Randy Prichard, in association with Don
VanderVeen, Jason Deegan, Jack Rogers
and John Olsa/ Photography by Michael
While the upscale
courses, those charging north of $75 for
an 18-hole round of golf, get much of the
headlines, Michigan is blessed with an
abundance of truly outstanding courses
that you can walk virtually any weekday,
and in some cases the weekend, and tee
it up for $25 or less. In fact, if you
don’t mind legging it, you have better
than a six out of ten chance of golfing
in the Great Lakes State for less than
you would pay for a sleeve of premium golf
Michigan Golf surveyed 524 public
18-hole facilities for this story, discovering
that “high dollar” courses, those
charging $75 or more for greens fees, account
for only 6% of total public courses in Michigan.
Carts are mandatory on practically all such courses,
thus a walking rate was not an option.
Golf presents 25 courses that rank among the
best in the state that you can play for $25
or less for walking 18 holes*
View Golf Course, New Era — $18
Measuring 6,258-yards, this dollar-a-holler
jewel pays dividends on every tee; a must-play
travels take you to the shores of Lake Michigan.
Twelve years ago David Goerbig took a wedge of
his father’s cherry orchard and personally
built an 18-hole course that ranks as one of
the best values in the state. The grounds crew
keeps the facility in picture-perfect condition.
Bentgrass tees and greens. Bluegrass fairways.
Golf Club, Hudsonville — $25
General Manager Mike Shields has a love for golf
that shows in his knack for design, especially
on the putting surface. Shields gave the former
27-hole facility a complete makeover in 1997.
Nine holes were closed. New holes were added.
Every hole promises exceptionally manicured,
undulating greens that will test your short game
like few courses can. Gleneagle measures 6,705
yards with four sets of tees. Just added: Little
Prestwick, a new 18-hole, bentgrass putting course.
Lake Golf Club, Belmont — $22
Golf really is fun at Scott Lake (at $22
who could argue), primarily because owner Jeff
wouldn’t have it any other way. Architect
Jeff Gorney added to the enjoyment when he slipped
in nine new holes on the south side of the facility
in 1998. Hoag liked what Gorney did to the point
that he invited him back to add a few more holes,
keeping Scott Lake on the golfing radar for years
to come. More additions are planned, including
a complete practice facility.
Golf Course, Walker — $21
Since 1929, the Wilson family has built Gracewil
from its original 9 holes to the 36-hole facility
it is today. Gracewil gets a lot of league and
outing play but it seems to only inspire the
owners to work that much harder to keep the facility
in top shape. Recent improvements include updates
to the clubhouse, bar and restaurant. Very playable
and easy to walk, Gracewill has become a favorite
of West Michigan for an enjoyable round of golf.
E. Kaufman, Wyoming — $25
L.E. Kaufman has been drawing repeat customers
for over two generations. And for good reason.
The variety of golf holes – including tree-lined
fairways, open areas, water holes, bunkers and
some challenging par 3s — promise to get
all the clubs in the bag dirty. The wallet-friendly
price point — like the outstanding traditional
layout by W. Bruce Matthews – never gets
old. L.E. Kaufman (originally named Palmer Park)
opened in 1965 and has played host to the Kent
County Amateur every year since. The gently rolling
terrain makes it as easily walkable as it is
Golf Club, Shelby — $20
A full parking lot is always a great indicator
to the popularity of this semi-private club near
the shores of Lake Michigan. Golf course superintendent
Bill Farrell and his crew are truly dedicated
to making this course absolutely beautiful, above
and beyond “the basics”. The fairways
are meticulously striped and flowerbeds filled
with annuals and perennials graciously abound — two
indicators of Oceana’s attention to detail.
With the flowers and the mature trees as a backdrop,
this short course (5,989 yards) is long on memorable
Springs, Hamilton — $24
Playable and enjoyable golf” is the prevailing
theme at Diamond Springs. Add walkable, too.
This beautiful layout speaks volumes to the team
talents of Kris Shumaker, in collaboration with
golf course architect Mike DeVries (this duo
also worked together in building the highly-acclaimed
Pilgrims Run Golf Course in Pierson). You may
travel the state and not find a more “upscale” style
course for the money. Diamond Springs may well
be the best value in Michigan.
