Photography courtesy Boyne Mountain
legend has it, never met a man he didn’t
like during his travels on the famous Route
66 that winds from Chicago to L.A. He probably
would have said the same thing about the
Michigan golf courses dotting the M-66
Fall Golf Color Tour.
M-66 is only
about a tenth as long as Route 66, but
for those of us who have never met a course
we didn’t like, this route can become “The
Mother Road” for Michigan golf this
Starting in southern Michigan
near the Indiana border in Centreville, our version
of “Route 66” winds north, and is
within a fairway wood of some spectacular fall
golf venues in Michigan.
So take note and whistle that
familiar tune. Get your kicks on M-66.
Set alongside – and a little bit inside – Lake Templene,
the fantastic finishing holes at Island Hills set the stage for
a sensational start to the Fall Tour.
“ The colors out here in
the fall are spectacular,” head professional
Matt Lough said. “It does take on a different
character. It’s just beautiful.”
While the whole course is challenging
and scenic, the real adventure of the Ray Hearn
design begins down the homestretch while playing
on and around wetlands and the 40-acre island
from which the course derives its name.
“ The five finishing holes
are absolutely breathtaking,” Lough said. “I’ve
played a lot of golf courses in Michigan, Indiana
and throughout the Midwest, and these five finishing
holes here are truly the most unique ones I’ve
The stretch begins on No. 14
and No. 15 with consecutive all-carry, par-3
holes – one 100 feet above wetlands and
the other some 35-feet over a cove of the lake – and
No. 16 is a par-4, forced carry over a cove of
the lake, while No. 17 has a slanted fairway
with water along one side and a well bunkered
green. The par-5 finishing hole doglegs to a
long, but narrow green that is protected and
highlighted by rock formations creating a waterfall
effect; all that after negotiating a brutal 650-yard
(from the tips), split fairway par-5 at hole
“ It’s absolutely
beautiful with the elevation changes and colorful
backgrounds you will see all around the golf
course,” Lough said. “Ray Hearn did
a beautiful job laying out the golf course, and
those five finishing holes are truly remarkable.”
Any golf course in Augusta is going to be terrific, and this one
is woman friendly, as well.
Opening for great golf in the
summer of 2003, Yarrow is situated on 300 acres
of rolling terrain in Augusta, located in Kalamazoo
County, not Georgia.
“ It’s unbelievably
playable with five sets of tees and very generous
fairway landing areas,” head professional
Matt Hudson said. “The greens are quite
“ Golfers of every skill
level can play this course and have a good time.”
Its wetlands, rock formations,
hardwoods and pine trees create a backdrop for
another outstanding golf course designed by Raymond
Hearn, who has called it “the most spectacular
setting for a golf course that I have seen to
“ It has a very nice variety
of holes, with some on the backside that look
like Northern Michigan holes cut through the
woods and wetlands,” Hudson said. “You
don’t see a lot of other golfers while
you’re out there playing.
“ The tree-lined fairways
will be gorgeous when the colors start to turn.
“ It’s just beautiful.”
The lodge at Yarrow offers 45-guest
rooms located just minutes from either Kalamazoo
or Battle Creek.
“ There are a lot of good golf courses in the area and lots of cultural
things to do. It works both ways,” Hudson added.
Pointe, Grand Rapids
With the Thornapple River serving as a backdrop, a round at Thornapple
Pointe can be as illuminating as it is invigorating during a peaceful
The gentle rolling hills, hardwoods
and wetlands accent the well-groomed bentgrass
fairways, tees and greens, making for a most
enjoyable round of golf.
“ The course really takes
on a different look in the fall,” head
professional Chris Sobieck said. “The trees
turn colors and the heathers and tall grasses
turn a nice golden brown.
“ When you contrast the
river in the background with the grasses and
greens and changing of the trees, it is just
The championship layout at Thornapple
Pointe has undergone some recent renovations,
including the addition of 17 new sand bunkers,
eight new back tee boxes and newly paved cart
paths to go along with the scenic beauty and
on-board GPS systems that provide exact yardage
to the sticks.
“ The course is in really,
really good shape and is playing real well,” Sobieck
Oaks, Grand Rapids
This gem of a golf course is in beautiful shape all the time, but
on a nice fall day, the Rees Jones design becomes a Thousand times
When all those oak leaves turn
to their bright fall colors with the rolling
green hued backdrop of the well-maintained course,
Thousand Oaks lights up like a subtle neon masterpiece.
“ It’s fantastic,” Thousand
Oaks director of golf Gary Smithson said. “With
the elevation changes here, you can see for miles
overlooking the Grand River Valley.
