Harbor Springs is located in the northern part of Michigan, not the Upper Peninsula mind you, but still a good 5 hour drive north from Detroit. There quite a few solid golf courses in this area of Michigan, and this summer, I decided to check a few of them out. The weather was almost perfect (a little rain) and temps were never more than 75 degrees or so. Perfect for golf and perfect for golfing and hanging out with old friends.
Little Traverse Bay Golf Club
Overlooking Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan from the northeastern side of Harbor Springs is the Little Traverse Bay Golf Club. This was an extremely fun golf course with many elevated tee shots. The course was in great condition, however the greens were pretty slow. The course would have played much better with faster greens. Many of the holes offered nice views of Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. Play on a Tuesday or Wednesday when the greens fee is only $59 with cart. With the exception of the low speed limit on the greens, Little Traverse Bay is a very nice golf course and worth playing.
True North Golf Club
After we finished up our round at Little Traverse Bay we drove 10 minutes north and teed it up at True North Golf Club. Originally designed as a private club, but it doesn’t appear to have taken off as such. It is definitely upscale and if you are in the market for an empty lot, they have a lot of them. The course? True North is an excellent Jim Engh design, perfect conditions, fast greens and so far, very few houses, lots of empty lots however! We played during twilight (3:30pm) and paid $95 for 18 holes with a cart. The course sports a few gimmicky golf holes, most notably, number 18. Number 18 has a split fairway, get it through this mini golf windmill of a hole, good luck here, you’ll need it. Other thannumber 18, a very solid test of golf with pure conditions. You’ll fare much better here after you play here a few times. The course plays a lot tighter than it really looks to the eye. True North is definitely worth playing if in the area. Not my favorite course of the trip, but extremely enjoyable just the same.
Bay Harbor Golf Club
We stayed at Boyne Highlands for this trip and decided we would ante up a bit ($89 additional surcharge) and play Bay Harbor Golf Club. We chose the Links and Quarry nines which are highly rated in all public course rankings. I was excited to play here, and when I was finished I left here feeling quite disappointed (sure glad we did not pay the regular price of $200). The front nine holes (Links) was pretty nice overall, quite enjoyable and felt real, almost as if it fit naturally into the landscape. Once we started the back nine on the Quarry nine, I was shocked. The course appeared to force itself upon the land heavily into the quarry and the surrounding areas. Many of the holes just weren’t right.
The addition of condos and homes sure didn’t offer any help to my eye either. Don’t get me wrong here, Bay Harbor is an extremely nice place to play golf, but it’s not worth $200, and maybe not worth the $89 I shelled out either. Furthermore, it may not be worth all of accolades it has garnered. It might just be some good marketing hype that allows it the coverage it receives. Arcadia Bluffs, which is a bit cheaper, is a far better golf course. Hands down. Bay Harbor is semi-private with a membership as well. There was a perception of “members versus outsiders” pretentiousness that offered up a slight stuffy-bility factor.
For example, as the starter was explaining some local knowledge, course rules and the like to us on the first tee, when two women raced up in their cart and insisted their tee time was on the Links nine at 8:30 (actually, that was “our” tee time). They insinuated we were out of place, interrupted the course starter’s conversation without an "excuse me", treated him rudely and finally raced off when he finally slipped in a few words edgewise that their ladies league was on the third nine to begin with. Go figure, they were trying to cut right in front of us. Don’t make Bay Harbor the center-piece of your trip to Harbor Springs for golf, and don’t pay more than $89 to play it, if you do, you’ll be wondering why you did after you walk off number 18.
Boyne – Ross Course, The Moor, and the Hills Course
We left Bay Harbor and headed over for our afternoon tee time at the Ross Memorial Course at Boyne Highlands. Since we stayed at the Boyne Highlands Resort we also played three of the four golf courses on site here. They have four, The Heather (we didn’t play it, Bay Harbor instead), The Ross, The Hills and the Moor. Don’t be fooled by the weak first hole of the Ross course. Hole number one is nothing short of terrible, but hang onto your sand wedge folks, the course improves quite rapidly and is actually very fun and enjoyable.
We played most of it in the rain so I took no pictures this go around. After we finished up our 36th hole of golf, we decided to go the distance and play 54 holes on three different courses, all in one day. Wow. We drove the cart across the street and teed it up on The Moor course. The Moor Course might be the stepchild of all the courses at Boyne, but the greens were better than Little Traverse Bay and it was pretty fun overall. If you are staying at the resort, you could squeeze it in as your second round of the day or like us, your third round. Since I did not take any pictures of The Ross and The Moor, let’s move on over to the Hills Course.
The next morning, prior to leaving the Harbor Springs area we teed it up on the best course at Boyne Resort; The Arthur Hills course. The greens were extremely fast, the course had forgiving fairways as most Hills’ courses do and a variety of holes, many with risk reward options. A few of the holes had some stacked in and very tall pine trees making for magnificent views. Some of the best holes here were the ones with elevated tees where you could just grip it and rip it. I would definitely play this course again, and again.
Aside from a little rain, this quick three day golf trip (36-54-36) was well worth the effort to get here and play these courses. I personally liked the Hills Course the best and Bay Harbor the least. Sure Bay Harbor is a better course than The Moor, but it was not worthy of it’s lofty ranking and therefore was a sore spot of the trip. There are a lot more courses to play in and near Harbor Springs, but they’ll just have to wait until next year. I know, I am missing the last 18 holes. On the way back to Detroit we played a course, which may have been an equally good course, but after you factor in superb conditions and low price, it may have been the best of the whole trip. My review on The Fortress in Frankenmuth will come separately in another article, so keep an eye out for it!