Photos courtesy of Boyne

An eye-pleasing panorama of Lake Michigan combined with a cool lake breeze and sounds of the surf overload the senses on The Links course at Bay Harbor Golf Club.

A dramatic change in glacier-carved elevation that plunges off the 13th tee on the Arthur Hills course at Boyne Highlands Resort is a lot for the golfer to handle, but make sure to look up and follow your tee shot into an endless sky framed by treetops.

Likewise, Little Traverse Bay Golf Club seems perfectly named as your very first tee shot climbs the clouds. The view of the bright blue bay is captivating and overwhelming.

Big-name architects, a choice of championship quality courses, luxury and some welcome affordability help define golf in the Petoskey area. Then you check out the views.

“Wherever you play, you are going to get incredible views because Petoskey is a natural, beautiful area,” says Scott Miller, general manager at Chestnut Valley Golf Course, a facility that showcases rolling forest land and beautiful log cabin homes.

“The elevation changes in the area make it possible to see so much.”

The Petoskey golf market has a significant public access segment dominated by the Boyne Resorts, but also worthwhile places to visit like Chestnut Valley Golf Course and Little Traverse Bay Golf Club.
Erin Ernst, Boyne’s director of communications, notes there are nine courses in the area under the Boyne umbrella, but with different combinations of the three nines at Bay Harbor, it’s really 11 different courses at a wide range of price points.

Boyne’s Bay Harbor is the biggest player in the area, and it is obvious when driving north on Highway 31. Look toward the water and see luxury homes and boats, and the Renaissance Inn at Bay Harbor.

Then play golf on your choice among the three nine-hole layouts – The Links along the shore, The Quarry carved from a recovered mining area and The Preserve, a pure Northern Michigan site of trees and wetlands. Renowned architect Arthur Hills collaborated with Boyne’s Stephen Kircher to create award-winning golf that is on international must-play lists.

Boyne Highlands is just a few miles out of town toward Harbor Springs, and it has one of the best collections of resort golf in the nation. Line up the Robert Trent Jones designed jewel called the Heather, long considered one of the state’s top golf courses, and back it up with the Ross Memorial, a collection of recreated holes from legendary architect Donald Ross that lets you visit challenges he created in destinations like St. Andrews, Royal Dornoch, Pinehurst and Oakland Hills.

Arthur Hills was also involved in design at this Boyne property, and the Hills course has become a favorite of visitors with its big fairways and dramatic bunkering.  Also, one of the original courses at the Highlands, the Moor, has classic elements similar to the Heather but with softer edges to help the average golfer take on fun dogleg holes.

Boyne Mountain Resort, about 20 miles south of Petoskey, offers two Monument courses among its amenities. The Monument, true to its name, honors great golfers with monument boulders on holes named for them. The course next to it is the Alpine, a classic, which hosts the annual Michigan Tournament of Champions while also pleasing golfers of lesser abilities playing their way toward scenic Deer Lake.

Crooked Tree Golf Club is another Boyne property, directly across the highway from Bay Harbor. Located on a bluff, it offers beautiful blue-water views. It’s a more affordable choice for those who visit Bay Harbor, roughly half the price, and is easier on those who don’t wish to take on the difficulty of the Bay Harbor nines or the championship venues elsewhere. Not surprisingly Arthur Hills has influenced this course also, last fall redesigning the final three holes, which will debut this summer.

Hidden River Golf & Casting Club is not a Boyne property, but is managed and booked through the resort. Tucked along the Maple River near Brutus, golfers and fly fisherman can enjoy nature together. Isolated areas on the property scream Northern Michigan, says Mike Chumbler, the director of golf for Boyne.

Golf nuts can truly go to Boyne country as they call it, and go golf crazy. Ernst and Chumbler feel the best golf deal is playing 18 holes at Bay Harbor as an add-on to packages at any of the Boyne properties. In essence, play Bay Harbor in prime summer season and pay $195. Add it on to a package and pay $75.

Chumbler acknowledged great golf found elsewhere in Michigan, but said the Petoskey area has one great advantage. “In Petoskey, you have great golf on the big lake,” he says. “It’s a huge draw for us, especially at Bay Harbor and Crooked Tree. The vistas are incredible.”

Larry Mancour, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member, designed the Chestnut Valley layout. It contrasts with some of the golf in the area as a kinder place to play. The 12th hole, a 299-yard uphill short par-four is the signature hole. It will yield birdies, but also puts up a fight with its slope and contours.

Mike Wilson of Bay City took over ownership of Chestnut Valley in 2011 and has made significant improvements. Scott Miller says there has been a great effort to become a destination course in the area at a lower price point ($60 in peak season for 18 holes with a cart).

“We are an affordable, more relaxing place to play golf,” Miller says. “We like our golfers to walk off the 18th green thinking it has been a beautiful day in a beautiful place and that they want to come back next year.”

When owner Ted Frey first showed off Little Traverse Bay in 1991, he simply walked to the first tee and said look. The course has maintained its wow factor with a stunning three-mile view. Matt Shalhoup, the head golf professional at Little Traverse, says the course is a favorite for many, but it seems especially for Chicago area residents on vacation.

“The views on our course are second to none, especially off the first tee and then looking back over the bay at nine green, and then on the back nine the views of Round Lake and Crooked Lake are amazing,” he explains. “Our customers, a lot of them from Chicago, just can’t believe they are paying $89 (peak season rate) and getting this much golf course. They have to pay three figures to get this quality in Chicago, and then they wouldn’t have the views.”

This article originally appeared in the 2014 spring/summer issue of Experience Michigan magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article. 

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