Sweetgrass Golf Course Review

50 Words or Less

Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris, Michigan (a part of the Island Resort & Casino) is visually stunning and deceptive.  Undulating greens and fairways, long grass, as well as water all complicate what would otherwise be a much easier course. 

Introduction

If you’ve been a fan of this site for a while, the name Sweetgrass should look familiar to you.  After all, a few years back, our Editor-In-Chief Matt wrote his original review of this course [review HERE].  It was glowing, and he recommended making it a place worthy of taking a trip to.  But it’s been six years since his review and it’s time to see if the golf course still holds up.

Practice Facilities

During my recent trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I was able to try out a number of courses in the area, and I can say with certainty that my favorite practice facility was at Sweetgrass.  Their facility is extremely close to the first tee.  It was great to get the speed of the greens, get loose on the range, and then pop off to start the round. 

Practicing before my round at Sweetgrass felt like I was at a lowkey country club, in the best possible way.  It was quiet, well-manicured, and there was space to try lots of shots.  Each hitting area was marked with a den caddy filled with golf balls.  The putting green was large and offered tons of different breaks to work through speed and reading.  The driving range was also very spacious.  Unlike other golf courses in the area, I could comfortably hit my driver, and the range had a number of greens with pins to target and practice shots.  

Customer Service & Amenities

There are quite a few amenities at this course, in large part because it’s on the property of the Island Casino.  In the building of the Casino is where you’ll find the pro shop.  Inside was a relatively simple setup, but there was a good amount of soft goods to buy as keepsakes from your trip. 

Out on the course was a small building that serves as the halfway house and starter shack.  There is a limited menu with standard fare: burgers, brats, and hot dogs.  The staff was kind and helpful, which always adds to the experience.

Beauty & Scenery

Sweetgrass is so aptly named because the grass is what I noticed first.  It’s wonderfully quiet and serene, the only sound was the whistling of the wind through that tall grass that surrounds the perimeter of each hole.  This is interesting because I don’t associate too many distinct sounds to particular golf courses, and it’s such an unexpected experience with it being just a few hundred yards away from a casino.

It’s beautiful visually too, in large part because of the duality that it presents.  It’s a visual clash between man-made structures and nature with the course featuring a number of reclaimed metal bridges.

My only critique on the beauty was that the final hole of each nine finished by looking straight at the side of the hotel and casino.  The plain beige hotel struck me as rather cold and boring.  Perhaps that could be the spot of a colorful mural tribute to the Potawatomi tribe the course is made to celebrate.  After all, these two holes are some of the most stunning on the course, with elevation changes, dynamic water features, strategically placed bunkers, and winding fairways.  Something like that could add to that beauty rather than distracting from it. 

Tee Shots

Before you actually hit any tee shots, it’s impossible not to notice that the tee boxes were pristine.  It feels like a true vacation when you are about to tee off.  However, after making that full swing, it’s as though you’re looking at a mirage.

I found that often I would hit a shot thinking it was well-struck, only to find that – because of undulations in the fairways, hidden water, or tall grass – my ball was worse off than I expected.  Whether lost in tall grass or simply in the rough, this course presented a challenge.  Additional course knowledge would make a second round much more rewarding.

That challenge was for every skill level as there are a number of tee designations at Sweetgrass with the forward tees measuring 5,075 and the back ones at 7,275.  Featuring relatively flat land, the course plays pretty true to the number on the scorecard.

Approaches

Just like with the tee shots, the approaches into greens are deceptive.  While landing areas were at times generous, the way to score was through pinpoint precision into greens.  That precision has to be through an aerial attack, because bunkers, rough, and the shapes of these greens make running the ball up to the green impractical.  It’s a golf course that requires you to know your yardages, hit higher shots, and be aware of how the wind will affect your golf ball. 

Greens & Surrounds

Surrounding many of the greens, often only a few yards off, lies tall grass.  With how close the tall grass is to the edge of greens, it seems like it’s unnecessarily penal.  While I think that it’d be a better course with the grass trimmed a bit, as it stands, it’s a challenge. 

The greens are difficult but fair.  While not the fastest in the area, they are undoubtedly speedy.  That speed is made more noticeable by the undulations.  While not present on every green, when they are there, they can be dramatic and pose quite the ordeal that rewards good green-readers.  Some greens are split  providing more unique, lengthy putts.

Overall Design

As you could probably tell, my take on the design of this course can be summarized in one word: sneaky.  I’m not the type to lose a lot of golf balls, and yet I lost more on this course than I have in some time.  It’s almost as though there were little gnomes hiding golf balls on the course.  But, of course, I didn’t see any so I have to suspect it was simply firm greens and firm fairways that would sometimes sent my shots careening elsewhere. 

What I do appreciate is that there is a ton of thought that went into the design of this golf course.  It’s on Native American land, specifically the Potawatomi tribe’s, and the course design heavily features Potawatomi mythology, folklore, and tradition.  From the number of bunkers on a hole to the shape of the hole’s layout, everything is placed on this course for a larger purpose.  In fact, nearly every hole was influenced by some story or part of Potawatomi culture.  To those interested in learning more, there’s an awesome opportunity to check out their hole-by-hole tour HERE

Favorite Holes

#15 – Par 3 – 152 yards

I am a sucker for an island green par 3, and this one delivers.  While relatively straightforward, it’s a demanding hole.  The green isn’t large, so you need to know your distances well to capitalize on the shot.  Beyond it being a cool hole, it’s a beautiful visual and a serene place to step foot onto after hitting your shot and crossing one of this course’s iron bridges.

#12 – Par 3 – 193 yards

This is a favorite, despite me playing it absolutely terribly.  It features a positively colossal Biarritz green.  Determining yardage is particularly tricky because the sheer size of this green means that depending on where the pin is located, the yardage can be three, maybe even four, clubs different.  That correct yardage is so important because if you’re not in the right part of the green…well, let’s just say I’ve witnessed great golfers four-putt this hole.  It’s also visually striking because of the bunker beside the green that in the summer seems like an ideal spot to have a piña colada in. 

Conclusion

While I do have one or two gripes with this course, it was a beautiful, fun, challenging venue that I’d love to play again soon.  It’s a perfect spot to get a weekend golf trip set up.  When Matt wrote that glowing review years ago, he wasn’t wrong then – and now there may be even more truth to it as the course has really grown into its own.  It’s a place that presents great value too, considering the standard greens fees are only $85 and can go even lower depending on the season.  I absolutely recommend you to play there and I’m looking forward to going back.

Visit Sweetgrass Golf Club HERE

The following two tabs change content below.

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.

Latest posts by Drew Koch (see all)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*