Ten Northern Michigan golf courses for the traditionalist golfer

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Northern Michigan is a golf vacation destination rife with modern golf courses and resorts that take advantage of the machinery needed to build golf holes on steep mountainsides that afford stunning elevated tee shots and views.

Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, Michigan
The original fescue is still going strong at 80-year-old Belvedere Golf Club in Northern Michigan.
Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, MichiganKingsley Club - Hole 17A-Ga-Ming - Torch Golf CourseDonald Ross Memorial Course - Boyne HighlandsThe Gailes at Lakewood Shores
If you go

But this is also an old destination. Detroiters and Chicagoans have been escaping here for pure, natural golf for more than a century. Here's a look at some of the top golf courses for the traditionalist golfer.

What constitutes "traditional?" We're looking for classic golf courses, or modern courses built to resemble the classics.

Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix:

Tom Watson's old stomping ground from his childhood summers, Belvedere Golf Club is still respected despite northern Michigan's legions of flashier mountain designs. Designed by Willie Watson, the course has hosted 39 Michigan Amateurs, and the par-4 16th hole's elevated green still demands the respect of any scratch player.

The Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort:

Considered to be Michigan's most authentic links creation, The Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort is rife with massive double greens and fairways, plus punishing, blind sod pot bunkers in the fairway that draw comparisons to the Old Course in St. Andrews.

Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands Resort:

The Donald Ross Memorial course at Boyne Highlands Resort features 18 of legendary architect Donald Ross' most influential holes from around the world, including the famous 16th at Oakland Hills South, which serves as a dramatic closer here. You can also play holes from Royal Dornoch to Pinehurst to Seminole.

The Tradition at Treetops Resort:

Gaylord's spectacular Treetops Resort is famous for its dramatic, modern golf courses with steep elevation changes and incredible mountain backdrops. But the Tradition course at Treetops is the only walking-encouraged one of the bunch. Rest assured, there are still some good elevation drops, like the drivable par-4 eighth hole.

The Jewel on Mackinac Island:

Part of the allure of golf on the Grand Hotel's Jewel golf course, which features nine holes dating back to 1901, is the tranquility of motor-less Mackinac. Golfers are even transported between the old and new nine by a horse and carriage. The course plays just 5,445 yards, so consider this a gentle resort course at one of America's best summer retreats.

The Heather, Boyne Highlands Resort:

The Boyne Highlands resort accents this classic, Robert Trent Jones Sr. design with caddies that accompany the first groups off the golf course on the weekends. While many northern Michigan golf courses are too steep to walk comfortably, walking is highly encouraged on the Heather course at Boyne Highlands.

Pinecroft Golf Plantation in Benzonia:

Small greens and fairways on tumbling land overlooking Crystal Lake just around the corner from Crystal Downs, Pinecroft Golf Plantation is a delightful, affordable walk that keeps its tee sheet filled, especially with locals. Rest assured, no one overpowers Pinecroft despite its 6,500-yard championship length.

The Torch Course at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort:

The newer Sundance Course is getting a lot of attention, but the older Torch Course at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort, a Jerry Matthews design from the 1980s, features your more classic northern Michigan ambiance with smaller fairways often lined with pines. Some newer holes have been added, like the spectacular, long par-3 seventh, but the Torch is still unmistakably old school.

The Kingsley Club near Traverse City:

This new, throwback golf club has minimal facilities and exceptional, natural golf. The Kingsley Club entrance is modest, off a dirt road, and architect Mike Devries hardly moved any dirt here to create a natural design complete with undulating, firm fescue turf and wild grasses surrounding the bunkers. The Kingsley Club is private but is allowing call-ahead public play for the foreseeable future while trying to build membership.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment