course at half price.
On the CVB side, Dan Donarski of the Sault Ste Marie CVB has been very active in promoting U.P. golf in print and also by sponsoring two programs on Golfing the Great Lakes television show. He has supported programs with Hessel Ridge, The Rock and this year, Wild Bluff.
The Marquette group is getting together with the leadership of Stacy Dillard. Stacy has just taken over as the new director of the group and hopes to be more aggressive in their advertising next year. The Mackinaw area folks are working with Brad Jones of the Mackinaw City CVB to package their courses. They have developed a new promotional piece and attended many of the winter consumer shows. The U.P. courses have traditionally received a lot of play from Wisconsin and Canada. They are now trying to entice more golfers from the L.P. to their fairways and greens.
Golfers that prepare each year for that special getaway golf vacation with their buddies might want to look at the Upper Peninsula. You will find very little sticker shock in the U.P., in fact, just the reverse. True, you will have to have a great set of wheels to get around up there, but the portages are scenic and relatively quick in this sparsely settled area. Your U.P. journey can begin anywhere: at the gateways of St. Ignace and Mackinac Island by boat or the Mackinac Bridge from the south, through the city of Sault Ste.Marie from the North and East and through Ironwood from the West. "So come away with me Lucille in our Merry Oldsmobile," as we visit each of the Upper Peninsula counties and look at their golf.
Pictured Rocks brought a second nine on board in 1996. As you might expect from this picturesque northern city, the course is quite beautiful. It has gently rolling fairways with excellent greens. The new nine is shorter and hillier. Everyone seems to like the new 14th as it has yielded its share of holes in one during its short tenure.
This is a wide open course that has a creek that comes into play on a number of the holes: the especially challenging 6th, a par 3 with a 190 yard carry and the 9th, where you cross the water twice.
Jenn Kangas, formerly on the LPGA Tour and now with the Futures Tour was born and raised in L'Anse. She attended MSU and then joined the tours. Art Allert, the GM for the past 13 years says, "we see her a couple of times a year, and that's about it. We are very proud of her"
L'Anse gets some out of town play, but relies on a golf crazy town that appreciates its short summers.
This is a fine little resort course on Drummond Island. It is a fairly flat course that offers little trouble. Enjoy Kincheloe Memorial Golf Course. This is a long course that features large greens with a lot of undulation. It is a former military course that received tender loving care, before it was turned over to private hands. The course has had continuous improvements made and it is a delight to play.
John Andrews is the Director of Golf and he is doing a fine job in attracting new play to the course. He feels, and rightfully so, that it is one of the best courses in the U.P.
Munoscong recently became an 18-hole golf course. It has plenty of water hazards and traps throughout the course. The 15th hole, a monster par 5 will give you all you can handle. Also, the par 3, 183-yard 16th hole has a pond that protects its green.
Sault Ste. Marie is one of the finer courses in the area. Jerry Matthews has renovated quite a few of the holes in the last couple of years and it has really made a difference. Nestled by the water, it is not unusual to look up from a shot and see an ore boat going by.
The clubhouse and pro shop have both been upgraded to allow for a more pleasant experience. In addition, the Kewadin Casino is right down the road. If that money you won on a golf bet is burning a hole in your pocket, you have another place to go.
Tanglewood has always been a very difficult course to play, due to its ubiquitous marshlands. Still a young course, it is starting to mature, and has become a little friendlier.
The Rock at Drummond Island is one of Michigan's finest courses. Designed by Harry Bowers, The Rock is hard to get to, but worth the effort. Todd Gary is the Director of Golf and Craig Hoffman is the superintendent.
Recently, they have built some new cottages on the course and they rent from $100-150 per-night, per-bedroom.
The restaurant, Bayside, has John DaLoia, a graduate of the prestigious NECI, as its chef. It has attracted quite a reputation for dining from golfers as well as the boaters that tie up at the Woodmoor dock. Dan Sirrine, the very competent GM of the past six years, has left the resort to return to the Marriott Corporation.
Wild Bluff is golf course designer Mike Husby's latest masterpiece. It is a spectacular course resting on a bluff overlooking the St. Mary's River. The addition of Wild Bluff and the new Timber Stone, have greatly enhanced a growing Upper Peninsula golf inventory. (We featured Wild Bluff in our April-May issue of the Michigan Golfer michigangolfer.com)
Wild Bluff will give your game all you can handle. Husby, a student of Jerry Matthews and of late, Art Hills, has done his homework well. The greenscapes are the best he has done yet and the Wild Bluff adds much to his growing list of golf course designs. Husby, who designed Marsh Ridge and The Loon, has also added new nines to Newberry and Indian Lake.
Judy Mason serves as the host professional at Wild Bluff, while also doubling up during the week as the lead woman instructor at the Treetops golf school. She formerly worked at Marsh Ridge and Boyne USA before taking on the position at Wild Bluff.
There are a number of ponds that come to play on this course. They have added an alternate nine-hole layout for your second time around.
