VanderVeen / Photography by Kevin Frisch
golf courses are rooted deep into to the
origins of the game with the old, time-tested
courses of the United Kingdom. Most common
in Scotland and Ireland, most of those
courses sport few trees and many bunkers.
Characteristics of true links golf are
undulating fairways and greens, high fescues
and difficult roughs. Most feature views
of the sea or inland bodies of water and
uninhibited views of most of the golf course.
its own links to the United Kingdom with
a revival of the old style genre of golf
So much has been written, talked about and compared to that Arcadia
Bluffs has reached legendary status in the few short years it has
been open. And for good reason.
Arcadia Bluffs is like a slice
of the Emerald Isle – which, to a golfer,
is a slice of paradise – high above the
shoreline overlooking Lake Michigan.
It is a classic links course
in every way: from its sod-wall bunkers to the
high ridge overlooking a great body of water,
to the rolling hills covered with fescues and
native grasses, to the winds that can kick up
like Aunt Mollie’s heels on a Saturday
night at O’Malley’s Pub.
“ The reason it is so spectacular
is that it’s not manufactured,” Arcadia
Bluffs Director of Golf and General Manager William
Shriver said. “It’s natural. When
this land was cleared, it was a links course
there waiting to be enhanced.
“ It looks as if the tees
just naturally rise up out of the ground and
green complexes fit perfectly where they need
“ Other than Bay Harbor,
there is no property in the state of Michigan
that lends itself to that style of golf like
the Arcadia Bluffs property does overlooking
a large body of water like Lake Michigan.
“ It gives it a true seaside links course feel.”
Reminiscent of time-tested great
golf courses such as Lahinch and Ballybunion
that are located on the other side of the Atlantic,
Arcadia Bluffs sets high atop a ridge overlooking
The wind-swept sand dunes, rolling
hills and valleys and tall native grasses provide
an outstanding backdrop to the plush, tightly
cropped tees, greens and fairways. The sod wall
bunkers and natural fescue grasses add to the
classic links-style aura known as Arcadia Bluffs.
Since its 1998 opening, Arcadia
Bluffs has received some additional bunkering,
cart paths and the ridge on No. 18 has been slightly
lowered to allow it to be seen from the fairway.
The routing for 2004 has been
altered slightly to reduce the distance of travel
between three holes and provide the course two
Holes No. 1 through 7 remain
the same, while holes 8 through 16 have new designations.
“ It gives it a slightly
more natural flow and brings the turn back toward
the clubhouse,” Shriver said. “There
are just some new numbers. It doesn’t do
anything different to the par or yardages on
Designed by Chris Lutzke – in collaboration with Pete Dye – Eagle
Eye is mid-Michigan’s latest and greatest link to links-style
The strategically placed bunkers
and open areas, mounding, fescue, heather and
wild grasses give Eagle Eye a distinct links-like
“ There are only two or
three holes with trees surrounding it,” head
professional Kirk Sherman said. “People
have favorably compared it to courses like Arcadia
Bluffs and The Gailes.
“ It is very much a traditional
links-style course, and that’s what our
designers set out to do. It’s absolutely
The No. 17 island green is a
unique feature to Michigan. It is reminiscent
of the famous No. 17 hole at TPC at Sawgrass,
which was designed by Dye.
There are other Dyed-in-the-wool
features as well, including the distinct bunkering,
accents with railroad ties and wild grasses growing
on the mounds.
“ There are a lot of things
you normally don’t see in Michigan that
give the course a lot of character and uniqueness,” Sherman
said. “The uniqueness that Pete Dye and
Chris Lutzke brought to the project helps separate
it from the others.
“ Currently, there are no
other Pete Dye courses in the state. It just
has that Pete Dye feel too it. Every hole seems
to have its own character, that’s what
makes it really good,” Sherman said. “You
don’t really forget a hole out there. You
use a lot of different clubs and have to make
a lot of different shots.”
The five sets of tees differ in length from 5,109 yards from the
front and 7,318 from the tips.
“ If you are playing on
a windy day, it could be a matter of a four to
six stroke difference in your score,” warns
Lutzke. “Mother Nature brings that links
element to the table.”
The view from the elevated deck
of the 65,000 square foot clubhouse – which
will be open to the public in the summer of 2004 — is
nothing short of entertaining, especially with
a jar of one’s favorite cold beverage in
hand. When the sun begins to set off on the horizon,
it is picturesque.
