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n Michigan, there are two kinds of driving. Boasting more courses and resorts than any other state excluding California and Florida, the Wolverine state’s claim to world-class golf defines one. The other?

“Culinary travel is a natural for Michigan,” says David Lorenz, spokesperson for Travel Michigan, the state’s tourism promotion office. “Our agricultural base is very diverse, we have a well-regarded and growing wine industry, we are surrounded by Great Lakes – we have all the ingredients for wonderful food and wine experiences.”

The same geographical factors that make this state’s scenic coastal courses so compelling lend equal allure to Michigan’s flourishing, internationally acclaimed wineries. Most vineyards are within the Lower Peninsula; many tasting rooms collectively work to attract visitors through seasonal festivals, special packages, themed weekends, gourmet dinners and culinary classes.

Even if you’re not a sip and swirl connoisseur, consider dividing drive time between challenging greens and flavorful reds – memorable vistas at regional wineries are often complemented by cuisine that may rival your other favorite courses.

If you’re new to Michigan’s wine trails, start in the heart of Southwest Michigan’s fruit belt. Below, our suggested journey includes drives through some of the state’s most scenic shoreline counties and top-rated fairways. To learn more about Southeast Michigan wineries not noted here, visit www.pioneerwinetrail.com.

Bon appetit.

Berrien County
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Begin in Michigan’s most southwestern corner, just off I-94 at Whittaker Woods Golf Club in New Buffalo. As challenging as it is scenic, Ken Killian’s par-72 18-hole championship course meanders artfully through wetlands, mature woodlands and numerous water hazards off Lake Michigan’s sandy shoreline.

After navigating No. 18’s downhill left dogleg and precarious green, relax at The Clubhouse. This multi-level, renovated 1920s’ farmhouse delivers log home charm with lakeside, course and garden views from a large outdoor deck, O’Brien’s formal dining room or Joe Mack’s Sports Bar. Opened in 1996, Whittaker Woods is appreciated as much for its fine cuisine and lavish Sunday brunch as it is memorable golf.

North up the coast in Benton Harbor, Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club lures passersby from I-196. Bold, rolling greens, deep woods, serene ponds and contoured fairways – made more challenging by prevailing Great Lake winds – are signature elements of this testy, well-groomed, 18-hole design. A product of Charles Maddox, this course demands shot accuracy from the tee.

Nearby, enjoy tasteful offerings along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail (www.miwinetrail.com), which extends north to Saugatuck from the state line and east from the coast past Paw Paw into Van Buren County. Cool, temperate lake breezes and sandy clay soil here combine to create an environment that nurtures distinctive regional wines.

Stop & Sip

Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant in Buchanan offers casual vineyard tours, wine clubs, cooking classes and a menu that changes daily. Savor gourmet meals designed to complement cellar selections in a relaxing venue with sweeping vineyard views, www.taborhill.com.

Round Barn Winery and Distillery specializes in handcrafted wines, fruit brandies and microbrews; the Baroda-based venue also produces DiVine Vodka, one of only four vodkas worldwide made with grapes. Sample the goods in a unique tasting room, originally a post and beam bank barn built in 1881, www.roundbarnwinery.com.

Blending the traditional art of wine making, Old World charm and modern amenities, Contessa Wine Cellars in hilly Coloma serves samplings in an Italian villa-inspired tasting room, www.cont essawinecellars.com.

Karma Vista Vineyards in Coloma offers a unique point of view, nestled within a scenic, elevated setting overlooking this small town: “We’re here, on a hill, watching everyone on the highway far below drive from Detroit to Chicago and vice versa,” share the winemakers. “They are all very busy people. But someone has to sit here and taste wine and enjoy the glorious view. It’s our job.” Step on up, www.karmavista.com.

 

Van Buren County
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Beeches Golf Club

In the heart of Southwest Michigan’s wine country, Paw Paw’s Heritage Glen Golf Club just north of I-94 exudes an intriguing air of Scottish links allure and traditional Northern Michigan ambience. This 72 par, 18-hole, Jerry Mathews-designed masterpiece offers it all: Waves of immaculate fairways that ribbon through wetlands, pines and hardwoods; open links-style holes paired with taxing, tree-lined terrain; challenging greenside ponds, streams and bunkers; dramatic elevation changes; fast, undulating greens. After the last putt, a full bar and casual dining awaits at the clubhouse.

Further up the shoreline in scenic South Haven, partake in a birthday.

Crafted by noted Michigan architect W. Bruce Mathews III, Beeches Golf Club east of I-196 in South Haven celebrates its first anniversary this summer. This affordable, 18-hole course is characterized by scores of beech trees – including the property’s majestic centerpiece near the clubhouse – and ever-changing playability that comes courtesy of Lake Michigan’s prevailing winds. Water hazards and expansive sandy waste areas add teeth to the test; five sets of tees cater to all skill levels.

Stop & Sip

Founded in 1921, St. Julian Wine Co. is Michigan’s oldest and largest winery: Visit Sept. 7-9 during its Paw Paw-based Annual Wine & Harvest Festival to enjoy grape stomping, tours, wine tasting, live music, an arts fair and more, www.stjulian.com.

In Paw Paw, Warner Vineyards – Michigan’s second oldest winery – serves award-winning boutique wines and champagnes inside its historic Waterworks Station and a new tasting room, www.warnerwines.com.


Allegan County
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HawksHead Links Golf Course

An Audubon-friendly, traditional links-style course designed by Arthur Hills on I-196 just north of South Haven, HawksHead Links Golf Course features a bird sanctuary and wildlife areas. This diverse, scenic track is player-friendly as well: Few trees and fewer water hazards, paired with expansive landing areas off the tee, invite enjoyment of the game. Don’t relax too much, though – there are still plenty of moguls, sand traps and waste areas; tall heathers require strategic placement; and the ample greens here roll fast. Enjoy a gourmet meal in an elegant, casual pub setting at The Inn afterward.

Further north along the shoreline east of Saugatuck off I-196, Ravines Golf Club challenges your mind, as well as your clubs. Looming pines and hardwoods, wetlands, small lakes, scenic Bermuda sand bunkers, rolling meadows and ravines up to 60 feet deep must be negotiated as well as admired on this 18-hole, signature championship Arnold Palmer track. Manicured to the tee, The Ravines earns its place among Michigan’s better courses. Cap off the experience at Arnie’s Cottage with a first-rate meal.

Clearbrook Country Club, Saugatuck-based west of I-196, offers ethereal natural vistas: Stately willows, hardwoods and pine, a meandering creek and extremely rolling terrain augment traditional, close-cut fairways and smooth, fast greens. The club’s impeccable gardens are reason alone to visit, and can be viewed from Clearbook’s fine and flavorful venues: The Dining Room and the Grill Room. This classic 18-hole layout, designed by Charles and Darl Scott, won’t disappoint.

Stop & Sip

McIntosh Apple Orchards & Winery in South Haven, a newcomer to the Lake Michigan Shore Trail, offers handcrafted hard cider and fruit wines showcasing the harvests of area apple, pear, blueberry, cherry and peach growers. While you’re relaxing on the porch or perusing the orchards, treat yourself to a warm doughnut, pastry or flavorful, fresh fudge, as well, (269) 637-7922.

Just up the coast, Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville offers gourmet wine dinners, cooking and wine blending demonstrations, picturesque vineyard tours aboard the “People Hauler” and tastings. On Sunday afternoons in August, enjoy wine and performing artists in the Vintage Garden, www.fennvalley.com.

Ottawa County
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When Macatawa Legends Golf Club made its debut in 2005, the 18-hole, Raymond Hearn-designed course just off Hwy. 31 on Holland’s north side catered to a private golf community. This spring, Hawthorn Suites Golf Resorts, LLC began its transformation into a first-class destination resort, and public players are now welcome to test their skill against Macatawa’s winding, expansive fairways and non-compromising putting surfaces. The addition of a new main clubhouse is expected to be operational by mid-winter.

Founded on a sandy, modestly undulating piece of property just 100 yards from Lake Michigan on Hwy. 31, Grand Haven Golf Club combines lake breezes, tree-lined fairways and impeccable conditioning for 18 visually stunning holes. Designed by renowned Michigan architect Bruce Mathews, this shoreline track exemplifies the Mathews’ family philosophy: Create natural and beautiful golf courses that fit the land and provide ample challenge for the better player while ensuring that the game is still fun for the mid- to high-handicapper. Enjoy “gourmet golf food” at the casual Falcon’s Nest afterward.

Stop & Sip

Celebrate outdoor, waterfront fun at the Grand Haven Salmon Festival Sept. 14-16: Enjoy Southwest Michigan labels in the wine-tasting pavilion, along with grape stomping, a gourmet salmon cook-off contest, fall harvest beer and more, www.visitgrandhaven.com.

 

Oceana County
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Thoroughbred Golf Club

Out-of-the-ordinary underscores Thoroughbred Golf Club, an 18-hole, championship course off Hwy. 31 crafted by Arthur Hills in the midst of dense, rolling woodlands, dramatic elevations and serene wetland vistas. The crown jewel of Double JJ Ranch & Golf Resort in Rothbury, these greens let nature run its course: Every hole presents unique challenges, requiring familiarity with each club in the bag.

Savor discussion of your run afterward at the Sundance Saloon & Steakhouse, a two-story, timber venue overlooking the course that offers an eclectic, satisfying menu. Amenities at the resort include horseback riding, an indoor water park, outdoor pool and ranch activities, as well as rustic cabin and upscale condo accommodations.

Stop & Sip

Visit Tartan Hill Winery a few miles from Lake Michigan, 30 miles north of Muskegon in New Era, where family-made wines are estate bottled on scenic high terrain, www.tartanhillwinery.com. Sept. 20, catch the Muskegon Rotary Grape Escape in Grand Valley State University’s Marec Building: Sample a taste of flavorful cuisine, wines and the arts, downtown Muskegon, (616) 604-1001.

Stop by Jomagrha Winery four miles north of Pentwater, 11 miles south of Ludington, at the Oceana, Mason county line off Hwy. 31, www.jomagrha.com.

 


Hemlock Golf Club

Mason County
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A by-gone sand dune became a canvas of opportunity for architect Raymond Hearns: Hemlock Golf Club in the resort community of Ludington northwest of Hwy 31 capitalizes on this slice of shoreline’s hallmark asset, which recovers quickly from down-pours and translates into op-timum playability. Towering hemlocks, surrounding dunes and gentle swells of well-groomed terrain interspersed with wetlands equate to serene challenge. Hungry? The snack bar serves up the best hotdogs this side of Wrigley Field.

 

Manistee County
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Official Northern Michigan golf begins in Manistee County, and the first courses you’ll come to along Hwy. 31’s scenic coast shouldn’t be missed. Manistee National Golf & Resort offers two distinctive par-71 challenges: Canthooke Valley, designed by Gary Pulsipher, and Cutters’ Ridge, crafted by Jerry Mathews.

Canthooke, recognized as one of the shoreline’s finest courses, winds through Manistee National wet-lands, woodlands and majestic pines. Bluegrass fairways and bentgrass tees and greens lend distinct character to these 18 traditional, yet unpredictable holes. Golfers of all skill levels will appreciate its playability. Cutters’ Ridge affords fewer leniencies: This modern Mathews design caters to shot makers, complete with abundant wetlands and swells of manicured terrain.

 

Just north of Manistee west of Hwy. 31, native orchard fescue lends heather allure to The Heathlands. This inland, links-style championship course fashioned by architect Jeff Gorney and owners John Read Sr. and Jr. spreads 18 holes across bygone apple orchard, native hardwoods and wetlands in elevated, rolling hills; glimpses of Portage Lake in neighboring Onekama come courtesy of this course’s natural openness. Native sandy soils, bent-grass, bluegrass and undulating greens add to the course’s charm, although you may need to put manners aside to make some of these shots.

The internationally acclaimed Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club lies about five miles south of Arcadia on Hwy. 22 and pays tribute to Lake Michigan at each of its 18, world-class holes: Views of blue can be enjoyed at every turn on this dazzling bluff-top course, designed by architects Warren Henderson and Rick Smith. While mesmerizing scenery may be Arcadia’s claim to fame, the caliber of its invigorating, distinctive links-style track can’t be underscored enough: This course is characterized by wide, undulating fairways, fast, rolling greens and Irish allure – all augmented by prevailing northwest lake breezes that ultimately determine playability. If you can’t beat Arcadia’s fairways, get perfect shots of the sunset at the Nantucket-style clubhouse.

Stop & Sip

If you can’t make it up to the scenic vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula, sample award-winning wines at Chateau Grand Traverse Linebacks Tasting Room on Main Street in Onekama, www.cgtwines.com

 

Benzie County
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Off the shoreline into Benzie County, Crystal Mountain Resort east of Hwy. 31 on Hwy. 115 in Thompsonville provides two celebrated golf destinations: Quintessential Up North Mountain Ridge, punctuated by sweeping panoramic views, designed by William Newcomb, and Betsie Valley, recently renovated by Ray Hearn. Tranquil ponds, lush meadows and meandering creeks add serenity to play at Betsie; the course challenges every golfer with tree-lined fairways and cantankerous bunkers. Heavily forested highlands contribute to Mountain Ridge’s demanding track, although four tee boxes on each hole cater to varying abilities. More than a dozen eateries at the resort await your appetite.

Variety found: Mistwood Golf Club, just 15 minutes west of Traverse City near the village of Lake Ann off Hwy. 31, provides three 9-hole lay-outs that can be played separately or mixed and matched. Originally designed by Jerry Mathews, Mistwood’s shorter White nine offers challenging links-style play: Quick greens and strategic bunkering combine with wind to keep you thinking. Built on rolling terrain, the Blue track’s uneven lies demand attention. Water hazards contribute to the Red course’s difficulty. Newly incorporated into the club’s Mistwood Greens development of villas, cottages and homesites, The Little Nine offers par-three practice near the clubhouse.

 

Leelanau County
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Arnold Palmer’s design philosophy – to create a fair test of golf – is epitomized at King’s Challenge Golf Club off Hwy. 22 in Cedar. Within the vicinity of Sleeping Bear Dunes, mountain ridges and hilly terrain allowed Palmer to create an aesthetically stunning, well-bunkered layout featuring tree-lined fairways, terraced tees, dramatic elevation changes and bentgrass. Liberal greens and lack of water hazards are balanced by threatening waste areas and a couple doglegs; just hit the right club off the tee.

 

Boasting memorable views of Suttons and West Grand Traverse bays, The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms west of Hwy. 22 in Suttons Bay offers 18 championship holes in perhaps the sweetest of scenic settings: Two fairways are situated within a working cherry orchard, while others require navigation of woodlands, rolling terrain and unforgiving bunkers. Crafted by architect Gary Pulsipher, this dramatic course features a distance for every ability; polished players and occasional golfers alike will appreciate this well-conditioned mix of open and tree-lined fairways.

Stop & Sip

The Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association includes more than a dozen wineries on its scenic stretch. Visit www.lpwines.com for a complete listing. Don’t miss Black Star Farms, www.blackstarfarms.com; Shady Lane Cellars, www.shadylanecellars.com; or L. Mawby Vineyards, www.lmawby.com.

 


The Bear

Grand Traverse County
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Conde Nast Traveler ranks Grand Traverse Resort on Hwy. 31 among its top 50 worldwide destinations; much of this renowned retreat’s acclaimed recognition comes courtesy of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who respectively designed the resort’s two toothier courses.

The Bear lives up to its name. Intimidating yet fun, this Scottish links-style lay-out provides plenty of respite for the eyes, if not the shot maker’s mind: Fruit orchards, tiered greens and terraced fairways lend aesthetic reprieve.

