America's Summer Golf Capital
Your Northern Michigan Golf Trip Awaits
By Art Stricklin
PETOSKEY, Michigan - Every great golf destination needs great stories to tell. Stories which make them unique, different, interesting and exciting.
Because without great stories, Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia is just another pretty Southern course. Without great stories, St. Andrews Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland is just another non-descript public layout.
But with great stories, then you have great destinations, people want to visit again and again. Did you know writer Ernest Hemingway once hung out here?
Thankfully here in the middle of golf-crazed Northern Michigan, longtime industry leader and icon Boyne Golf at The Highlands has a story, lots of great stories, which continues to bring thousands golfing visitors by the thousands to this golf rich area each summer.
With 10 Boyne Golf Courses and three resorts, The Highlands, the Inn at Bay Harbor and Boyne Mountain, there are plenty of good stories to go around, but one of the best and longest lasting involved the original course at Boyne, the Heather Course opened by golf architecture legend Robert Trent Jones, Sr., in 1966.
Boyne has long been known for great skiing and outdoor pursuits, but founder Everett Kircher wanted golfing in the summer time and sought out the best architect at the time who happened to be Jones.
Jones crafted a classic parkland course which became known as the Heather with plenty of twist and turns through the natural hardwoods of the massive property.
When it came time for the grand finishing hole to the property. Jones crafted a strong finishing par 4 challenge which ended next to the clubhouse and by the resort lodging. Kircher said a huge lake fronting the 18th green and taking up much of the fairway would be much more dramatic finish to the first course at Boyne.
Jones told him he didn't do lakes for the 18th hole and left Boyne to head to his next project. Kircher reasoned it was his property and his course and ordered a huge lake constructed where the original Jones fairway sat.
Today the lake still stands menacing golfers, soaking in errant shots and giving Kircher and all of Boyne the drama they were looking for.
If you need one more story from the iconic 18th hole maybe the most famous in the entire Boyne Golf Empire, if you tip over the huge metal bench which sits on the 18th tee box, you will see the inscription, 'Tee Shot in the Lake - Free Drop'
It's a hole and a story you will long remember just like the other great courses at The Highlands,. The Arthur Hills course done by the Midwest master of golf architecture, the Donald Ross Memorial, an ode to one of golf's all-time great designers, and the Moor which is getting a makeover from Midwest architect Raymond Hearn. It will greatly expanding the varied options on the course which has become favorite from members and locals at 6,850 yards from the back tees.
The fairways on the course are being both lengthened and widened and the area around the greens themselves have been opened up to all for more creatively and chipping around the greens. All of the work should be finished and ready for the 2023 season as another example of the best getting better at The Highlands.
But back to stories, how about the one with a very young, Non-LIV Phil Mickelson and British Open Champion Tom Lehman completing on national TV on the shores of Lake Michigan at then new Bay Harbor Golf Club.
The date was Oct. 14, 1999 and Mickelson and Lehman went head to head on the Links & Quarry course which showcase for the national TV audience how spectacular these Boyne courses were with the Links, Quarry and Preserve all designed by Hills.
The Links nine holes has most of the direct lake views. Four holes on the Links front nine offering stunning views of Lake Michigan with the par 5 seventh hole featuring the natural watery treasure all along right side, clearly visible from the cliffs above.
Hole 17 on the Quarry side features Little Traverse Bay on the short, but very dangerous par 3 hole where wind can be and usually is, a huge factor. Hole No. 18 has the lake all the way down the left side nearly tee to green with the fairway running out in front of a tangled enlarged ditch which crosses the landing area.
You likely forced into a short pitch to a narrow green with a putt which usually breaks to the water for sometimes all the bets or more important bragging rights.
Across the street from the posh Inn at Bay Harbor and Bay Harbor Golf Club, Crooked Tree Golf Club, another Boyne Property is getting some renovation work as well.
More than a dozen bunkers are being removed on the course to improve the golfing experience moving the course to less penal and more pleasurable.
Boyne Mountain golf courses include the Alpine and Monument layouts and at more than 1,000 above sea level offers plenty of enticing view to take away any golf stings.
There is also the outstanding Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa to rest up for your next golf challenge.
Of course, all of these stories need place to reside, maybe even an a capital to call home. That's were the themed America's Summer Golf Capital, www.americassummergolfcapital.com, organization comes in to showcase the many great Northern Michigan golf destinations here.
ASGC was started in the mid 1990's by the three charter members Treetops, Crystal Mountain, and Boyne and all three remain today.
Treetops has the Masterpiece course, designed by true golf architectural master Jones, Sr., along with the Signature, the only Tom Fazio Course in Michigan, plus two Rick Smith designs, the Signature and the Tradition.
It's also has the Threetop par 3 short course. One of the first Par 3s associated with a golf resort and likely most of the most famous in all of golf.
It features plenty of lengthy, par 3 shots, 1,497 yards from the back tees, with lots of uphill or downhill twist and turns, but gained it's true fame starting when the Par 3 Shootout was started in 1999 on ESPN featuring PGA Tour players. In 2001, Texan Lee Trevino won $1 million dollars for acing the par 3 7th hole and his televised reaction, and the plaque which now sits on the tee box, forever cemented Threetops as the short course place to be.
Today, its fame is secured and its as popular as ever.
Crystal Mountain has two outstanding courses, Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley, which recently went through a $1 million dollar renovation to polish the Northern Michigan Jewell.
A-Ga-Ming Resort, another Boyne layout, offers two outstanding buffet options, the Sundance and Torch courses with cabins lining the Torch layout. The Grand Traverse Resort challenges golfer with the Bear layout, designed by the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus, plus the Wolverine layout by Gary Player and Spruce Run.
Its huge 16-floor gold mirror tower lodging visible from much of the area is the welcome sign to golfing residents and visitors alike. Dining on the top floor on a clear afternoon overlooking the Great Lakes, as the younger generation, likes to say, he Northern Michigan golf future is so bring you need sunglasses.
Stories and capitals, the making of another great golf trip to Northern Michigan to seek out the 10 Boyne golf courses, with just as many stories, and America's Summer Golf Capital, to make plenty of stories of your own.
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Revised: 09/26/2022 - Article Viewed 2,565 Times
About: Art Stricklin
Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.
On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.
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