Trip Report: Northern Michigan Golf Among Best In The Nation
Golfers are a lot like skiers. Skiers are in search of that secret stash of fresh powder, that perfect run, and golfers are looking for that unique, out-of-the-way course that has captured the attention of the golf writers across the nation.
Northern Lower Michigan has long been known for its outstanding golf courses, many designed by some of the top golf course architects in the nation. But none, in my opinion after a recent trip to Forest Dunes Golf Club, have captured the essence of northern Michigan golf like Tom Weiskopf's course. It took the Great Lakes to provide the terrain and Weiskopf to mold it into one of the nation's top courses. Sand dunes, pine forests, birch groves and grasslands authenticate the name Forest Dunes.
Golf Digest ranks it among the Top 100 Public Golf Courses in America (23), and Golf Magazine ranks it among the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play in America (33). Golfweek says it’s among the Top 100 Best Modern Courses in America (91).
Ron Whitten, Golf Digest's architectural editor, says, "Half the holes at Forest Dunes are Augusta National-style, rolling down majestic corridors of red and jack pines, with elaborate bunkering of gleaming white sand. The remaining holes bring to mind Pine Valley, with dark, exposed native sand littered with scruffy underbrush. The mix is artfully blended on both nines." As an Audubon International Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary, it is one of only 16 such designated courses in the world.
The course measures over 7,000 yards from the tips, but five sets of tees offer lots of yardage choices and playability for just about all golfers. There's a massive 22,000-square-foot Adirondack-style clubhouse lodge with locker rooms and fine dining, a spa and fitness center, beach club, an expansive practice facility, a two-and-a-half acre putting green, and, something you don’t often see, a short 19th par-three hole to settle ties.
Stay and play packages start from $189 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Packages include lodging, breakfast, greens fees, golf cart, and use of the practice facility.
I stayed in the new Lake AuSable Lodge, which is just 35 yards from the first tee. The 11,000-square foot, 14-room hotel is new this season and it’s an easy walk to the clubhouse dining room. The night sky is incredible here. Artificial light is at a bare minimum and stars are bright. The northern lights sometimes blaze across the night sky, and you’ll wake up to the call of wild turkeys meandering by for an early breakfast. It’s not uncommon to spot eagles soaring overhead while on the golf course. It’s pure Michigan, and should be on your “bucket list” of great courses to play.
Located about a half-hour east of Grayling off I-75 it’s easily accessed and makes a great add-on if you’re scheduling a golf trip to either Boyne or Treetops, just up the road. It’s some of the best golf found around the Great Lakes.
Photos: Forest Dunes Golf Course (top); Forest Dunes lodge (bottom right)