An Unbelievable Upper Peninsula Michigan Golf Trip

A Foursome For Your Foursome 

Traveling for golf is one of my favorite activities because a place and its golf are unique from everywhere else.  Usually, that means that courses in one geographical location will be pretty similar to one another, or at least share a number of common features.  Michigan golf is known in particular for its stunning visuals and dense natural forests. 

However, the four golf courses that are known as “The Perfect 4-Some” – Sage Run, Sweetgrass, Greywalls, and Timber Stone – are different.  Sure, they offer stunning visuals and are each awesome venues, but that’s where the similarities end.  Despite only being a little over an hour’s drive from each other, each course offers a different golfing experience.  It felt like a cross-country road trip over a span of a few hours or days. 

Sage Run

If you were to start your golf trip at Sage Run, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking you’d taken a trip across the sea and wound up in Scotland.  Despite it being located in Michigan, it’s a prairie-links-style golf course.  Expect tee boxes that look like fairways, some absolutely beautiful views of flatland meeting sky surrounded by forest that peeks in throughout the course.  

Sage Run features some fascinating elevation changes courtesy of a drumlin (to save you a trip to the dictionary: “elongated, teardrop-shaped hills of rock, sand, and gravel that formed under moving glacier ice”).  That drumlin means that certain approaches will have massive elevation changes to deal with.  One par 3 in particular needs a flagstick more than double the size of a normal one to be visible from the tee below.  

While other courses in the foursome can be quite penalizing on errant shots, Sage Run is the opposite.  You can find your golf ball so much easier and have great chances at recovery too.  The greens are also more subtle than the other three but just as challenging.  Your green reading skills will be put to the test here, but if they’re up to snuff, you’ll be rewarded. 

Full review of Sage Run HERE

Sweetgrass

Despite being on the same property as the Island Resort & Casino, it is amazing just how far away you feel from the fast pace of the casino experience when stepping foot onto Sweetgrass.  It’s a course that is a challenge, but not an unfair one.  

As a lifelong lover of learning, I found this was a course I learned a lot at.  Not only because each hole was designed with Native American folklore as a theme (which you can read about HERE), but because after playing through this course once, it’s almost impossible not to score better on your second trip.  It’s one where course knowledge is invaluable for knowing where to miss, where to lay up, and where to go for it.  While the course doesn’t have nearly as many blind shots as Greywalls, it is a bit deceptive in how it’s laid out. 

While looking pretty open, this course has a ton of defenses to keep golfers from scoring well.  Those defenses are varied: undulating fairways, hidden water, bunkers, and tall grass at times only a few steps away from the fairways or greens.

Matt’s review of Sweetgrass HERE

Drew’s review of Sweetgrass HERE

Greywalls 

Greywalls is the most radically designed golf course I’ve ever played.  It’s positively extreme, radical even.  Never have I ever seen so many bells on a golf course because of blind approaches or tee shots.  Never have I ever seen such drastic undulations in fairways.  Never have I ever seen greens that push the limit on slope and speed.  It’s a test, to say the least, but one that’s certainly memorable, and worth a try… much like an extreme roller coaster ride where you get a shirt afterward that reads “I survived Greywalls” even if you shot an insanely high score. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  There is a stretch of holes that is difficult but not impossible, and the par threes on the course are a blast. They are varied in yardage and a couple you can even score well on.  Both Matt and I agreed that #6 is perhaps the most beautifully framed golf course in our collective experience.  It’s an elevated green surrounded by rocks on all sides, and if you play it right (or tremendously wrong) you can even use those rocks to help get it close to the hole.  That’s how I birdied it anyway. 

Full review of Greywalls HERE

Timber Stone

Unlike the other three courses in this group, Timber Stone is exactly what you know, love, and have come to expect from top-tier Michigan golf.  In Matt’s words, “What makes it memorable and worthy of a recommendation is that it’s such an excellent version of this familiar formula,” and I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Tree-lined, loaded with elevation changes, some truly unforgettable holes, and memorable food, too.  Seriously, do not leave the course without getting something from their clubhouse’s grill. 

This golf course is located at Pine Mountain, which is a ski resort during the off-season, and is visually stunning.  I was captivated by the drastic elevation changes that not only showcase the natural beauty of the course, but of the entire surrounding area.  In fact, from some holes, you can see for miles! 

Many holes grabbed my attention, but none more than the last.  This par 5 features a periscope on the tee to help see all the way down to the green from the tee.  The fairway looks like a staircase made for a giant.  Lined with rocks at the edges of each tier, you have to carefully place each shot to score well on the hole.  

Full review of Timber Stone HERE

Other Things To Do 

Of course, you can’t spend your entire trip golfing.  After all, for as much as we’d want to play a par 3 in the moonlight, that’s not really practical.  Luckily, there is plenty to do in the evenings in the Upper Peninsula, and it starts at the Island Resort & Casino

The Island Casino is exactly what you’d expect from a great casino.  A giant bright, colorful, sensory overload where you have the chance to win some big money from slot machines, poker, table games, sports betting, and more.  Of course, no casino is ever just a casino.  At the Island Resort, there are tons of other amenities.  There are opportunities to see free comedy shows or musical acts in Club 41, and even larger paid-for performances in the Island Showroom.  There’s also a place to chill out and rejuvenate yourself after the golf, gambling, and fun courtesy of their Drift Spa which offers a number of services including massages, manicures, pedicures, and facials. 

There’s also the town of Escanaba that is only a short drive away from the property.  It features a historic downtown, a number of places to shop, and various restaurants that are absolutely worth a visit.  My favorite experience was a lovely dinner at The Stonehouse, a steakhouse that had some of my favorite food on the trip including rack of lamb and lobster bisque. 

Conclusion 

Ultimately, it was the variety of experience that was the best part of this golf trip.  Despite staying in roughly the same area across these four golf courses, playing them felt like visiting four different states with how varied the terrain of each course could be.  From whistling grass and flatland surrounded by water, to rocky and mountainous terrain, to prairie links, these four courses feel like a wholly unique combination.  A combination certainly worth trying for yourself made even more fun with a few friends. 

Learn More About the Perfect 4-Some HERE

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Drew Koch

Drew is an entertainment journalist that has covered everything from golf, TV/film, art, and food for years. He’ll be looking to bring you the latest stories from the PGA Tour and the greatest equipment on offer. A single-digit handicap, he’s been playing competitive golf since childhood, and recorded three holes-in-one by the time he was 13. Based in Chicagoland, he’s always down for a round and a hot dog at the halfway house so be sure to follow him on instagram @drewjkoch, so feel free to say hi.

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