BELLAIRE, Mich. -- Golf in northern Michigan can be incredibly picturesque as well as challenging. And for those who have never been to the state, which has more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the United States, Michigan is one of the premiere summer golf destinations in the world, featuring some of the best holes on the planet.
"It's hard to explain how good the quality of golf is up here," said Lindsey Southwell, marketing manager for Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire. "The conditioning at nearly all of them is outstanding. And our courses look like they've always been here. The undulations are natural, and the courses look they were just carved out of the woods."
With that said, it's no surprise that these courses have some pretty incredible holes. The Legend Course at Shanty Creek, for example, has the terrific and sometimes terrifying par-5 seventh hole that features water off the tee and a creek in front of the green.
"On a personal note, I call that my double-digit hole," said Southwell with a laugh.
You'll find lots of great par 5s in Michigan at courses such as the top-ranked Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course or Bay Harbor Golf Club, both of which grace the bluffs over Lake Michigan. We've narrowed it down to five par 5s that won't disappoint.
Although 27-hole Bay Harbor Golf Club does well on its own merits, the reachable par-5 seventh on Bay Harbor's Links course is where this Arthur Hills design probably gets its Pebble Beach comparisons.
Off the tee, the visions are grass and sky until you get to your second and third shot, where you can see the endless deep-blue water of Lake Michigan below the bluffs.
A good drive on this 500-yard hole will give you a shot at a narrow green, which is perilously perched uphill next to the bluffs. Like Pebble's par-5 sixth, strong players usually won't have any trouble reaching the green in two, but they have to be accurate or they can introduce double bogey or worse.
Like Bay Harbor, you'll be mesmerized by the views at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course. Unlike Bay Harbor's seventh, though, the 11th is unreachable in two by most mortals. At 633 yards from the tips, even Bubba Watson might have trouble finding the green with his second shot.
Realistically, it's enough to hit three good shots on this well-framed dogleg left that seems to empty into Lake Michigan. High fescue and foreboding deep bunkers line both sides as the hole funnels towards the water.
Finding the fairway off the tee is critical to set up a not-so-lazy layup.
Considered its most photogenic, the 535-yard finishing hole at Tullymore Golf Club in Stanwood is a dogleg left over a lake that tempts players to try to cut off as much as they can off the tee.
Hit a great tee shot, and you have a chance to hit the green in two on this Jim Engh-designed course.
Even if you decide to play it conservatively, however, the water continues to loom left. It's a great match play hole.
The Legend Course is one of three courses at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, and the seventh here is the best par 5 at the resort.
The golf resort's namesake, Shanty Creek, comes into play on this dogleg right, especially in front of the green. The creek will make you think twice about going for the green in two, although at 501 yards, a good drive will leave a manageable distance.
But while birdie opportunities tantalize, high numbers can be had if you get wild. A lake looms off the tee, catching anything right. Keep it close to the lake, and you have a chance to go for the green. The more conservative play is away from the lake to set up a layup over the left corner.
Designed by Michigan resident Tom Doak, the Black Forest course at Gaylord's Black Forest at Wilderness Valley has more than 100 bunkers, each with a specific purpose in mind.
You'll find 22 of them on the 18th, another reachable par 5 at just 500 yards. In fact, you can see every one of these ragged bunkers, inspired by the great architects on the West Coast, from the elevated tee.
A solid tee shot will set up an uphill approach to a two-tiered green. But the fairway slopes from right to left, making the approach shot all the more difficult.
August 4, 2010