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Harbor Springs Michigan Golf

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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!

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Herbie Shankmeister

    Sep 8, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Agree and disagree. The Hills Course is easily the best track in the area. No houses just beautiful Michigan terrain and a great layout. The Ross Course was a disappointment. We had played many of the original holes in Pinehurst and Scotland and there was little or no resemblance. Bay Harbor is beautiful and should be played once. Food at the clubhouse is subpar. Very disappointing considering the 5 star rating. Beware of Dummaglas…they have red golf carts.

  2. John

    Jul 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Disagree with all of your comments. Bay Harbor is one of the most aesthetic golf courses around and the heather from the tips is the most challenging.

    Recommendation:

    Go play Dunmaglass Golf Club in Charlevoix. You will not be disappointed.

  3. jeff

    Jan 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    I would disagree I’ve been going to Boyne for the last 5 years and Michigan golf doesn’t get much better at one resort. You definitely missed playing one of the best they have to offer in the heather. A true test of golf.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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