By Danny and Alice Scott
A couple nights’ stay at Bay Harbor years back, was simply a tease that left us craving their delectable Lamb Pop “lollichops” and yearning for more of the bountiful vacation options at Boyne Golf. This summer, after sampling each of the three distinct resorts, playing all but two of the “Magnificent Ten” courses, and delving into the impressive history of the destination built by Everett Kircher, his heirs, and associates, we have concluded that there are not enough words in one article to describe the bounty of Boyne Golf, so here is a glimpse of the fun.
Boyne Mountain Resort (2 courses)
This is where it all began in 1948 as a ski resort, and where today the Hemlock Chair Lift, one of two original lifts still running in the country, sails up the mountain with skiers in the winter and hikers and bikers in the summer. It is the centerpiece of Boyne Village which has unlimited entertainment venues for all. The original Boynehof Lodge was modeled after Everett’s love for Sun Valley in Idaho.
The newer Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa is mammoth, connected to Avalanche Bay, which is a Disneyesque setting of unimaginable, multistory water activities to wear kids out while thoroughly entertaining accompanying adults. Inside the Mountain Grand Lodge, 40s and 50s pictures line the walls, telling the rich history, leading to many shops, exclusive spa and 225 guest rooms. How many bars are there? Lots is the answer and drinks may be carried to and fro, throughout the village and resort. We ate at the Tavern, formerly Pearson’s which was modeled after the Cheers show bar and located across from the Hemlock Chairlift. White chili was warming after a rainy round that followed four gorgeous days. Rain doesn’t dampen spirits at Boyne Mountain where five weddings were held the previous weekend and as we dined, excited zipliners giggled by, all geared up with harnesses and helmets to ride the Hemlock to multiple lines of zippity doo dah fun.
Deer Lake is a short drive away and home to the Alpine and Monument Courses where the Pro-am Tournament of Champions, for Michiganders is played. Of the ten courses, Boyne Golf General Manager Bernie Friedrich, celebrating 46 years of service, says that Alpine is the one slighted. He might be prejudiced as it was the first course he worked at. It is a thrilling run traversing the mountain as does the Monument which pays tribute to golf’s greats with plaques on each hole chosen by honorees such as Kathy Whitworth and Gene Sarazen.
The Beach House restaurant on the lake across from the Boyne Mountain pro shop will be reopening in 2022 for guests to watch the sunset move across the sky. Waterfront cottages offer more lodging at Deer Lake where you might wade far out and still be waist deep for a fresh dip. Kayaks and pedal boats are included with the stay or rent a paddleboard or pontoon from a company in town. Consider fishing on the river where over a mile stretch is owned by Boyne. Other endless activities including paint ball or equestrian rides.
Boyne Highlands Resort (5 courses)
This is another ski/golf resort with one of the chair lifts running in the summer for guests to experience the nature trails or mountain bike course. Lift tickets are included in the room rate, and we recommend the peaceful and scenic ride. Slopeside Lounge at the base is a fun spot to celebrate any day with drinks and fine cuisine like the chef’s fresh catch of striped seabass. A firepit is lit every evening for Smores. The Boyne Highlands Lodge is undergoing a renovation after a fire destroyed the center section. Rooms are freshly upgraded with all the modern amenities including the softest robes on earth. Gleneagles suites are more spacious with a full throwback tub in the bath. A 3-story water spa and much more are in the plans. Stay tuned for the renaming of the Lodge to match the quality of the extensive remodel.
Boyne Highlands is home to the original 18-hole Heather Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones. This is a special walk through the woods and blueberry bogs. Number 9’s approach requires a needle threading between bunkers to the uphill green. The 18th hole is where Everett and RTJ parted ways because RTJ didn’t want golfers to be too challenged by water on the final hole. But the engineering of the ski run required a lake and Everett being the owner, had it dug. To compromise, a bench at the elevated tee box notes the distance to the lake of 258 yards and if you were to tip that bench over, you would see the local rule, “Free drop if the tee shot reaches the water. Not so for the second shot.” It’s a thrilling hole to maneuver and par or especially, to birdie in front of onlookers. Rooms at the lodge allow gallery viewing as will the future Steakhouse which will replace the 19th snack shack. The historic pro shop with shake roof will remain, contrasting with modern Longboards reserved for golf surfers and their clubs.
Another pro shop two miles away serves three more Boyne Highlands courses and Boyne Golf Academy, a unique training center equipped with Gears inside where your 3D avatar reveals your swing alignment, speed, and balance. Seeing is believing. Trackman is stationed on a portion of the range for gauging distances, speed and direction with different clubs or playing many courses on the simulator as well as competitive games. School teams practice here. The focus is not only on youth but golf for all.
