World-class golf and dining at the same location might seem an odd twosome at first glance, but not in Michigan. It’s a regular occurrence, and remarkably convenient.
In a host of Michigan locations — and especially the dynamic group featured here — one can work up an appetite with award-winning golf, including many courses designed by the great architects of the game, and then walk a few yards, be seated and dine on sensory-pleasing meals designed and prepared by award-winning chefs.
It doesn’t have to be a hotdog at the turn.
THOUSAND OAKS GOLF CLUB
“It can be something special, and yet casual and relaxing,” Dave Mehney, the managing partner at Thousand Oaks Golf Club in Grand Rapids says. “Golf should be fun, and dining should be fun. The whole day should be great.”
Thousand Oaks was designed by world renowned architect Rees Jones on rolling woodlands that at times make it hard to believe one is just a few miles from downtown Grand Rapids. The classic architecture has produced some especially stunning par-5 holes.
Mehney was convinced early on that the dining options at the course needed to match the experience on the golf course, and Thousand Oaks pulls it off in style. With some local restaurant awards in hand, The Acorn Grill has evolved into a spot that attracts non-golfers who stop out for dinner. Chef David Dalton’s big menu has winners in pasta and seafood dishes and filets, but the casual options like the Rueben are winners, too.
“At first there was the suggestion that we just have a place for a hotdog and something to drink and make it all about the golf course because it is a great golf course,” Mehney says. “I thought the whole experience had to be great though, and that’s what we provide. You don’t have to come in for dinner if you just want to golf. You can get something at the turn and just play. But if you want the whole relaxing experience, we have that, too.”
Inspired by the late Bill Matthews, the director of culinary who was also a single-digit handicap golfer, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa wants the experience in the resort’s many dining options to equal the experience on the three golf courses.
Matthews talked with golfers when he was the chef at The Grille, which is in the golf clubhouse overlooking the 18th green of the Jack Nicklaus-designed The Bear course. He developed the menus from there, and until March when he died unexpectedly, he carried the same philosophy through all the dining spaces at the resort.
GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT AND SPA
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, with either The Grille or the Aerie Restaurant and Lounge on the 16th floor of the resort’s iconic tower, is among Michigan’s most dynamic places where golf and dining coexist to reflect a higher quality of life.
Higher quality of life is clearly reflected at Arcadia Bluffs, which has become a golf destination with its “old world” course designed by Rick Smith and Warren Henderson on a sprawling Lake Michigan bluff not far from Manistee. Views of the lake are stunning, and the rolling, spectacular design of the course with sod-lined bunkers has produced an international audience.
An award-winning wine inventory is featured in the clubhouse, but there is much more in both the dining room and the more casual Lakeview room. Guests consider the view from the clubhouse where they can enjoy Lake Michigan’s beautiful sunsets, romantic and unique. In this setting the dining has to work to be noticed, and it happens. Try the Scottish salmon.
HAWKSHEAD LINKS GOLF COURSE
Hawkshead Links Golf Course in South Haven is found in the southwest corner of the state, and the stunning links-style course designed by Arthur Hills is certainly enough reason to stop. A great variety of holes, fescue grasses and waste natural sand areas give the golf course a very natural feel.
The clubhouse restaurant is special, too. None other than Hills considers it one of his favorite places to eat after golf. Hawkshead, operated by the same folks who have the popular Clementine’s Restaurants in the area, clearly know how to please diners. Chef Paul Adams puts a creative touch on lamb and duck, and even simple onion rings are memorable.
LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY GOLF CLUB
Little Traverse Bay Golf Club is perched high on a hill overlooking Little Traverse Bay. Even the view from the first tee is amazing, and the course is some of the best work of Michigan architect Jeff Gorney. Elevation changes are dramatic and the holes are consistently outstanding.
Also consistently outstanding is the restaurant, which is where even locals go for the walleye. The original owner and developer, Ted Frey, says during construction years ago that he wanted to create the kind of place he loved to visit complete with great golf and great dining. It happened.
BAY HARBOR GOLF CLUB
Bay Harbor Golf Club near Petoskey has 27 holes of golf designed by Arthur Hills and each of three nine-hole groupings is dramatic and unique. The Links offers the long grasses, natural sands and views along the shore of Lake Michigan from 140-foot cliffs. The Quarry was carved from a shale quarry and might be the most unique nine holes in Michigan golf. The Preserve rolls through some pure northern Michigan topography and finishes with a stunning panorama of Lake Michigan.