“ We’re carved right
out of hardwoods and the colors really reflect
that. The fall is a great time to play golf,
and it certainly is a good time to play here.”
Located just minutes from downtown
Grand Rapids – which hosts fall events
such as Celebration on The Grand – Thousand
Oaks reigns as one of West Michigan’s most
popular golf destinations.
“ When you’re out
here, it’s hard to imagine that you’re
just a few minutes away from the city, because
you don’t see a whole lot of other people.
You get a secluded type of scenario.”
The elevation changes, wetlands
and rolling fairways create both a scenic and
user-friendly golf course that puts a premium
on the short game.
“ The most challenging thing
here is the green complexes,” Smithson
said. “It’s not difficult to keep
the ball in play off the tees, but chipping and
putting is the most difficult thing about playing
Thousand Oaks, because there are a lot of subtle
breaks and turns.
“ On any given day, this
course can play differently based on the wind
direction. Typically, the prevailing wind in
the summer is from the west, and the conditions
change as the seasons change based on wind direction.”
Candlestone is a West Michigan golf course that has withstood the
test of time, and fall is one of the prettiest times to play it.
There is just something special and peaceful about playing this
course on a nice, quiet fall day as the changing color of the leaves
clash with the thatches of evergreens and varying hues of grasses.
“ The beauty of the course
and the colors of the trees are very similar
to playing in Northern Michigan,” Candlestone
general manager Jeffrey Miller said.
Those trees include apple, pine
and hardwoods, as well as an abundance of wildlife,
including turkey, deer and fox that can be seen
regularly at Candlestone.
“ The course is in great
shape, and it lights up in the fall. It’s
really beautiful for picture taking,” Miller
Candlestone, which annually hosts
the West Michigan Amateur, features a most formidable
foursome of closing holes, including a 230-yard
par 3, a 590-yard par 5, an uphill, 430-yard
par 4 and a 425-yard finishing hole with a big
dogleg between the trees.
“ We have probably four
of the most difficult finishing holes around,
and it just doesn’t give up,” Miller
said. “We have some very playable, scoring
holes sprinkled in prior to those, but it is
a course that is a challenge for players at all
The Jerry Matthews designed course
opened in 1978.
“ We haven’t had to
make a lot of changes to the golf course over
the years and that is a testament to how well
it was designed,” Miller said. “It’s
not target golf here and you can hit driver on
every hole, and there are a couple of risk-and-reward
holes along the way.”
Candlestone is located about
a half hour away from Grand Rapids and is a few
minutes down the road from Greenville, which
hosts the Danish Festival every August.
Combine two nationally acclaimed golf courses and a brand new hotel
with the changing of the seasons, and it is enough to make anyone
fall in love with this place.
Those courses are St. Ives and
Tullymore, and fall often brings out the best
of both. The Inn at St. Ives provides an excellent
opportunity to stay and play.
“ The natural beauty of
both golf courses are just spectacular come fall,” says
director of golf Kevin O’Brien. “In
the fall, the conditions are as good as they
get all year, because there’s not the stress
on the grass caused by heat.
“ Plus, both courses have
great deciduous trees throughout, so colors are
fantastic. When you blend together those colors
with the colors the wetlands bring out, it creates
a really nice artistic pallet.”
Designed by Jim Engh, Tullymore has already earned a reputation
among the finest upscale golf courses in North America.
St. Ives was designed by Michigan’s
own Jerry Matthews, and has earned many national
“ The neat thing about the
two golf courses is that they are so different,” O’Brien
said. “They are both parkland golf courses
with trees, wetlands and lake views, but the
designs are different. When a golfer comes up
here, he or she sees two entirely different golf
courses, which is a nice experience we have here.”
“ The colors are a little
more dramatic at Tullymore, but the elevation
changes at St. Ives are much more dramatic,” O’Brien
said. “The design and artistic beauty is
really strong at Tullymore with the bunkering
and the mounding and the way it flows.
“ On St. Ives, you get those
spectacular lake views and elevated greens. Both
have beautiful wetlands and every hole is memorable
on both courses.”
A Rose of any other color just wouldn’t be the same. And
during the fall, the color of this golf course is in full bloom.
Located near Cadillac, The Rose
covers more than 320 acres and is marked by tall
pine trees and large, majestic hardwoods.
The par-71 layout features bentgrass
tees and greens and bluegrass fairways. Deer,
fox, turkey and blue heron create a wildlife
habitat around the course.
