Vanderveen / Photography by Kevin Frisch
Cut out of
northern Michigan hardwoods on the beautiful
mountainsides of Bellaire, The Chief at
Sky Lodge is another northern Michigan
golf course with teeth; a stern test of
From the championship
tees of 6,600 yards, the Golf Association
rated the slope at 145 and the overall
course against par at 72.6.
thing people really enjoy is the experience
of playing it,” general manager Tom
“It is a difficult golf course because
of the extreme features on it, but it does play
a little more forgiving than one might think
the first time out.”
The Chief was designed by Canadian golf course
architect John F. Robinson.
We were able to tell him what we wanted and he
built the course to our desire with deep, dramatic
bunkers and huge elevation changes to fit the
course with the topography,” Rowe said. “It’s
quite a site for a golf course.”
The name was a natural fit. A towering 12-foot
tall Indian head carving stands proudly at
the entrance welcoming golfers to an experience
features dramatic elevation changes, spectacular
views and a test of skill.
When the concept of the course was being discussed,
we intended it to be a difficult course and a
very tough test of golf,” Rowe said. “An
Indian chief seemed to personify those qualities.
This is going to be a play-it-again course
really going to make a name for itself up here.”
The Chief is located near the outstanding
courses at Shanty Creek Resort, creating
of championship golf in Bellaire.
We complement Shanty Creek,” Rowe said. “However,
we do compete with them for rounds. We’ve
priced ourselves to be in a competitive position
to their top-of-the-line courses, while offering
a similar product.”
The Chief opened in July of 2000. An 18-hole
round during peak hours is $80 weekdays
and $90 on weekends. Twilight rates begin
Many of the holes feature elevated tees
and wonderful vistas for driving. Fairways
gaping valleys and big, receptive greens.
The fairways at The Chief are somewhat
tight, but open up at the landing areas.
It’s more of a visually intimidating golf
course that plays a lot more fair than the golfer
thinks,” Rowe said. “It’s
Positioning Satellite Systems (GPS) on carts
not only offer exacting
flagsticks, but also offer tips about
where to place shots.
Elevation drops of up to 150 feet are
common on the course. A stream runs through
valley off the side of the No. 10 tee.
Four holes play through a meadow, creating
a links-style look, giving the course
a slightly different character than the
and valleys. The terrain has a subtle
roll to it.
Water — in the forms of wetlands, ponds
and streams — can be found on five
of the holes. A view of Lake Bellaire
can be seen from
the No. 4 tee, reminiscent of the view
from No. 3 at The Legend.
You just get gorgeous views of the Michigan countryside,” Rowe
The front nine plays out about two
miles away from the clubhouse before
their way back in. “Once you’re out
there, you’re out there,” Rowe
never fear. A halfway house is there to prepare
a burger or hot dog
for those who need it.
The large greens become a little
bit smaller on a couple of the shorter
par-5s in order
to make the big hitters think twice
about getting home in two.
Bentgrass tees, greens and fairways
with bluegrass roughs create a splendid
of the course
with foreboding sand traps accentuating
the look. The bunkers can be extreme,
reaching six to eight
feet deep in some spots.
It’s a thinking man’s golf course,” Rowe
said. “People want to come
back so they can beat it after they
intended to be played. You can certainly
score better as you play it over
and over again.
I like to tell people to keep their driver in
the bag and use the 3-wood and 5-wood
added. “It’s definitely
course. It’s like taking a
walk through the woods.”
A walk through the woods, maybe. But playing
a round at The Chief is certainly
no walk through the park.