Many people believe that Treetops Golf Resort in Gaylord put Northern Michigan on the map as a great golf destination. Although there are several golf resorts in the area with multiple courses, Treetops emerges each year as one of the most recognizable golf resorts in the state. With 81 holes of spectacular golf at two locations (Treetops North is about a 7-minute drive), 226 guest rooms and suites, a spa, a salon, and more than 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, it’s easy to see why Treetops Resort is a popular venue for golf getaways, weddings, and business conferences.
If golf’s not your game there are plenty of other activities including mountain biking, fly fishing, tennis, disc golf, and horseback riding. When the white stuff starts to fall, Treetops transforms into one of Northern Michigan’s top ski resorts, with 23 expertly groomed ski runs, and 14 kilometers of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.
Over the years Treetops has received its share of accolades from the golf world. Golf Magazine awarded them its Silver Medal Award as one of the finest resorts in the United States, 7-times. In 2002, Treetops was ranked #32 on Golf Digest’s list of “America’s Top 75 Golf Resorts”, and in June 2000, Conde Nast Traveler recognized them as a “Top 50 International Resorts.” Pinehurst and Pebble Beach were the only two golf resorts ranked higher that year. Year in and year out Treetops is awarded at least 4 stars by Golf Digest’s Places to Play. And with courses designed by three of the industry’s top golf architects – Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones Sr., and Rick Smith – you’re sure to be challenged.
For my money, there are two other qualities necessary for a golf resort to earn consideration (besides exciting golf): good dining and comfortable accommodations. On either point, Treetops does not disappoint. Treetops offers three restaurants on the main property that are all located within steps of each other: Legends on the Hill, Hunter’s Grille, and the Sports Bar. The food is outstanding and, in many respects, unique. Hunter’s Grille offers an ever-evolving menu of eclectic cuisine and spectacular views from the top of the ski hills. Legends on the Hill has a pasta dish that features a giant elk meatball and handmade herb pappardelle pasta covered in a rich tomato sauce and served with shaved Parmesan, and garlic toast. There’s also fresh Michigan rainbow trout and a Sous Vide Pork Chop that is incredibly delicious.
At the Sports Bar, you can indulge in your favorite made-to-order pizza or enjoy a hot and spicy Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich. The Southfork Ranch Steak Sandwich is delicious too; 8oz of prime rib, sauteed onions, fresh spinach, and garlic aioli, served on fresh rosemary Herb Bread.
The Jones Tavern at Treetops North is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. It’s primarily a grab-and-go menu with items like a Signature Burrito, Smith Breakfast Sandwich, the Fazio Grilled Ham and Cheese, and the Traditions Southwest Wrap.
Bar 81 is located on the main floor of the lodge just past the reception area. There are several TVs, making it a perfect spot to relax with your friends, recap the day, and watch your favorite sports teams. They even offer a light menu, something to snack on between sips of your favorite adult beverage.
As far as the rooms in the lodge go, the rooms are some of the largest I’ve stayed in. Each room is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, and coffeemaker as well as a large flat-screen TV, and bathrooms with huge walk-in showers. In the lodge, you’ll find an indoor pool, hot tubs, and a fitness center as well as the Treetops Spa.
The newest addition to the Treetops lodging collection is the Jones Cottages, located on the 4th hole of the Masterpiece. Each cottage sleeps eight people comfortably, making them perfect for small groups and outings. All are outfitted with modern amenities and the two-floor layout provides added space and unbeatable views.
And now on to the main event: Golf at Treetops! The Jones Masterpiece Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is the only course on the main property. Many feel that The Masterpiece is the one course that put Gaylord on the map as a golf destination. Recently, Golf Digest named Masterpiece to its Top 10 list of Favorite Fall Foliage Courses in the US. Masterpiece has a slope rating of 147, making it one of the state’s toughest courses, but if you play the tees that best suit your game, you’re sure to have a fun and challenging round. As you make your way around the course, be sure to take in the scenery, especially in the fall. I spoke with several women at the course who all said that it’s the fall scenery that brings them back every year.
Controlling the ball off the tee is everything, and don’t try and bite off more than you can chew. You can score well here, especially on the par 5s which play anywhere from 435 to 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 up to 4 clubs less because of the 120 ft. drop and the wind. This and one other hole at Treetops North put Northern Michigan golf on the map.
Practice facilities at the Jones Masterpiece Course include a grass driving range, a short game area with a practice bunker, and a putting green. Regardless of how you play, it’s hard to not enjoy your round on the Jones Masterpiece Course.
Treetops’ 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 for Rick Smith who then went on to design the Tradition Course and Threetops. Smith used the insight and knowledge he gained from his numerous trips to Scotland and Ireland to help him shape the courses, giving them the look and feel of some of the world’s best courses.
The Signature Course was recently recognized by Golfweek Magazine as one of the Top 200 Resort Courses in the United States. features rolling hills, sand traps, and dramatic elevation changes, both up and down. With all of its magnificent views, The Signature Course is the most photographed course at Treetops and is the overwhelming favorite of both locals and visitors.
The Premier Course at Treetops Resort is the only Tom Fazio-designed golf course in Michigan and is as challenging as it is forgiving. It’s a very player-friendly course with many wide-open and rolling fairways, some of which are bowl-shaped, which helps to correct errant tee shots. You’ll find significantly less undulation than Masterpiece or Signature, yet there are still plenty of challenging breaks on the greens. Although the course features several doglegs, it is still player-friendly regardless of how good you are.
Recently, Treetops unveiled the “new and improved” Tradition Golf Course which will appeal to golf enthusiasts who want to experience the game as it was intended to be played – a good walk spoiled by a little white ball! Course Designer Rick Smith has incorporated many of the traits of a links-style golf course on an inland layout. The conversion resulted in the removal of many trees, which brings to life subtly rolling fairways and native grasses. The rough areas have been cleaned up and seeded with various fescue grasses. According to General Manager Barry Owens, “With these links-style changes, you can see up to fifteen different greens on different parts of the golf course.”
Threetops is the most challenging par 3 course in North America. AARP named Threetops the #1 Par 3 Course in North America. It was also the site of the former ESPN Par 3 Shootout which challenged the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Lee Trevino, and Raymond Floyd. The 7th hole is where, in 2001, Lee Trevino hit his tee shot over the green but managed to spin it back into the hole. The ace earned him $10,000 for the closest to the pin, $80,000 for the skin, and $1,000,000 for the hole-in-one.
From the back tees, yardages range between 140 and 219 yards. The longer holes may look intimidating on the scorecard, but they usually play significantly downhill. Each hole is unique, and the course conditions are the same as any of the championship 18-hole courses. The greens are the most challenging aspect of the course; some have severe slopes with a lot of undulation and break that you may not see at first glance and “straight-in” putts are rare. Threetops is a must-play if you’re on a golf trip to Gaylord; you can get around the course in about 90 minutes.
Treetops Resort is located about 5 miles east of Gaylord and only 10 minutes from I-75. With great golf, fantastic dining, and spacious, comfortable rooms, you won’t go wrong in choosing Treetops as your next golf getaway destination. For more information on this outstanding golf resort, visit their website at www.treetops.com.