No golf trip to Northern Michigan is complete without a visit to Boyne Resorts near Petoskey, MI. In my mind, no other Michigan golf resort offers the variety of golf courses that Boyne has. Golfers have the opportunity to play ten uniquely different golf courses; stay in a variety of accommodations designed to meet anyone’s needs and dine at some incredible restaurants.
Recently, I was able to play several courses in the Boyne Resorts lineup including two of my favorite Highlands courses, the Arthur Hills Course and the Robert Trent Jones-designed Heather Course. The Hills Course is one of Hill’s best efforts and showcases the beauty of the Northern Michigan terrain. Strategically placed bunkers dot the landscape in many of the landing areas and narrow approach passages lead to surprising yet subtle greens. Miss the fairway and you’ll find a lot of mounding on the peripheries of each hole. The 13th hole is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular holes in Northern Michigan. It measures 516 yards from the Blue tees and plays downhill. It begins with a tee shot from the top of a ski slope down to a landing area that is wide enough to land an aircraft. A good drive will leave an option to go for the green in two. There are no bunkers in the landing area on this hole, however, the four traps around the green complex more than make up for it. The green slopes in from all sides creating a bowl effect. While this may make for a shorter putt, rest assured it will have plenty of break!
The Heather Course was Boyne’s first golf course and is as challenging today as it was then. Having hosted numerous state and national championships, the Heather has earned its reputation as one of the finest championship courses in the entire United States. In 2019 it was named “National Golf Course of the Year” by the National Golf Course Owners Association). Number 18 is my favorite hole on the Heather Course; I can remember the first time I played it. It’s a long par 4 that requires a well-struck drive followed by a long approach shot over a lake into a green that slopes back to front. It may not be the toughest hole on the golf course but it sure is memorable!
Moving over to the courses at Boyne Mountain, each starts with a one mile drive up the mountain to the first tees. Then it’s all downhill from there, so to speak. Each of the resort’s 36 holes presents a challenge in its own right and uses every aspect of the beautiful northern Michigan terrain, from the summit of the ski slopes to tee boxes with views of the lake. The Alpine Course plays host to Michigan’s Tournament of Champions each year and offers stunning panoramic views of Deer Lake from its mountain setting. Since you’re starting at the top of the mountain, most holes play downhill, and well-hit drives are rewarded with much more manageable approach shots. The forgiving greens will give you more confidence in your short game, something that will come in handy at Boyne’s two off-property courses – Crooked Tree Golf Club and Bay Harbor.
Bay Harbor may well be the crown jewel of the Boyne courses. This Arthur Hills masterpiece offers 27 holes that can be played as 3 challenging and scenic 18-hole championship courses. The design, quality, and playing conditions on each layout are consistent but each course is truly unique. Stunning views of Lake Michigan played a major influence in the design of Bay Harbor Golf Club with each course having at least one impressive view of the bay as you play.
The Links/Quarry combination is the most popular and closely follows the rugged coastline, highlighting the magnificence of Lake Michigan and the existing quarry that was preserved to give the layout a dramatic finish. The Links Nine lives up to its name and is situated on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Move inland for a few holes and you’ll encounter windswept dunes and huge bluffs. This is Arthur Hills at his best, creating a golf course with unique topography that fits seamlessly into its natural surroundings.
The Quarry Nine is situated in, around, and through a massive shale quarry and features 40-foot gorges, stone cliffs, mountain ponds, and a peaceful waterfall. The course requires strategically placed tee shots and well-executed approaches with a few risk-reward opportunities thrown in.
Although it may not get the notoriety of its sister courses, The Preserve is a members’ favorite. Maybe it’s because of the way it meanders through native wetlands filled with a multitude of wildlife or the way it weaves the lush grasses and native wildflowers into the scenery of the golf course. Or maybe it’s because the tranquil sounds of golf are interrupted only by the sound of waves crashing along the Lake Michigan shoreline. For me, it’s the finishing hole, a par 3 with a large green that slopes to the left and funnels balls on the right side down to the hole.
After many attempts to work Crooked Tree Golf Club into my rotation, I finally succeeded, and rest assured, I was not disappointed! Crooked Tree is situated on bluffs high above Little Traverse Bay. The front nine winds its way through centuries-old stands of hardwood trees which lead to well-manicured, undulating greens. You’ll find significant elevation changes from tee to green with the first four holes playing from well-elevated tee boxes. Some tee shots require a modest carry over marshlands onto wide, receptive fairways. The views of Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan make Crooked Tree one of the most photographed golf courses in the state. The 4th hole is handicapped #1 for men. From the Blue Tees, the hole measures 381 yards, so the length is not a big concern. The key to conquering this hole is all in the tee shot, you need to play something that finds the short grass and leaves a direct shot into the green. The fairway bunkers on either side come into play regularly and create a very narrow landing area between them. If you find yourself stymied behind one of the grass mounds in the left bunker, good luck! Pin placement dictates where you want to be in the fairway; the general rule is that with a left pin, you want to be on the right side and vice versa. Trees on either side near the green come into play as well; finding your ball may be the least of your problems! Par is a great score!
Other courses at Boyne include the Donald Ross Memorial and the Moor at Boyne Highlands and the Monument Course at Boyne Mountain. The Donald Ross Memorial features 18 of the designer’s best-known holes from around the globe. The staff at Boyne went to painstaking lengths to recreate each hole as close to Ross’ original specifications as possible. In 2018, Michigan-based course designer Ray Hearn went one step further and used the latest in design technology to better replicate each hole. It is arguably the greatest tribute to Donald Ross in the country.
The Moor is widely regarded as a members’ favorite because it represents a fair but true test of the game regardless of ability. The course features nine doglegs and one double-dogleg at the 18th hole. Number 18 is a par 5 and may well be the most exciting finishing hole at any of the ten courses and features every hazard you’ve encountered so far – water, doglegs, sand, and wetlands – all on one hole. A good drive will take the first water hazard and dogleg out of play, leaving only one pond and a few well-placed sand traps between you and a chance at eagle. Bailing out to the left on your second shot will most likely find sand. This hole will bring out your best…or worst!
The Monument Course at Boyne Mountain borrows traits from such notable designers as Donald Ross, Dr. Alister Mackenzie, Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio, and Pete Dye. The course never seems to play the same way twice and the demanding fairways and well-undulated greens will reward a golfer who chooses brains over brawn.
Boyne continues to reinvest in the infrastructure of their golf courses which will pay huge dividends down the road and have an immediate impact on their golf courses. For example, work was recently completed on the Central Irrigation installation on Donald Ross Memorial and Arthur Hills courses. This new system can be controlled remotely and is significantly more efficient. There were also upgrades to the pump houses and irrigation systems on several other courses and a brand new system that services The Heather and The Moor courses.
Other improvements include over five miles of new cart path on The Heather, Arthur Hills, and Donald Ross Memorial golf courses, and taking measures to speed up play on a couple of courses.
Perhaps the biggest news at Boyne this year is that during the summer of 2023, construction began on the Ray Hearn completely redesigned nine-hole short course which will be routed across a sloping site set among fescue grasses. Hole length will range from 8 to 120 yards. “Hearn will be recreating nine of his favorite greens from Scotland, Ireland, and England. With no formal tees golfers will have the opportunity to put tees anywhere they want so they can play shots from different lies and angles.
This is just a brief overview of what’s going on at Boyne Resorts. For more information or to book your next vacation and see everything these incredible golf resorts have to offer, visit them at www.boynegolf.com. Book now for 2024 and be one of the first to experience The new Highlands Short Course.