Some golf destinations are remote. It makes the arrival more special, and the experience, more memorable. Along the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, there are no large cities. The closest large airports are Chicago and Detroit, each a healthy hike from the Wolverine state’s west coast. There is a course, high on a bluff, that looks out over the most American of the great lakes (the only one entirely within USA territory) that calls to golfers everywhere.
Check that: make it two courses. Until a few years back, Arcadia Bluffs was a one-off destination. The admins took a gamble, and built the South Course, entirely inland, and came away with a winner. If the original Bluffs is a panegyric to the courses of Ireland, the South course lauds the principles of golden-age architecture. They are as different from each other as night is from day, yet their core attributes, of great and rewarding and memorable golf, are shared.
We’ve yet to use the how far away meter in our Where else to play when series. In Michigan, how far away is the mother of planning a Michigan golf trip. You see, there’s north Michigan, northern Michigan, and way-up-in-the-mitten-tips Michigan. Arcadia is in northern Michigan, as are many other, worthwhile courses. Have a read and you’ll see what we mean.
Nearby means within half an hour. There are four courses that fall within this radius. Of the four, Manistee is the one that comes with the most encouragment. Our ranger at the South Course at Arcadia was a member at Manistee, a semi-private course from another era. Like Arcadia’s Bluffs course, Manistee runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline, evoking the great links courses of the auld sod.
Within An Hour
The big prize within an hour is Traverse City. Home to acclaimed golf course architect Tom Doak, the area bears not a one of his courses. As they say, one is a prophet everywhere but in his home country. There’s still some fine golf in the area, be it an Arnold Palmer course, a three-course resort, or a Steve Smyers under-the-radar design.
Within Two Hours
At this stage, you’ve committed to at least seven days in northern Michigan. Our suggestion is to pair Arcadia with one of the following two. Remember that Doak fellow? He designed a reversible golf course at Forest Dunes. That means, you play it forward one day, and backward the next. We swear! We played it and it felt like two different courses, albeit with the same shot values. There are three courses at Forest Dunes, plus a nine-hole par three and a putting course. At Boyne, there are two base locales (Mountain and Highlands), plus a 27-hole layout on the lake shore in Petoskey. If you gave us 27 at Bay Harbor (Petoskey) and 63 at Forest Dunes, we might skip Arcadia altogether!