The course has fairly flat greens, tree lined fairways, a number of doglegs and a plentiful supply of traps. There seems to be water everywhere on the back nine. John Lancour, Director of Golf and a recent grad of the FSU golf program, seems to think that the 9th hole is their most challenging and enjoyable hole. "It is a 428 yard par 4 hole with an uphill green. When the wind is in your face it is really tough to get there on two shots."
A delightful course with a great view of Little Bay De Noc. The course is somewhat demanding due to its narrow tree-lined fairways and the steep ravines that Days River has cut through the property. There are times you will wish you had a safety belt on your cart.
Highland Golf Club is a nice little course that lies West of Escanaba and East of that greatly expanding casino, Chip In's Island Resort. The course is on flat ground, rather short, which allows many players the opportunity to walk it. It is a nice place to spend a couple of hours lowering your score.
A wide open course with small greens, flat terrain and a number of tree-lined fairways.
The Terrance Bluff complex includes an excellent course with some great views, a 71 room lodging property that is stunningly located on the shores of Little Bay de Noc, a spectacular restaurant and the amenities for hosting conferences.
The golf course, which is located on a high bluff across the road from the lodging and conference area, is relatively flat and friendly. It is definitely one you will want to play while in the area. Tony Pouliot and his family run the business. Ask about their golf packages, starting from $49.
Tri Valley has had a lot of change since we were last there. They have added a new nine and now have 18 holes that play to 6000 yards. Tom Ranquette and owner John Lucas were the designers of the course and they also added watered fairways, a driving range and a new grill to the place.
Lewis Klein is the GM, chef and source of entertainment at the club and he raves about their fish dinners.
Oak Crest is a wonderful course. The first things that strike you are the beautiful trees that frame most of the fairways. The clubhouse is a spectacular building that really showcases the community. It is not as hilly as it looks when you first pull into the parking lot. Holes 10 and 18 have some elevation, but the rest of the course is relatively flat. According to Fred Flink, golf course manager, Golf Digest just gave the course three stars for the value of its play.
This is the course that all the north people talk about. Until Timber Stone and Wild Bluff came along, this was the course in the Upper Peninsula. Built in 1902, it features spectacular vistas, towering trees lining the fairways and a course that has everything to match your game. Jim and Jamie Nimmo manage a well-appointed pro shop and the golf course. They winter at a course in South Carolina and summer here. They love the Michigan North Country. Rich Victorson is the superintendent.
Eagle Mountain is a great old club with a new name. The course features rolling terrain is modestly trapped and is in magnificent shape. New number 906-774-0003.
One of the best if not the best course in the Upper Peninsula. Designed by Jerry Matthews, the course has some fascinating holes. There is a double green on 7 and 12, a nifty par four at No.11, the "Treetops" hole at No.17 where they have seven tees to hit from, and the 18th, a massive par 5, 625-yard hole that drops down the mountain. Matthews took the ubiquitous boulders on the course and blended them into the course design. It is just a spectacular course.
Ron Whitten, of Golf Digest, indicated that, "the par 3 17th, where the twisting turning cart path has been dubbed 'Lombard Street,' is an Upper Peninsula alpine treat." It was rated No. 3 "Best New Upscale Public Course 1998" by Golf Digest Magazine.
There is plenty of room at the resort, as it houses a lot of skiers in the wintertime. It is an attractive facility in an attractive setting. The golf professional is Susie Fox.
Mike and Joe Cameron have designed a new course for the Bessemer area and it opened for play this April. It has a clubhouse, two bars, a driving range and a pavilion as part of its amenities. Mike spent the major part of four years moving both dirt and boulders around with his dozer. He indicated that the folks are very happy with what he has done. He has room for another nine, but will wait to see how the first one goes. While Bessemer is one of Michigan's more financially depressed areas, some of that depression has vanished with this fine new course. 906-932-9066
The Elks Gogebic Country Club is Michigan's western most course. It has been offering Ironwood citizens great golf since 1922. It is a fairly hilly course. with tree-lined fairways. Gogebic is a real old timer and a nice getaway place for a round. The clubhouse is just spectacular. Brian Rigoni is the new golf director.
Indianhead is noted more for skiing than golf. However, they would like to become more involved in golf. Their 9 executive hole course has nicely kept greens and tee areas. The staff seems to want to focus on beginning golfers. If they ever do build a nine or 18-hole golf course here, they will have one of the greatest views for golf in the state.
This is a very nice nine-hole course that sits right beside the new Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino in Watersmeet. The course features a number of ponds on the course and there is a stream that comes into play on five of the holes. It has a new clubhouse, proshop and a place for some sandwiches and a snack. They do a lot of promotional work to make the golf very exciting.
There is also on site lodging for the course at the American Inn Hotel and Suites. For reservation call 800-634-3444
Another one of the U.P. nine holes courses. A flat layout, that does its share of summer business.
You can contact us at
Copyright© Great Lakes Sports Publications, Inc.