The 10 best golf courses around Gaylord, Northern Michigan

A summer golf mecca like no other, featuring rolling hills, large resorts and excellent value

For sheer convenience and depth of quality courses, no summer golf destination beats the Gaylord Golf Mecca in northern Michigan. The marketing alliance, which celebrated its 25th year in 2012, is comprised of 17 courses and 20 lodging options.

Most of its courses reside right in Gaylord, a golf hub unlike any other in the Midwest. Every course at Treetops Resort is so good that I easily could have included all five on this list of the 10 best golf courses in Gaylord. For the sake of variety, I didn't (with apologies to the four-and-a-half-star Tradition Course).

Drum roll, please ...

When RTJ Sr. stared out across the Pigeon River Valley from the elevated sixth tee of his Masterpiece Course, the name Treetops was born. His 7,007-yard course, a brawny challenge that opened in 1986, spearheaded the course construction boom in northern Michigan. It's still one of best.

Smith, the managing partner at Treetops, might have gone a little overboard on elevated tees. You won't hear me complain, though. The more the merrier, in my opinion. The 13 elevated tees on the 6,653-yard, par-70 course bolster a golfer's confidence and add to its overall aesthetics.

Architect Rick Robbins and former pro Gary Koch used a sprawling canvas, some 1,100 acres in the Sturgeon River valley, to paint their 7,347-yard Picasso. Of all its elevated tee boxes, the most spectacular comes early in the round. The par-4 third hole offers views that stretch for 30 miles.

Only one hole on the Premier Course at Treetops, no. 11, holds water. Other troublesome obstacles -- bunkers, false fronts and hilly lies -- engage golfers on their journey through the only Fazio course in the entire state. This 6,832-yard gem tends to get overlooked the most among Treetop's talented lineup.

Normally I'm not a fan of nine-hole executive courses. Threetops isn't the average par 3, however. Smith's unique routing created in 1992 hosted a made-for-TV shootout for seven years, providing some memorable highlights. Lee Trevino sank a million-dollar ace on the seventh hole in 2001. No. 3, a 219-yard hole called "Devil's Drop," calls for a four-club change in elevation.

The shortest course in town (besides Threetops) checks in at 6,231 yards. It's more about course management than golfing muscle at the par-71 Marsh Ridge Golf Course. Two monster par 5s longer than 570 yards -- no. 3 and no. 15 -- are its two hardest handicap holes. They are offset by two par 5s under 485 yards (holes 11 and 18). Wetlands and ponds haunt four of the five par 3s.

Everybody who plays Michaywe Pines G.C. walks away with a smile. There's nothing tricky or spectacular about Don Child's design, just a fine 7,007-yard public course that's priced right and won't beat anybody up. Golf needs more courses like Michaywe Pines.

Black Forest Golf Club, one of Tom Doak's earliest efforts dating to 1992, might be the toughest to score upon, an oddity considering how the Traverse City resident champions playability for the average Joe. Rumors of Doak returning for some tweaks have been raging for years, although nothing's come to fruition. (Editor's note: Black Forest has been closed in 2019 due to financial troubles).

This semiprivate country club, established in 1924, moved to its current location in 1975. The 6,497-yard golf course at Gaylord Country Club doesn't play long. There's still plenty of intrigue thanks to rolling fairways and fast greens.

Famous instructor Butch Harmon put his stamp on the 6,677-yard course at The Loon Golf Resort by revamping a couple of holes in 2011. The 14th hole, at one time a perplexing short par 4, now plays as a stout 212-yard par 3. A back tee added to the tough par-4 eighth hole stretched it into a more manageable 491-yard par 5. Recent upgrades have reshaped bunkers, removed others and added trees.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
1 Comments
Commented on

Black Forest Golf Club is a DUMP. In fact its worse them a DUMP

Related Links

A decade after the largest golf boom any state has ever experienced, Michigan witnessed similar explosive growth in the number of casinos from 2007-09. Playing golf by day, and gaming by night. We'll bet you'll have a good time. Jason Scott Deegan offers up Michigan's five best golf-and-gambling destinations.
3 Min Read
With less money and time, more golfers are making convenience the top priority when booking their next golf trip. Buddy trips just need a couple ingredients -- golf, booze, grub and a bed -- to make most participants happy. The best golf resorts in Michigan aim to please with multiple courses, restaurant variety and comfortable accommodations. Here are the eight best Michigan resorts for a golf binge.
4 Min Read
Other than missing a handful of big-timers, northern Michigan features a list of golf course designers as good as any destination in the country. All the usual suspects who dominate top 100 lists are well represented. But what are the best of the best? Jason Scott Deegan offers up northern Michigan's 10 best "designer" golf courses.
3 Min Read
More from the author
8 Min Read
February 8, 2023
Building courses with an odd number of holes beyond the traditional 9-hole or 18-hole loops is trending in golf.
5 Min Read
February 6, 2023
The home of the "Greenest Show on Grass" is one of Tom Weiskopf's greatest golf course designs.
1 Min Read
February 6, 2023
Weiskopf, known for his short par 4s, built some of the world's best public and resort courses.
3 Min Read
January 23, 2023
The new course will complement the redesigned Cabot Barrens and Cabot Oaks courses that will open in December north of Tampa.
5 Min Read
January 23, 2023
Chase the game's biggest events, plus a coveted collection of new and renovated courses, to experience your next great golf adventure.
4 Min Read
January 12, 2023
Course and resort renovations, technology advancements and more are waiting in Arizona's Sonoran desert in the Valley of the Sun.
Popular
1 Min Read
January 17, 2023
Our community of reviewers reveal the best public golf courses in North Carolina.
By Golfers' Choice
1 Min Read
January 17, 2023
These 5 courses in New Mexico won over our community of golfers in 2022.
By Golfers' Choice
5 Min Read
January 17, 2023
After analyzing more than 315,000 golfer-submitted reviews, these 25 courses round out our list of the 50 most popular courses of 2022.
7 Min Read
January 24, 2023
Glorious weather, laid-back people and diverse perspectives mean ‘America’s Finest City’ teems with golf experiences at every level of seriousness and cost.
Now Reading
The 10 best golf courses around Gaylord, Northern Michigan