Golfers and skiers alike will love multi-faceted Boyne Highlands resort in Harbor Springs
HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. -- At times, a visit to a ski/golf resort such as Boyne Highlands is a downer for serious golfers -- but not here in northern Michigan.
The drive in to the resort opens up to the Main Lodge with ivy-covered walls that accent the lure of an English country estate, and then just within view is Boyne Highlands' Heather Course, a 1970 Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that has hosted the Michigan Amateur three times in its 101 years.
But the Heather Course is only an appetizer. Just a few miles away are two stunning layouts -- the Arthur Hills Course and the Donald Ross Memorial Course -- that will turn this visit into a feast of award-winning golf and countless resort amenities.
Boyne Highlands resort: Skiing and more
The story has been told countless times. Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne USA Resorts, paid $1 in 1947 for the land that is now Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls.
Then the ski-industry pioneer eventually developed Boyne Highlands resort, installing the world's first triple chair at Boyne Highlands and the world's first four-person chair at Boyne Mountain, both in 1964. And in 1992, Boyne Mountain unveiled America's first six-seat, high-speed chairlift.
Today's Main Lodge has 165 hotel accommodations (some with fire places and sitting rooms) of varying sizes and shapes, a plush "Boyne Bed," small refrigerators, free wi-fi, year-round swimming, exercise room, plus food and entertainment in the Main Dining Room and the Slopeside Lounge.
Boyne Highlands offers something for the whole family, not just golfers and skiers. Spend time in the arcade with ping pong and pool tables, rent a bike (during the spring and summer, take the chairlift to the top of the mountain for bike trails), sharpen your canoe skills or use the cross-country ski trails.
Golf at Boyne Highlands resort
Kircher also put the golf boom into motion. His nine-hole, par-3 course in front of Boyne Mountain's main lodge grew into a golf domain consisting of four courses at Boyne Highlands and two at Boyne Mountain. Aside from the Heather, the Donald Ross and the Arthur Hills Course, there's also the Moor Course.
Someone penned the resort and its collection of courses "Pinehurst of the Midwest."
The Heather ranked among the country's top 100 public courses for many years, thanks to its doglegs and formidable 18th hole. If you nail a drive, golfers are faced with a 180-yard carry over a pond to a green that appears long and narrow from the fairway and intimidating to reach. Many times other golfers sit on their decks at the Main Lodge to jeer and cheer that watery shot.
The Moor, another parkland design, was added in 1974. Then the 6,814-yard Donald Ross Memorial Course was built, which includes replica holes from Ross classics such as Oakland Hills, Seminole Golf Club, Pinehurst No. 2, Inverness and Oak Hill, and places where a combined 14 U.S. Opens, 11 PGA Championships, eight U.S. Amateurs and three Ryder Cups were staged.
"I loved the Ross Course," said Lew Johnson, of Detroit. "This is a thinker's golf course, and you can't play it just once to figure out any of the angles, curves and rolls of the greens. Many times during my round I thought I hit a decent shot that landed on the green only to watch it start rolling the opposite way I thought it would and funnel off the putting surface."
In 2000, Stephen Kircher, an accomplished golfer, helped architect Arthur Hills build the resort's newest gem, the 7,312-yard Arthur Hills course. Take in the panorama on the course's 13th tee box. The 570-yard par 5 will remind you of Colorado mountain golf as the fairway dives 100 feet to the fairway below. Throughout your round here, you will enjoy views of the ski mountain and lots of wildlife.
Boyne Highlands resort: The verdict
Boyne Mountain first opened as a ski resort in 1948, and this is a place that has continually upgraded its facilities, golf and options for fun. Pretty impressive knowing you have six months of golf a year, and it's at least four hours from Detroit.
Golf-wise I'm partial to the Ross and Hills Courses as being the best of the bunch, but Heather could please just about anyone, too.
There's something for everyone at Boyne Highlands no matter what time of the year. It is like a trip to the mountains without leaving Michigan. And one doesn't even have to stay in the Main Lodge. There are townhomes to choose from, too, and the Bartley House or the Alpine Village. Boyne also offers pet-friendly rooms and daycare options.
Golf instruction is available for one-on-one lessons or the chance to introduce your children to the game. And a caddie service is available with advance reservations.
All in all, the Boyne Highlands experience is not to be missed, and the challenges of the golf courses will suit the high-handicapper and the scratch player.
Gaylord Golf Mecca
The Gaylord Golf Mecca is a marketing group that includes 17 golf courses and 20 lodging facilities in the Gaylord area of the northern lower peninsula part of Michigan, located off Interstate 75. This is a beautiful part of the state with woods, lakes and long, warm summer days that continue into early evening. See www.gaylordgolfmecca.com for more information.