“ It is very secluded and
the amount of color we get in the fall is amazing,” general
manager Mishelle Peterson said. “We have
a lot of elevated tees that provide a spectacular
“ The color adds a lot,
and with more comfortable golfing temperatures
it makes for a more enjoyable round.”
From the clubhouse lounge – that
overlooks the No. 9 and No. 18 greens – one
can see for miles. And in the fall, it is a special
“ It is very secluded, and
the condition of the course is exceptional,” Peterson
said. The Rose is located about 15 minutes away
from Cadillac, which features lakes, art exhibits
and fall color tours.
What better way to travel Route 66 than by Cadillac. As in Eldorado.
And what better time of year
to experience it than right now.
“ In the fall, it’s
just gorgeous here,” Eldorado head professional
Todd Pentrack said. “Fall is usually a
time when people are coming up north to close
cottages or open hunting cabins, or are going
up north for deer or turkey season. But one of
the biggest things people misunderstand about
fall is that golf courses – ours especially – are
in the best shape of the year in September and
“ The humidity is down and
the greens are in good shape. The colors are
outstanding and the play is usually light.
“ When it’s 70 degrees
and gorgeous – even though it may be only
a month away from snow – that’s the
best time to play.”
The tall, mature oak and maple
trees that stand majestically on the back nine
surround the more open front nine at Eldorado,
and create a stadium affect.
“ The holes you can see
from the clubhouse are fairly open without a
lot of trees, but then it gets into something
special,” Pentrack said. “The course
right now is in outstanding shape.”
Eldorado provides one of the
state’s best values for the combination
of greens fees, pace of play, scenery and course
“ We have a little edge
because of our location,” Pentrack said. “It
seems to me that ‘Up North’ golf
seems to begin around here. We’re a destination
to hit either on the way up or on the way back.
It provides golfers with a double dip opportunity
At Grandview, what you see is what you get. And in the fall, that
view is especially Grand.
“ The color in the fall
is so spectacular that I have people who come
out here and want to drive carts around and take
pictures and videos,” says Scott McDowell,
general manager and head professional at Grandview.
The fairways are lined with hardwoods
to create a chute-like run after opening up on
five short holes that eases players into the
forest. Then – like entering an enchanted
wonderland – the woods engulf the golfer.
“ Playing in the fall is
one of the best times to play here, because of
the color and the special rates we have,” McDowell
said.“ The par 3, No. 5 hole plays 223
yards from the back tees and features a 200-foot
elevation drop with woods all around it. On a
clear day, one can see Traverse City from the
Undulating fairways and greens
with elevated tees and spectacular views create
the Grandview. The bentgrass greens can be as
slick and tricky to putt on as any in Michigan,
according to McDowell. The fairways are generous
and the rough is usually no more than two inches
tall. Even in the fall, balls are easy to find.
“ If you can putt our greens,
you can putt any greens in Michigan,” he
said. “When we get them down to championship
height, they’re tough.”
Located about 20 minutes east
of Traverse City, Grandview is one of Northern
Michigan’s best-kept golf secrets.
“ It is the best kept secret
in Northern Michigan,” McDowell claims.
Make no mistake about it: High Pointe is architect Tom Doak’s
Set high above the Grand Traverse
skyline, overlooking Acme – an area that
has become synonymous for great golf – High
Pointe was the first solo project by Doak after
designing courses for Jack Nicklaus.
High Pointe opened in 1989 to rave reviews, earning a top 10 U.S.
course distinction during its first 10 years in existence.
“ It’s spectacular
by nature,” general manager Ben Kroftchik
The two nines at High Pointe
are about as distinct as night and day – or
spring and fall. The front nine is more of an
open, links-style course, while the back plays
through wooded, rolling terrain most commonly
associated with Northern Michigan golf.
“ The color is just tremendous
on the back nine,” Kroftchik said. “Going
through the rolling hills and tree-lined fairways
back there, we get some spectacular color.
“ And, with the front nine
being an open links course, we only have nine
holes of leaf control problems. They do a great
job with it, and it’s spectacular in the
A lot of wildlife, including
turkeys, deer and several species of birds occupy
the special houses located around the course
in the heather areas. It is a true lay-of-the-land
“ Playing the front is like
playing a Scottish course, and also gives you
a chance to warm up a little before getting to
the back which is tighter, but also very enjoyable,” Kroftchik
Highpointe is located within
a pitching wedge of Traverse City, which features
fall color tours, hot air balloon rides, a dinner train
and winery tours.
“ The color tour is huge
up here, and from the end of September through
the first couple weeks of October, it’s
a great time to play golf,” Kroftchik said.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then Hawk’s Eye
is a masterpiece.
