Treetops Golf Resort is probably the most recognizable golf resort in Northern Michigan. With 81 spectacular holes of golf, over 238 hotel rooms and condos, a spa, salon and over 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, it’s no wonder Treetops Resort is a popular venue for business conferences, reunions and weddings. In the winter, it’s a fantastic ski resort, with 23 expertly groomed ski runs, exciting terrain and 20 kilometers of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. During the summer, it’s not all about golf, although there is plenty of it. There are plenty of other family activities include mountain biking, fly fishing, tennis, disc golf and horseback riding.
As a golf resort, Treetops Resort is not without its share of accolades from the golf world. Golf Magazine has awarded it their Silver Medal Award as one of the finest resorts in the United States, 7-times. In 2002, Treetops was ranked #32 in America’s Top 75 Golf Resorts by Golf Digest and in June 2000, Conde Nast Traveler recognized them as one of the Top 50 International Resorts. Only Pinehurst and Pebble Beach were ranked higher for Golf Design by Conde Nast that year. Each year, Treetops has been consistently awarded at least 4 stars by Golf Digest Places to Play. Three of the industry’s top golf architects – Tom Fazio (Premier), Robert Trent Jones Sr. (Masterpiece) and Rick Smith (Signature, Tradition and Threetops) have all put their names on courses at Treetops.
The Jones Masterpiece Course is the only course located on the main resort property and was the first course built at Treetops. The Masterpiece Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is the most scenic of the group, which is saying something. Many people believe that if there was one course that put Gaylord on the map as a golf destination, this is the one. At 147, Masterpiece has one of the highest slope ratings in all of Michigan, so it’s going to require your strict attention, but not so much that you can’t take in the beautiful scenery as you make your way around. In fact, it’s the scenery that makes the Masterpiece such a hit with the ladies. Ask any woman you see on the course what she remembers most about the course and it will most likely have nothing to do with pin placement or forced carries, it will be about the scenery, specifically the leaves changing color if the question is posed in the fall.
If you keep the ball under control and don’t try and bite off more than you can chew, you can score well here, especially on the par 5s. From the White tees, they play anywhere from 435 – 500 yards, so getting there isn’t the problem. The problem is keeping the ball in the fairway. Number 6 is a memorable par three that plays 162 yards from the Blue tees, but actually up to 4 clubs less because of the 120 ft. drop and the wind. This is the hole that put golf in Northern Michigan on the map. Practice facilities at the Jones Masterpiece Course include a grass driving range, short game area with practice bunker, and putting green. Regardless of how you play, it’s hard to not enjoy your round on the Jones Masterpiece Course.
The other three courses can be found at Treetops North, about a 7-minute drive up the road.
The Signature was the second 18-hole layout built on the resort property. It was also the first golf course design of Rick Smith who then went on to design the Tradition Course and Threetops. All three courses are located at Treetops North. Smith used insight and knowledge from his trips to Scotland and Ireland to help him shape the Signature Course, giving it the feel of some of the world’s best courses. The Signature has received several honors, including recognition by Golf Magazine as one of the Midwest’s best courses. As with the other courses at Treetops, you’ll find rolling hills, sand traps, and elevation changes, both up and down. With all of its magnificent views, The Signature Course may be the most photographed course at the resort. It is the overwhelming favorite of both locals and visitors. At 420 yards from the Blue Tees, Number 13 is one of the most challenging holes on the entire property. It plays uphill making it even longer than the stated yardage. Favor the left side off the tee for the best angle into the green. Take at least on extra club to get there and avoid the two bunkers on the right side.
The Premier Course at Treetops Resort is the only Tom Fazio-designed golf course in the state of Michigan and is as challenging as it is forgiving. When asked which hole on the course was his favorite, Fazio, who was handpicked by Rick Smith to design The Premier Course, replied, “All of them!” The Premier is very “player-friendly” with many wide open rolling fairways, some of which are bowl-shaped, which helps correct errant tee shots. Such is the case on the par 4, 7th hole that plays 333 yards from the Blue tees. The slopes on either side of the fairway funnel the ball back to the middle. Don’t let the short length fool you; it will take 1 – 3 extra clubs to get to the green. Make sure you take enough to get there; you don’t want to be short. Water rears its ugly head on only one hole – the par 3 11th. Keep it left off the tee and the slope should bring it back to the green. Fives sets of tees offer yardages from 4,945 to 6,832 making the course playable for golfers of all levels.
Threetops: If you’re looking to take the kids to a par 3 course where they can learn the game, this isn’t that place! Threetops is the former site of the ESPN Par 3 Shootout and has challenged the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, Mickelson, Couples and Floyd. The 7th hole is where Lee Trevino had his $1,000,000 hole-in-one. Designed by renowned teacher Rick Smith, every hole is unique, and course conditions are the same as any of the championship 18-hole courses on the property. Seven of the nine holes play downhill – some extremely downhill – and water comes into play on one hole, the 6th. From the back tees the holes play between 140 and 219 yards although the latter is straight downhill and plays more in the 155 yard range. Getting on the greens is the easy part; making a one – or in many cases a two – putt can be quite the challenge. Some of the greens are severe, there’s a lot of undulation and break that you may not see at first glance. Threetops is a must play if you’re on a golf trip to Gaylord, whether you are staying at Treetops or somewhere else. Stop by, relax and enjoy the best that God’s Country has to offer. You can get around Threetops in about 90 minutes.
Two other qualities necessary to qualify as a great golf resort are good dining options – preferably with a good assortment of adult beverages – and amicable accommodations. On either point, Treetops does not disappoint. As for dining options, Treetops offers three restaurants, all located within steps of each other: Legends on the Hill, Hunter’s Grille and the Sports Bar. Between the three, they offer over 100 craft beers and are committed to introducing guests to Michigan craft beers and wines. The food is outstanding and, in many respects, unique. The Sports Bar serves Poutine, I’m sure to quell the appetites of their Canadian guests. Hunter’s Grille offers Irish Nachos, an appetizer that could be easily be considered a meal. Slices of crispy baked potato slices topped with corned beef, white cheddar, mozzarella, Thousand Island dressing and sour cream. Absolutely delicious.
As far as the rooms in the lodge go, I’ve never stayed in anything as large that wasn’t a suite. Rooms are equipped with a refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker as well as a work area and large flat screen TV. Bathrooms are extra large and feature a large, walk-in shower. Also in the lodge is an indoor pool, hot tubs and a fitness center as well as the Treetops Spa. Bar 81 is located on the main floor and has a number of TVs, making it a perfect spot to relax with your favorite beverage and watch your favorite sports team after a round of golf.
Treetops is located about 5 miles east of Gaylord and only 10 minutes from I-75, making it an easy place to get to. For more information on this outstanding golf resort, visit their website at www.treetops.com.