“ I firmly believe that
it is a top-five golf course in Michigan, and
I’m not alone in saying that,” Sherman
said. “There are some great golf courses
in the state such as Aracadia Bluffs, The Gailes
and Forest Dunes, but Eagle Eye stands up there
with all of them.”
The Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort is definitely ranks among
Michigan’s links leaders. Upon its opening in 1993, the golf
course designed by Kevin Aldridge immediately earned its place
among the top new golf facilities in the country.
From the sod faced bunkers, to
the rolling mounds covered with tall grasses,
to the grassy hollows, The Gailes provides a
true Scottish links experience.
The course features so closely
resemble those overseas that playing The Gailes
is almost like taking a trip and never leaving
the farm. “Beam me up, Scotty!”
“ The neat thing about The
Gailes is that we get a lot of people with trips
planned to Scotland, and they play here to experience
and see what they are in store for,” Lakewood
Shores Resort Director of Golf Craig Peters said. “And
then there are those who may never have that
opportunity, but they are fans of the British
Open and those types of golf courses. The Gailes
fits that bill for them without having to travel
The Gailes made its mark early
as an invigorating and challenging links courses
reminiscent of those played in the “Old
“ At the time, there were
only two or three other courses in the U.S. that
were similar,” Peters said. “There
have been some other courses since, but very
few can compare to The Gailes.”
Located just off the shores of
Lake Huron in the harbor town of Oscoda, The
Gailes is set on land that is a natural fit for
a links-style course.
“ The location certainly
has a lot to do with it,” Peters said. “We
get a lot of wind off the lake.
“ The whole concept behind
the Gailes was to recreate what you see on the
golf courses of Scotland.”
The large mounding, and sod faced
bunkers dotted around the course in the middle
of fairways provide challenges for golfers of
In true traditional old school
links fashion, The Gailes features double tees
and double greens. They are characteristics Aldridge
incorporated from his Scottish forefathers.
No. 15 is a short par-5 with
15 bunkers lurking on the hole. Seven of those
bunkers are located in the landing area and they
are difficult to see from the tee.
The only tree lines are those
that outline the edge of the property of the
golf course. There are double greens at No. 2
and No. 17 and No. 11 and No. 14, and the No.
6 and No. 7 tees are basically connected.
“ That was a design trait from way back when the next tee area was only
a couple of club lengths from the previous hole,” Peters said. “Back
when Kevin first designed it, the American golfer wasn’t accustomed to
the genuine traditional links style course.
“ The Gailes is as different
as black and white compared to Northern Michigan
golf and he stuck his neck out as to whether
or not the American golfer would enjoy it.”
The Gailes has received numerous
national awards throughout the years, including
being rated as the Best New Resort Course in
the U.S. for 1993 by Golf Digest magazine. The
national golf publication continues to rank The
Gailes among the top-30 in the country to play,
because “it’s a fun golf course to
play,” Peters said.
Harbor Links 9
Because there are only nine holes, the Links 9 at Bay Harbor may
technically be only a half of a links course, but it is a whole
lot of fun to play.
Part of the magnificent 27-hole
development at Bay Harbor in Petoskey, The Links
9 at Bay Harbor plays differently than its sister
courses: The Quarry and The Preserve. While both
The Quarry and Preserve have trees and some wetlands
and lowlands, The Links 9 is a classic, treeless,
links style layout set high above a bluff overlooking
Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay.
Designed by Arthur Hills and
Stephen Kircher of Boyne USA, Bay Harbor was
a reclamation project that has become an exclamation
product for upscale golf in Michigan.
Glimpses or breathtaking panoramic
views of Little Traverse Bay can be seen from
every hole on the Links 9. It is a relatively
flat course with very few trees to speak of.
Tall heather grasses and rough,
a few forced carries and the winds blowing over
the bluffs overlooking the bay give the Links
9 its teeth.
Its beauty comes from the pristine
playing conditions and outstanding views from
The No. 7 hole on the Links course sets approximately 50 feet above
the Lake Michigan shoreline overlooking the bay and nearby Harbor
“ In my 35 years of design,
it may be me favorite hole that I ever put together,” Hills
said. “It’s incredible. It’s
mystical. You really get an incredible feeling
playing that hole.”
The conditioning is near perfect.