The Inn at Bay Harbor offers the finest in dining options in Sagamore’s dining room, but the Links Grille at the clubhouse is a great option as well. Stunning views of the lake fit in with the overall world-class experience of a visit to Bay Harbor. Fresh fish and pasta dishes stand out.
FOREST DUNES GOLF CLUB
Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon features a classic parkland design by Tom Weiskopf, which the golf legend considers one of his top three in the world. The course is an immaculate, sprawling classic that has drawn rave reviews from the minute it opened.
As for the dining, it draws raves, too. A large, noisy group that visited late last summer found the variety on the menu especially pleasing. They could be overheard talking of how great the lobster tail, the rib eye, the shrimp scampi and even the spinach artichoke dip were. That pleased Larry Bachman, executive chef, who was called out to talk with the group.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT
Crystal Mountain Resort near Thompsonville gives way to golf following ski season each spring with two golf courses that are family-friendly for a very family-friendly resort. The Mountain Ridge course annually plays host to the Michigan PGA Women’s Open drawing female professionals from around the country.
As for dining, there are multiple options but the Thistle Pub & Grill in Lochenheath, just a few yards from the golf shop, is a perfect place following golf. The restaurant is dedicated to healthy and tasteful dishes from fresh ingredients, and the many delicious options include tenderloin tips and a seafood stew.
BOYNE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls was the original creation of pioneer developer Everett Kircher in northern Michigan. The Monument Course, which honors golf legends, is paired with The Alpine Course, a regular host to top Michigan PGA and Golf Association of Michigan events.
The aptly named restaurant in the Mountain Grand Lodge at the resort is Everett’s. The daily breakfast buffet with an omelet station for golfers is a big hit, but the American fare fresh fish selections and steaks in the evening are also top-notch.
Golf is not the first thing most visitors to Mackinac Island plan, but golfers should take on The Jewel, a unique course with unparalleled scenic beauty. The Grand nine is located across the street from the famous Grand Hotel, and The Woods nine is in the interior of the island. Golfers are transported between nines by a horse-drawn carriage. The Grand nine was built in 1901 and redesigned in 1987 by Michigan architect Jerry Matthews. He then designed the Woods nine, which opened in 1994.
The dining part of this visit takes place at the famous hotel. The Main Dining Room’s five-course dinner menu is renowned and includes an amazing variety of tastes. Order something as simple as whitefish in an elegant setting.
SHANTY CREEK RESORTS
Wonderful food and perhaps the purest of pure Michigan views are offered in the Lakeview Restaurant at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire. The all-glass wall that overlooks Lake Bellaire and dramatic sunsets is remarkable, but then Executive Chef Andrew Reh, named Michigan’s Culinary Star of the Year in 2012 by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, serves an eclectic menu that is highlighted by award-winning desserts. Save room for dessert.
The Legend is the golf course at Shanty Creek that plays like a great dessert. Designed by legend Arnold Palmer’s company, the course helped launch northern Michigan as a major destination for resort golf. Its elevation changes, dramatic vistas and variety of holes make for a golf adventure.
NEWBERRY COUNTRY CLUB
Newberry Country Club in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been undergoing a course redesign by Mike Husby Designs, who has developed and designed several Michigan golf courses. The renovated, popular golf course comfortably plays over 200 glacier-carved acres of great northern Michigan property and is worth the trip 45 miles north of the Mackinac bridge.
Meanwhile, the new clubhouse houses the new restaurant that is already hitting top dining lists like the Greens & Grub survey created by Bill Hobson of Michigan Golf Live (MGL) Radio and MGL-TV, which recognized Newberry’s barbecue ribs.
So after working up an appetite on the links, plan ahead so that the reward can be a great meal. Because it doesn’t have to be a hot dog at the turn. Not in Michigan.
MORE GOLF & GRUB
Bill Hobson of Michigan Golf Live Radio and TV polled his listeners last fall regarding the best places to golf and dine. The MGL-TV story can be viewed on YouTube; however, here are the 2014 winners.
Bucks Run Golf Club, Mount Pleasant: Venison Chili and Steak
Emerald Golf Course, St. Johns: Pizza
Fern Hill Golf Club, Clinton Township: Crab Sliders
Plum Brook Country Club, Sterling Heights: Classic Burger
Newberry Country Club: Barbecue Ribs
Little Traverse Bay, Harbor Bay: Walleye
The Quest Golf Club, Houghton: Italian Sandwich
Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs: Steak Dinner
Michaywe Pines, Gaylord: Salmon with Artichoke