Colonial, Hart — $21
Greeted with the stately plantation-style
restaurant and clubhouse, the arriving golfer
would be led
to believe the course had been there at least
100 years. But no, The Colonial is just another
impression left on the state by architect Jeff
Gorney in the “build-a-golf-course-a-day
90s.” Several holes are very remarkable,
the greens exceptional and the fairways expansive.
Situated inside the 18-hole Colonial is a nine-hole
Creek, West Olive — $23
Should the ownership of Pigeon Creek choose
to let the heather and natural grasses grow to
height, this course would be a true links layout,
for it has all the character of said. Excusing
the openness however, Pigeon Creek is a very
fine course to play, made more so by the fact
that it’s flat (an old blueberry farm)
and very walkable. The wind and the water and
several par 4s stretching well beyond 400 yards
remind you to keep your game in check.
Bay Resort, Hillman — $25
This 6,677-yard, par-73 provides proof there
is affordable resort golf in northern Michigan.
Owner Jack Matthias built the 400-acre course
himself, with nine holes in 1971 and another
nine in 1991. Recent upgrades have improved several
tees and greens on this tight, wooded treasure.
Thirty-four rooms, including 1,400-square-foot
chalets, and a new RV park complement the golf.
Elk viewing is a popular after-golf adventure.
Rose, LeRoy — $25
The quality of The Rose – from its well-maintained
bentgrass tees, greens and fairways, to the customer-friendly – rivals
that of many outstanding northern Michigan golf
courses. A short drive south of Cadillac, The
Rose isn’t overly long, but every fairway
is lined with trees. There is enough area for
some grip-it-and-rip it par-5s and elevated tees
and greens enhance the driving experience. Water
accents the course and creates some risk and
reward holes that keep things interesting. The
secluded setting offers glimpses of wildlife
on a daily basis. The Rose is celebrating its
10th anniversary during 2004.
Golf Course, Big Rapids — $20
The 6,674-yard Katke is the home course to the
Ferris State University Professional Golf Management
program. But the golf course itself is not tricked
up for professionals and it is definitely not
priced that way - $20. Greens fees used to be
much higher before head professional Kevin Tucci
made a price-cutting move that has people flocking
to the course even when school is not in session.
Some testy par-3s and a couple of doglegs on
each side provide a challenge. Balls set up nicely
on the generous bluegrass fairways. Although
there are some gentle slopes, there are few hills
and inclines creating a walker-friendly environment.
A full-service clubhouse and 34-acre practice
facility are also available.
Pine National, Alcona — $22
As the only golf course within a 30-mile
radius, White Pine National is a hidden gem in
Michigan. At $1.22 a hole there should be enough
green left over for a little lunch or refreshment.
Located near Hubbard Lake, White Pine boasts
wildlife and plenty of challenges on the 6,800-yard
layout. Long par-3s — including an all-you-can-eat,
244-yarder at No. 6 — give the course some
teeth. Bentgrass tees, greens and fairways create
playing conditions similar to courses that cost
twice as much to play. The 2004 host for the
Michigan Women’s Amateur, White Pine National
is a scenic course with four sets of tees on
Fox Run, Gwinn — $20
Red Fox Run is like playing two courses
for the price of one. The front nine features
changes and is more wide open, while the back
nine is cut through the woods and much tighter.
Playing at nearly 6,000 yards from the back tees,
length is not an issue. But the contrast of holes
requires some shot making and takes most of the
clubs in the bag to complete a round, as evidenced
by the contrast of the 94-yard, No. 13 hole and
the 540-yard finishing hole. The scenic, walker-friendly
course and the service provided to guests’ rivals
that of clubs that cost two to three times as
much to play.
Ridge, Hessel — $25
This scenic Jeff Gorney layout located just a
few minutes north of the Mackinac Bridge features
scoring opportunities on every hole. Like the
name implies, Hessel Ridge is located on a ridge.
The course is tree-lined and there are environmentally
sensitive areas, but it plays fairly wide open
for the most part. The greens are large and the
fairways are wide, generous and sweeping. Short
distances from greens to tees and no real steep
grades make it a very walker-friendly course.
It is the most wallet friendly stop of the U.P.
trifecta playing The Ridge (Hessel), The Rock
(at Woodmoor) and Wild Bluff (Brimley).
and his son Wayne have turned Chocolay Downs
into a “Guinness Book” of a
golf course. Beginning next spring, those who
play the ‘Downs will have the opportunity
to make the claim that they putted on the largest
green in the United States AND survived the longest
fairway in the WORLD – both in the same
round. That’s getting a lot of bang for
a $20-spot. The No. 9 green of the par 5, 540-yard
hole measures 29,000 square feet, which could
leave someone with an 80-foot putt. Impressed?
