Vacation tips: Top 10 reasons to tackle the Gaylord Golf Mecca

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

GAYLORD, Mich. -- The Gaylord Golf Mecca in northern Michigan proclaims to be "America's Summer Golf Capital."

Otsego Club - Tribute golf course - hole 3
The par-4 third on the Tribute at the Otsego Club is arguably Gaylord's most exciting downhill driving hole.
Otsego Club - Tribute golf course - hole 3Butch Harmon at the Loon Golf ResortTreetops Resort - Jones Masterpiece GCThreetops golf course at Treetops Resort - hole 3Black Forest Golf Course - hole 18Black Bear golf courseBlack Lake Golf Club in Onaway - hole 17Garland Resort
If you go

The mecca, one of the oldest marketing alliances in golf, formed in 1987, will celebrate its 25th anniversary next summer. Its staying power comes from the variety of 21 courses and 20 lodging properties, providing something for every budget.

Here are the 10 reasons why Gaylord should be your next summer getaway:

Play 54 holes a day

Summer in northern Michigan means daylight stretches to 10 p.m., leaving time for as much golf as you can handle.

There's no better place for 54 holes (or more) than Treetops Resort. The resort's five courses are by three high profile designers -- Robert Trent Jones Sr., Tom Fazio and Rick Smith, the resort's managing partner. The Masterpiece Course, the toughest challenge, celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer.

For a pure golf vacation, there may be no better place.

Hit the $1 million tee shot

Be sure to play the Threetops Course at Treetops Resort, which held a nationally televised Par-3 Shootout, featuring stars such as Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus, from 1999-2006.

Lee Trevino sank an ace on the dramatic third hole to win $1 million. You'll smile like a millionaire, too, after experiencing this fun round.

Go back to school

Gaylord is a haven for elite instructors. Two newer schools have opened as competition to the popular Rick Smith Golf Academy at Treetops.

Jason Guss, named one of the nation's top instructors under the age of 40 by Golf Digest, left the Smith Academy this year to form his own program at the nearby Otsego Club. Butch Harmon, Phil Mickelson's teacher, opened his academy at the Loon Golf Resort in 2010.

The women's-only schools at Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway features the talents of Director of Golf Pam Phipps and former LPGA player Debbie Massey.

Tackle Tom Doak

Tom Doak's rise to international acclaim as an architect started in northern Michigan with his work at High Pointe Golf Club near Traverse City (since closed) and Black Forest at Wilderness Valley in Gaylord. Black Forest is both a beauty and a beast, so beware. Bring a tidy game and a few extra balls.

Back in black

Visitors can find more quality greens at Black Lake Golf Club, located about 45 minutes away in Onaway, and Black Bear Golf Club in Vanderbilt, just north of Gaylord.

Black Lake, a Rees Jones design, roams through some remote land. Black Blear is very affordable, featuring a mix of meadow and wooded holes, including an extra 19th hole, a challenging par 3.

The versatile Otsego Club

A perfect day in Gaylord might unfold with a tee time at the Tribute Course, dinner at the Pontresina Steakhouse and a night cap at the Logmark Bar. All are wonderful amenities of the Otsego Club.

The Tribute thunders wildly through the Sturgeon River Valley. The Pontresina, in the main lodge, is arguably Gaylord's finest restaurant.

The Logmark offers a relaxing scene. The renovated resort accommodations have received plenty of TLC from the owners of Osprey Recreational Properties in recent years.

Celebrity sightings at The Loon

For the past two years, Loon Golf Resort has hosted celebrity events with Butch Harmon and LPGA starlet Natalie Gulbis. Both tournaments are intimate affairs where each player gets quality personal time with the headliner.

Harmon tells great stories and a photo with Gulbis goes a long way for bragging rights. The golf on the newly remodeled Butch Harmon signature design is pretty strong, and the resorted purchased a nearby second 18, The Lakes, earlier this year.

Fear the pig

Elk Ridge Golf Club, about 30 minutes away in Atlanta, unfolds as an escape of wooded serenity.

The shot everybody remembers is the tee downhill approach at No. 10, a par 3 in the shadow of the cool circular clubhouse. Players must avoid a bunker shaped like a pig -- a whimsical tribute to the Michigan-based HoneyBaked Ham Co.

Under the radar

With so many area courses, it's inevitable some get lost in the shuffle.

Many favor the player-friendly Michaywe Pines Golf Course, a good warm-up test for the tougher, tighter Gaylord tracks such as Marsh Ridge Resort and the Natural at Beaver Creek Resort.

Gaylord Country Club boasts some of the mecca's slickest greens.

Gaga over Garland

With new owners in place, Garland Lodge & Resort in Lewiston continues to invest in the future.

The largest lodge east of the Mississippi River has always been great for a buddy trip. Four solid golf courses are just steps from your bed. Live music keeps the bar hopping several nights a week.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Love it!

    Kerry Maveus wrote on: Aug 16, 2011

    Love this article Jason! Just got back from Gaylord, visiting family there. It is such a beautiful place with tons of beautiful courses!