Player’s design, The Wolverine, better caters to those seeking course playability and versatility. Sculpted greens and swaying heather give this 18-hole, artful masterpiece eye appeal while highland hardwoods and wetlands offer bite to the flight – each nine serves up its own challenges.

Former University of Michigan golf coach William Newcomb crafted Grand Traverse Resort’s third course, Spruce Run. Gently weaving through undulating, coniferous terrain overlooking East Grand Traverse Bay, this championship design provides a relaxed, resort experience.

Stop & Sip

North between the azure arms of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay lies Old Mission Peninsula. Situated at the globe’s 45th parallel – the ideal climate for growing varietal wine grapes – five distinct wineries are earning international recognition for the fruits of their harvests. Visit www.winesofoldmission.com for a complete list.

On Sept. 8, stop by Bowers Harbor Park for the annual Old Mission Peninsula Wine & Food Celebration. Call (231) 223-7355 for details, or visit www.winesofoldmission.com.

Celebrate fine cuisine and wine artisanship Sept. 13-15 at the third annual Traverse Epicurean Classic, where some of the world’s best wine importers, professionals, and regional as well as nationally recognized chefs will share their talents, www.epicureanclassic.com.

 

Antrim County
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A pristine, premier destination, A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort just east of Hwy. 31 in Kewadin offers two courses suited to varying track tastes. Links-style Sundance, shaped by Jerry Mathews and internationally recognized architect Steve St. James, conforms seamlessly to a bluff between Torch Lake and Grand Traverse Bay. Wide, scenic fairways and gracious, artfully sculpted greens echo the path of ancient glaciers, inspiring appreciation from the most discriminating golfer.

The resort’s original layout, Torch, provides pure Northern Michigan respite and challenge within a realm of towering hardwoods, dense cedars and stately pine. Rolling over high terrain with panoramic views of emerald blues and greens, this traditional, woodland links design is crowned by a clubhouse boasting equally incomparable vistas.

 

Charlevoix County
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Nestled in tranquil, rolling woodlands with stunning views of lakes Michigan and Charlevoix as well as Beaver Island, Dunmaglas Golf Club off Hwy. 31 east of Charlevoix offers nary a flat spot on its scenic terrain. Designed by Larry Mancour and Dean Refram, this collection of striking Northern Michigan holes is as beautiful as it is ball-hungry: Grass walls, dense hardwoods, bunkered fairways and twisting navigations lend this lauded layout its inviting intrigue – amateur and competitive players alike will enjoy Dunmaglas’s unique character.

Lisa M. Jensen is editor of Michigan GOLF sister publication, Michigan BLUE Magazine, www.mibluemag.com.

 

 

Additional Drive Time

If traversing the entire coastline’s trove of first-rate courses isn’t on your timetable, Emmet County at the crown of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is the spot to stop: A dozen well-crafted designs await you here, beginning with Boyne Highlands.

 


Crooked Tree

More than three decades ago, Boyne founder Everett Kircher tapped renowned architect Robert Trent Jones to shape its Heather Course. Challenging shots on ample tree-lined fairways and stunning scenery here paved the way for countless accolades and seven more award-winning tracks – 162 championship holes in all, including rounds at Bay Harbor and Crooked Tree in Petoskey. Stay and play: Boyne USA Resorts offers a variety of golf packages (visit www.boyne.com for details).

Little Traverse Bay Golf Club (www.ltbaygolf.com) in Harbor Springs, crafted by Jeff Gorney, is another course worth a drive: Indulge in panoramic water views, rolling terrain and nationally acclaimed play; cuisine at the clubhouse earns no less favorable reviews.

Secluded by majestic pines, hardwoods and bluffs in Brutus, top-notch golf is complemented by premier fly fishing on the tranquil Maple River at Hidden River Golf & Casting Club (www.hiddenriver.com). And True North Golf Club’s celebrated Audubon track shouldn’t be overlooked (www.truenorthgolf.com). For more information about Emmet County courses, check out Michigan GOLF’s North Directory.

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