Carved out of the majestic woodlands,
Hawk’s Eye is the newest complement to
the outstanding golf courses that have made Northern
“ It’s definitely
another winner on the Michigan golf landscape,” says
head professional David Hill. “It’s
as good as any course I have played up North,
and I’ve played some very good golf courses.”
The original nine of Hawk’s
Eye opened in the fall of 2002, and the second
comes on line this fall. And what a perfect time
of year to introduce this new wonder to the world.
“ There are big views of
the valley with spectacular elevation drops reminiscent
of those at Treetops. The colors are off the
Located close to the renowned
golf courses at Shanty Creek Resort and sister
to The Chief at Sky Lodge, Hawk’s Eye is
the newest addition to the great golf in Bellaire.
“ You can now golf eight
days a week around here,” Hill says.
Designed by John Robinson, who
also was the architect for The Chief, Hawk’s
Eye features elevated tees and spectacular scenery
located across the street from Shanty Creek.
It features five sets of tees, most with heavenly
“ We have a lot of expectations
for this course,” Hill said. “There
are a lot of golf courses, but we believe this
one is going to separate itself.”
From the start, there were a lot of expectations thrust upon Cedar
River, and the Tom Weiskopf design did not disappoint. Part of
the Shanty Creek family of golf courses, Cedar River opened to
rave reviews in 1999 and continues to grow in stature and beauty
as the course matures.
Weiskopf’s reputation as
a player was that he always finished second,
but Cedar River is definitely first class in
every aspect. It has been designated as a Top
10 course by major golf industry publications.
“ The thing about it is that it is very playable and everything is right
there in front of you,” head professional Jason Kempfer said. “It’s
a challenge but it can really be enjoyed by all levels of players.
“ The fairways are tree-lined and may seem tight, but there is actually
a lot of room off the tee.”
The traditional championship
golf course has five tee boxes at every hole
and is laid out over a sprawling 500 acres. The
average green size is 8,000 square feet. It’s
big. It’s bold. And it’s beautiful.
And during the fall, it is absolutely spectacular.
“ When you look back from
the No. 12 tee looking over the valley and over
the Cedar River, it is just a phenomenal sight,” Kempfer
said. “Once you get to the back nine, you
can really experience the depth of those colors.
“ The maple trees and the
ash trees make some of the biggest color splashes
in the fall, but at that time of the year all
the views are right off the charts.”
For some 30 years, Antrim Dells has built its reputation as a quality
golf course featuring magnificent views of Grand Traverse Bay.
The views get even grander as fall approaches.
“ It takes on different characteristics as the season changes,” says
Mike Morrical, who is part of the Antrim Dells family ownership group. “There
are a lot of fall colors and it becomes just a beautiful golf course that time
Antrim Dells is a straight-forward golf course with a lot of contrast
from the front to the back.
Located in Atwood, Antrim Dells begins with a relatively open front
nine, a tighter tree-lined backside with several long and strong
finishing holes and outstanding views of the bay along the way.
The 18-hole championship golf course features an abundance of sand,
trees, hills and water, and plays 6,670 yards from the back tees.
The prevailing winds off Lake Michigan change the personality of
the course from time to time.
The large, spacious cedar clubhouse also features good food, great
service and million dollar sunsets.
“ The sunsets over the bay are different every day,” Morrical said. “We
really have something special here.”
If it looks like fire on the mountain, it must be Boyne. The Monument
and The Alpine are two Boyne Courses that light up the countryside
in the fall.
The elevated views overlooking Deer Lake and the entire Boyne Valley
area set the stage for a great fall color extravaganza.
“ There’s an excellent chance that you will see a lot of color and
a lot of wildlife, like deer, turkey, fox, coyotes…all kinds of stuff,” says
Boyne Mountain golf professional Dan Turcotte. “We’ve even had bears
(not to be confused with Boyne’s northern neighbor) seen on this course
from time to time.”
The Alpine features 11 tree-line holes on the front with generous
fairways and large greens. The final seven holes are a little more
open and wind swept.
The Monument is more narrow, and requires a bit more target golf.
Although it is shorter than The Alpine, the greens at The Monument
are more undulating.
The color on both courses is constant.
“ It’s a great place to come in the fall,” Turcotte said. “In
my opinion, the courses are in some of the best shape they will be in if you
catch it before the leaves start coming down.
“ It’s the best time of year to play, because there still is a lot
of good weather in September for the most part. It’s also a busy time of
the year now, because the secret is out on us.”
Regarded as a “True Northern Masterpiece,” Dunmaglas
has earned a reputation as one of the top upscale golf courses
in the United States.