The views are perfect. The entire experience
“ The setting is so nice
and the conditions for golf are so good, these
are very special courses,” Hills said.
Designed by 1973 British Open champion Tom Weiskopf, Forest Dunes
may be one of the best kept golf secrets in Michigan.
Located near Grayling, finding
Forest Dunes for the first time is a little challenging.
But once located, the No. 1 tee is where the
real challenge begins.
Immaculately carved out of nearly
500 acres of woodlands and wetlands, Forest Dunes
opened up its fairways to provide a links experience
of both ups and downs and risks and rewards.
Bunkers are smartly placed throughout
the course to make golfers think about their
One of the more spectacular of
those risk/reward holes is located at No. 17,
which plays just over 300 yards from the back
tees. It beckons the big hitters to go for it,
but the high grasses on the sides and bunkers
in the front are lying in wait to turn a birdie
into a double bogey.
A 10,000 square foot crescent
shaped green and a long and strong 600-yard,
par-5 are also part of the experience.
The native sand dunes not only
provided the course with its name, but also its
character. The sand enhances the well-kept bent
grass fairways, tees and greens as an outline
and a backdrop, as well as a hazard for errant
The green complexes at Forest
Dunes are among the best anywhere in Michigan.
Putts roll true and flat.
The traditional layout plays 7,104 from the tips, down to 5,097
from the forward tees. Additional junior tees have been incorporated
for the wee ones with distances no longer than 411 yards, nor shorter
than 94 yards.
Tom Doak’s first course in Michigan is a specialty that treats
golfers to two different types of experiences from the front to
The mounding, rolling hills and
tall fescues on the open areas and wind-swept
front side give the course a real Scottish links
type feel, while the back side features more
woods, pine groves and waste areas. It is also
a haven for the fox, deer and wildlife, which
seem content to share their natural habitat with
golfers. Reports of Nessie sightings, however,
have never been confirmed.
High Pointe, which overlooks
the Grand Traverse basin, was ranked among the
top-100 courses to play after its opening in
1988. It provides not only a fun and enjoyable
round of golf, but a refreshing change of scenery
from the front side to the back.
Another Kevin Aldridge designed traditional links-style course,
Blackheath, is located in southeastern Michigan near Rochester.
Blackheath is a tightly laid
out course on just 150 acres.
In true links tradition, there
is nary a tree on the course.
The greens are small and the
holes are straight forward with heather grasses
and bunkers accenting the layout. The four sets
of tees play 6,770 yards from the back, to 4,572
from the front.
“ It’s packed pretty
tight,” Director of Golf Rick Fleming said. “It’s
like a miniature Gailes.”
Arthur Hills has been the architect behind many golf course masterpieces
in Michigan, and he ranks Hawkshead right up there with the best
“ It’s one of my favorite
courses,” Hills says.
Located in South Haven near the
Lake Michigan shoreline, Hawkshead is laid out
over a sea of sand. The routing takes one through
wind-swept dunes and a bird sanctuary.
The exact type of birdies out
there varies from golfer to golfer.
“ It’s pretty flat
and sandy and there aren’t many trees,” Hills
said. “That’s a perfect start to
a links golf course.
“ You don’t see many
trees and there are a lot of fescues and native
growth. There is a lot of sand in lieu of water.”
There is a little bit of water
and wetlands that enhance the layout, but for
the most part, it is rolling, plush and links-like.
“ It’s not exactly
St. Andrews because of the pine trees, but it
is like many of the courses in Scotland,” Hills
said. “There are no trees and a lot of
sand, and it’s a special experience playing
with those characteristics.
“ Unique is the finite word
to describe it.”
A large practice facility and
outstanding restaurant add to the full-service
ambiance known as Hawkshead.
“ It’s one of my favorite
places, plus there is a wonderful restaurant
there,” Hills said.
The Heathlands, located in Onekama, has earned a spot on the links
radar screen because of its views of Portage Lake and the large,
rolling fairways outlined with native grasses.
Although there are a few trees
located on several holes at The Heathlands, it
derives its links-style feel from the spacious
fairways and the grasses and waste areas that
outline the course.
Designed by Jeff Goreny, The
Heathlands features large fairways that are bordered
by tall, native grasses.
The course is rated 139 from
the back tees. The distance is 6,569 yards from
the tips to 4,437 from the front tees.