Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Michigan: A Rees Jones course well worth the drive

ONAWAY, Mich. -- Black Lake Golf Club is one of the more remote must-play golf courses in northern Michigan.

Tucked in tiny Onaway -- within 30 minutes of the tip of the Lower Peninsula -- it's part of the Gaylord Golf Mecca (but the nearest mecca course is a good 20-25 minutes away.)

Rees Jones made the journey well worth it. He did a masterful job designing the 7,046-yard Black Lake course across 300 acres of pristine forest, creating what has been considered one of the state's top plays since opening in the spring of 2000.

Golf Digest rated Black Lake No. 34 on its list of America's greatest public courses in 2009. When researching green fees of the top 100 courses, the magazine tabbed Black Lake No. 9 nationally for the most affordable among those privileged playgrounds.

Jones crafted 18 distinct holes that could be considered "signature holes" on other courses. The par-3 14th, the "Sahara hole," is probably the most recognizable with its massive bunker stretching more than 170 yards from the tees to the green.

"The holes were here, we just had to find them," Jones said. "We strive for holes blending with the natural terrain. There is nothing artificial or contrived at Black Lake. We were trying to build an old-style course. You'll notice we don't have mounds or moguls. We just have sweeps and natural grades."

The course, certified by the Audubon International under its Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System, is a haven for wildlife with fox, deer, coyote, beaver, turkey and owl roaming about.

The facility was built for all ages and abilities. With few forced carries, Black Lake Golf Club is considered one of the best courses nationally for women. The Little course, a nine-hole par 3, is a perfect spot for juniors or beginners to get a better feel for the game.

The practice facility features a 350-acre double-sided range, four practice bunkers and four chipping and putting greens. It is here that the Black Lake Golf Academy thrives, offering instruction for juniors, men, women and couples. The women-only golf schools sell out every summer.

After golf, players can relax at the Black Lake Grill for lunch or dinner. For those who want to stay longer, the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center offers two- and three-bedroom condos.

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.
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Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, the first course designed by Rees Jones in northern Michigan, is set amid 1,000 heavily forested acres next to Black Lake, one of the state's largest inland lakes. The course spans 7,030 yards and is undoubtedly one of Jones' best original designs. With plenty of wetlands, a variety of bunkers, large greens and doglegs through the forest, the course is interesting and challenging.
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It's hard to beat a golf trip to northern Michigan. With a variety of courses, mild temperatures and northern Michigan in full bloom, northern Michigan's golf courses are at their best in the summer. Mike Bailey recently played in the area, hitting Boyne Highlands, Bay Harbor Golf Club, Crooked Tree, Belvedere Golf Club, the Kingsley Club and finally, Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City.
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Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Michigan: A Rees Jones course well worth the drive