The views are inspiring. The course’s rolling terrain and
wooded forests take on a whole new persona in the fall when all
the colors magnify the natural beauty of the layout.
“ We just have some breathtaking views,” general manager and head
professional Jeff Smith said. “In the fall, there is a lot more color.”
Dunmaglas features panoramic views of Lake Charlevoix and/or Lake
Michigan from most holes on the course. And the fall color that
comes from the woodlands is absolutely tree-mendous.
“ The color is just breathtaking,” Smith said. “The panoramic
views are great and the course utilizes the terrain just about better than anything,” Smith
said. “We were blessed with what nature gave us in the terrain. It’s
a natural setting with a lot of elevation changes.”
There has also been a lot of conditioning work that has taken place over
the past two seasons, allowing Dun -maglas to really show its colors.
“ The course is in excellent shape,” Smith said. “We made it
a little more player friendly, but we haven’t done anything to hamper the
character for the guy who really wants to play a challenging golf course.”
Events around the Charlevoix area include the Venetian Festival
and Art Fair during the summer months and early fall, and an Apple
Festival the first weekend in October where local growers show
off and taste their goods.
An array of outstanding restaurants complement the golf, fishing
and sailing on lakes Michigan, Charlevoix and Round.
Because of membership numbers, it is sometimes difficult to book
a tee time at Charlevoix Country Club during the summer. But in
the fall, chances are good that your group will be able to play
“ Fall is usually a real
good time for us,” says head professional
Steve Good. “If the weather is decent,
it can be really nice because colors are so awesome
up here. After the members leave early in September
it really opens up for play.”
The semi-private club, designed
by Jerry Matthews, has approximately 200 members.
Charlevoix Country Club offers
two distinctly different golf experiences. The
front is more of a links style nine, while the
back is cut through cedars and is much more of
a traditional Northern Michigan course.
While the expansive golf course
runs through 500 acres, it is not overly long.
It plays about 6,400 yards from the back tees.
But the final three holes can play long and strong
into the wind when it is blowing in from the
The front nine is shorter, and
plays about 3,000 yards from the tips. The back
plays about 400 yards longer and through woods.
“ It’s a good test
of golf,” Good said. “It’s
challenging, but it’s fair.”
The Michigan Amateur returned to Belvedere for the first time since
1988 earlier this year, as golfers re-acquainted themselves with
one of the most storied golf courses in the state.
Tom Watson still reminisces about the
course he used to play when he was a boy. In
the fall, the pace of play is virtually unparalleled.
“ What makes it nice in
the fall is that most of the members have gone
and you could typically play a round on a very
exceptional course in three hours and 15 minutes
without problems,” Belvedere head professional
Steve Braun said.
Historic Belvedere was designed
by Scotsman Willie Watson and founded in 1925.
Over the years, it has hosted 39 Michigan Amateur
“ Willie Watson didn’t
design a lot of courses, but he did design some
great golf venues that some of the greatest names
in golf have played,” Braun said. “This
one a lot of fun to play. It has a lot of Donald
Ross characteristics from the golden era of golf
“ We like to say that Aunt
Tillie will enjoy it,” Braun added. “In
seven years, I don’t know if anybody has
come off the course that didn’t enjoy their
Traverse Bay, Harbor Springs
As Harbor Springs prepares to make the transition from golf season
to its winter wonderland of skiing, tubing and snowboarding, some
beautiful changes take place on Little Traverse Bay.
Located on the other side of
the mountain from Nub’s Knob in the heart
of one of Michigan most spectacular golf hotbeds,
Little Traverse Bay is a golf course with magnificent
views of water, wetlands and woodlands.
“ In the fall when the leaves
change, it’s just phenomenal,” head
professional Shawn Bezilla said. “For a
public golf course, I haven’t seen many
better maintained or better taken care of than
what this facility is.
“ One of the aspects that
makes this golf course so nice is that we are
perched on a hill overlooking the whole countryside
and it provides some spectacular views. The views
here separate us from the rest of the courses
in the area.
“ From up here, you can
see Petoskey. On a clear day, you can see down
Little Traverse Bay plays about
6,900 yards from the back tees. Only three holes – No.
7, No. 9 and No. 18 – play uphill. The
rest of the course is either flat or plays downhill.
The spectacular rolling terrain
features wide fairways — even on tree-lined
holes — that have “user-friendly” sloping
edges that help kick balls back into the fairway.
“ In the fall, there’s
a sea of oranges, and reds and yellows out here,” Bezilla
said. “It will knock your socks off. “ We’re
creating unforgettable experiences. We want people
to remember the conditions and quality of the