Upper Peninsula golf: Marquette, Sweetgrass and TimberStone anchor an unforgettable three-day trip to Michigan

Marquette, Sweetgrass, TimberStone: An unforgettable UP triple play makes for a special Michigan golf trip

Marquette Golf Club's Greywalls Course, Sweetgrass G.C., and TimberStone at Pine Mountain make up a can't-miss trio of golf courses in Michigan's scenic Upper Peninsula.

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Michigan's Upper Peninsula is sometimes referred to as the shield above the mitten. Ask anyone in Michigan to point out a particular location and they usually point to spots on their raised right hand. The UP is nowhere to be found on the portable map most Michiganders carry with them.

The Upper Peninsula sometimes seems more a part of Canada or Wisconsin, the state that it is connected to, which is why it's no surprise that more visitors come from those areas than the rest of Michigan. But rest assured, like the rest of the state, the Upper Peninsula loves its golf, and it's a great destination for anyone looking for a summer or fall golf getaway.

Perhaps the best way to plan a UP golf trip is to put together a package. Luckily, that's not a problem, and they are fairly reasonable. For example, you can stay at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Mich., and play golf at three excellent golf courses for as little as around $250 per person (double occupancy) for three nights. Here is a look at a can't-miss trio of golf courses:

Marquette Golf Club

Marquette Golf Club has two 18-hole golf courses, but the one everyone talks about is the Greywalls Course, a stunning Mike DeVries design that makes great use of the rock outcroppings and natural hill topography to create dramatic holes and difficult greens.

From the very beginning, you know you're in for a treat. The trip from the clubhouse to the first tee takes about 10 minutes, but it's well worth it. From an elevated tee, it seems like you can see most of the UP, including Lake Superior. The first green, reminiscent of something you might play at Pinehurst No. 2, is a little spooky. Catch the wrong part, and the ball will spill off into a collection area.

Fortunately, most of the greens are a little more receptive, and the scenery keeps on coming. The par-3 sixth hole is otherwordly with its rock formations, and the course has one memorable hole after another, which flow up and down and around tree-lined corridors. Opened in 2005, the golf course plays to nearly 7,000 yards from the last set of four tees.

Not to be forgotten at Marquette Golf Club is the Heritage Course, designed by William Langford and David Gill. This parkland course opened in 1926, and while it isn't as difficult as the Greywalls Course, it certainly has its challenges. Plus, it's just plain fun.

Sweetgrass Golf Club

About 90 minutes south of Marquette in Harris, Sweetgrass Golf Club is an amenity of the Island Resort and Casino. The 7,275-yard, par-72 golf course, which opened in 2008, is one of the most playable golf courses you'll find anywhere with its generous fairways and large greens. Designed by Jerry Matthews protege Paul Albanese, the golf course makes good use of wetlands and gently rolling terrain to create a golf experience that is as challenging as you want to make it.

This bentgrass links-style course has several outstanding features, including a couple of memorable par 3s. The 12th hole, named "Maple Sugar," has a huge Biarritz green (defined by a deep gully bisecting its middle) where pin positions can easily make the hole play several clubs longer or shorter. The 15th hole features an island green, across the water from the 12th.

TimberStone at Pine Mountain

Completing the triangle about 90 minutes west of Sweetgrass, TimberStone at Pine Mountain is a Jerry Matthews design that opened in 1996. At nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees, it's a supreme test as it winds through the forest and up and down the slopes of Pine Mountain.

TimberStone has plenty of memorable holes, including the seventh and 12th, which share a common green, and the dramatic par-3 17th. At 215 yards, the hole plays much shorter than its yardage because of its elevated tee, and the view is spectacular.

The 18th hole is 625 yards, but it also plays shorter than its yardage because it's downhill over a series of rock tiers you can't see from the tee.

Getting to Marquette and the Island Resort

The western side of the UP is actually a short drive from northern Wisconsin, but your best bet is Marquette County's Sawyer International Airport, located between the cities of Marquette and Gwinn at the location of the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base. The airport offers nonstop service to and from Detroit, Minneapolis, and Chicago, making it a fairly easy to connect to anywhere in the United States or Canada.

Accommodations in the Upper Peninsula

The aforementioned Island Resort and Casino makes an excellent home base for a golf trip and offers good packages with all three courses. Besides more than 400,000 square feet in gaming, the resort also has six restaurants, a bar and two hotels with 275 rooms. It also offers big-name entertainment in its large show theater as well as meeting space and a swimming pool.

For those who want to spend the night near Greywalls, the city of Marquette has plenty of hotels and dining options, including a Holiday Inn on U.S. 41 just minutes from Marquette Golf Club.

And golfers can also stay at the Pine Mountain Resort. Opened in 1939 by Fred Pabst of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the resort has 36 lodge rooms and 14 slope-side condo units, which are heavily utilized during the resort's winter ski season.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Marquette, Sweetgrass, TimberStone: An unforgettable UP triple play makes for a special Michigan golf trip