Wait till you tee it up on the 1,007-yard par
6 eighth hole on the third nine holes opening
in spring 2005. Chocolay Downs however is more
than a novelty it’s an incredible round
of golf at an incredible value.
Wood, Portland — $20
Willow Wood is short on length (6,154 yards from
the tips) but long on value and playability.
Another Jeff Gorney gem, the course is smartly
laid out on 165 acres of meadow and marshland
with well-contoured fairways and exceptional
greens. Willow Wood opened in 1998 and now boasts
a new 6,000 sq. ft. clubhouse/banquet facility
with walleye dinners on Friday nights.
Akers-East, East Lansing — $25
This W. Bruce Matthews pearl (redesigned
in 1997) doesn’t concern itself with basking in
the shadow of its more-famous brother – Forest
Akers-West. Measuring 6,560-yards, the East course
offers superb conditions and is home to the Michigan
State University Golf Learning Center (the finest
in the mid-west) and the Calloway and Titlest
Golf club Fitting System.
Metropark, Milford — $21
Eighteen holes for $21! Are you kidding?
No. Located just off I-96 as you reach the Oakland
County border, it is easy to see why Kensington
is so popular. Opening in 1961, Kensington has
always been a favorite. The course is not only
easy on your wallet, it’s easy to walk
and the conditions are above par. Double your
fun and visit sister course, Huron Meadows in
Brighton, also just $21. For more Metropark information
visit them on the Internet at www.metroparks.com.
Sticks, Ann Arbor — $20
From the scorecard perspective, this 5,841-yard,
par-70 doesn’t look like much, but you’ve
got to see this hidden gem to believe it. Opened
in 1994, the layout rolls through rural pasture
and woodland. Accuracy, not distance, will be
rewarded. The defining moment comes at No. 10,
a 579-yard par-5 double dogleg that is one of
Ann Arbor’s toughest holes. It is a bit
of a chore to walk, but that’s the best
way to enjoy your surroundings.
Emerald at Maple Creek, St. Johns — $25
The Emerald is no doubt one of the jewels of
mid-Michigan. Formerly a nine-hole private course,
the Emerald was transformed into a 6,654-yard
playable test by Jerry Matthews in 1996. The
fairly flat layout has more of a links-like feel,
with few trees and large mounds separating the
Jackson — $16
This classic 6,614-yard parkland design, built
in 1929, sets the standard of good golf in the
highly regarded Jackson area. The front nine
is quirky by today’s standards – it
opens with back-to-back par-5s and closes with
a par-3 – but fun nonetheless. The course
is playable for beginners and families (its slope
is 122), yet challenging with big, slick greens.
Ridge, Howell — $25
You might get lost trying to find Cohoctah
Township, but this Jerry Matthews’ design
makes the trip worthwhile. The 6,532-yard course
thick meadow grasses and greenside mounding waiting
for errant shots. The front nine is 400 yards
shorter than the back from the tips, so do what
you can to post low scores early. A rustic log
clubhouse fits the backwoods motif.
Creek, Milford — $25
This 27-hole facility in Camp Dearborn
might be the best value in pricey Oakland County.
Lakes nine boasts one of metro Detroit’s
best views atop the tee at the 371-yard eighth
hole, which overlooks Lake Ashley. Jim Dewling,
a two-time president of the Michigan section
of the PGA and the president of Total Golf Inc.,
recently purchased the course to ensure that
it stays in top shape.
Lake, Chelsea — $25
The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation
first attempt at a golf course in 1996 became
an instant winner. Underrated architect Harry
Bowers crafted a 6,874-yard thrill ride through
the trees and wetlands along Interstate-94.
an open front nine, the back nine turns tricky
and tight with three par-5s and three
par-3s. If you hit No. 18, a 234-yard par-3,
in regulation, you deserve a standing ovation.
be fair, Michigan Golf did not include early
and late season or twilight
rates, senior or
junior discounts or coupons. We were concerned
with prices in the height of the golf season,
typically June-August, under the condition
that if you wanted to play a round of golf at
drop of a hat and didn’t want to shell
out a lot of money and enjoyed walking, where
could you go?