Arthur Hills Course displays the colors of Michigan like no other with a superb routing through the forests to the highest peak in the area. In autumn, “there’s gold in them thar hills” complementing emerald, green fairways and white sand bunkers.
Moor Course challenges players from the first tee to the last with several risk/reward holes that wrap around water features daring golfers to cut the corners for a closer look at the green. What it lacks in distance, it makes up for in strategic target golf. Moor for the money.
The Donald Ross Memorial Course pays homage to the late great designer. Everett, his son and current President, Stephen Kircher and Bernie flew to different Ross courses, played a couple holes, flew to the next and so on, to pick their favorite 18 which would be replicated into one tribute course. It is amazing how the diverse holes flow as if originally designed by Ross to do so.
We were greeted at Boyne Highlands parking lot by a heron. A pileated woodpecker played hide and seek in the trees, a foursome of sand cranes tried to play through on multiple courses, and along the way, deer pranced – pure nature. The Country Club of Boyne with the Seminole Pub indoors, has patio seating on both sides where Bernie likes to heckle the golfers.
Bay Harbor (45 holes)
The Inn at Bay Harbor is the primo lodging spot of Boyne Golf, with Ritz pricing to match the exquisite setting right on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. Check out the view on the live cam on their website. It’s a turn of the century hotel design and now a Marriott Autograph Hotel commanding $900/night for summer rates, and it is filled to capacity. Champions’ packages pair nights for twosomes or foursomes with golf and breakfast for a better deal.
The lakeside entrance drive to Bay Harbor Golf induces lake house envy. We played the most popular combination of the Links/Quarry. Bernie noted that Arthur Hills built the combo as a figure 8 and the wind on any day will change it. Many refer to The Links as the Pebble Beach North while others say it’s like Scottish Links but with green grass. It is both. Holes one through four play along the bay with boats sailing by. Focus on landing areas to avoid gnarly grass, bunkers, or the great Lake Michigan. Homes here and there showcase like an architectural parade. Numbers 5 and 6 offer lake glances and then 7 an amazing broad lake view, hitting downhill then up to the green, rough grass left, swimmers to the right.
The Quarry name is geologically evident on holes 3 and 4 with a fantastic lake view backdrop. Number five is tricky starting by a pond with swans and finishing with the green past a stream. The elevated six from the tips is fun for big hitters to shoot for the green over an immense marsh. It’s hard to believe there was once a smelt plant on seven miles of the coastline when you play the cute number 8 par 3 to the lakeside and bring the game home to the multiple hues of blue water on 9. The elegant Clubhouse has a Torrey Pines’ view of Quarry’s number nine along the lake. Make the patio or window seat inside the clubhouse a special 19th overlooking Little Traverse Bay and do try the lollichops!
Crooked Tree has its own pro shop and snack bar, 6 minutes away. Crooked Tree was an Indian trail from Marquette to Traverse City. Number one starts with a crooked fairway, 7 crooks right with severe downside to the woods that are a ball shopper’s paradise. Don’t go there. Long hitters aim over the bunker at the crook of the dog leg to the green where views of the lake pop up. Several hilltop greens and fairways deliver panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
All of the Magnificent Ten display exceptional conditioning and stimps are calibrated to match. The retiring Director of Superintendents was never replaced because each course’s super has years of experience and is, without supervision, already super.
Small lakeside towns such as Petoskey exude an Americana spirit of old, filled with unique shops and restaurants. Next trip, we’ll use a mulligan to try the Cuban cigar club and perhaps visit more beaches and wineries since we thoroughly enjoyed Boyne Valley Winery’s tree house deck for sipping and tasting. Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery is home to an array of animals and organic farm products. The ferry to the fairytale Mackinaw Island is only 20 miles away, another of our stories from the past to check out and on this year’s itinerary for eight couples from Naples, Florida in between their Boyne rounds of golf. The Boyne South group travels together a few times a year and said this was one of their best trips ever.
Boyne Golf has made a popular buddies’ trip for years and now more families are participating in the sport of golf while enjoying the other outdoor activities. And more couples are playing together, sharing romantic meals and nature walks.
Bountiful opportunities come with big decisions – what to do, where to play, where to eat. Contact the experienced Boyne Golf reservationists to help decide and arrange accommodations and tee times for your individual group. Ken Griffin, Director of Golf Sales and Marketing advises that advanced stay and play packages will save money as everything books up and yield rates increase with the diminishing supply and steady demand. You’ve seen the advertisements but take our word, there is no place in the country with this variety in golf and more. The quality of conditions and service is simply remarkable. Rich in history with an eye on the future, every trip you take to Boyne presents something new. We can’t minimize the maximum fun in bountiful Boyne. www.boyne.comWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?