50 Words or Less
The Fountains Course at Garland Lodge and Golf Resort, located in northern Michigan, offers a nostalgic trip for those who love the great outdoors. Log cabins, forests, and tons of wildlife offer enjoyment on top of the golf.
Every aspect of the Garland Lodge and Golf Resort felt like stepping back in time, from the course’s massive log cabin lodge where you eat and stay to the Tiki Bar behind the clubhouse to the lengthy log bridge you cross onto the golf course. It seemed the only thing missing was a DeLorean-style golf cart to use. But while the feel was historic, the fun was modern. It’s a spot that could easily host a guy’s trip or a family reunion with an emphasis on golf.
Along with the four golf courses on site: Fountains, Monarch, Reflections, and Swampfire, I am happy to report there are areas to take advantage of to prep for your rounds. The compound features a massive putting green by the lodge and Tiki Bar. Beyond that, there is also a full-scale driving range to use. The member’s area features a smaller putting area and chipping green as well.
Customer Service & Amenities
My experience here was peppered with smiles. No matter who you’re talking to, the starter, the course pro, the servers, the bartenders, or the hotel staff – they are all thrilled to offer you that famous Midwestern hospitality. What’s also on offer is a small pro shop that features mostly apparel, balls, and a few other minor souvenirs. Just make sure to pack a rangefinder because the courses don’t have GPS on the golf carts.
As for food and drinks, there are four options: The Tiki Bar, The Antlers Bar & Grill, The Halfway House, and the pièce de résistance, the Tamarack Dining Room. While I had limited experience at Antlers and Halfway, the Tamarack Dining Room was a highlight of my recent trip. They have a rotating seasonal menu that uses fresh, local ingredients. I was blown away with a bone marrow-crusted filet that tasted as good as holing a putt for eagle feels out on the course.
Beauty & Scenery
While this course doesn’t sport significant elevation drops, you know you’re at a destination because of the relaxing surroundings of forests and ponds. After just a hole or two, it feels like you and your playing partners are the only people on the planet. It’s exceedingly peaceful and quiet, with the sounds only what you’d expect to hear out in the woods.
There are natural surroundings to be sure, but the most interesting detail about a few of the holes was the rows of trees planted by man. These rows of sequoias felt surreal when juxtaposed with the natural forests elsewhere on the course. While normally I’d be quite annoyed looking for a ball in the trees, that wasn’t the case here. Instead, I felt a sense of calm and contentedness among those rows of bark.
The beauty of the experience at The Fountains wasn’t just about the course design, but the nature itself. Wildlife was positively everywhere. It felt like playing golf in a national park, in the best possible way. Throughout 18 holes of golf, I saw five deer, half a dozen massive turkeys, and a pair of eagles with a nest as big as a car. I found myself using my rangefinder as much to see the wildlife as to get my distances to the pin.
Unlike many of the other courses in the Gaylord area, there isn’t much dramatic elevation change on this course. That doesn’t make the surroundings any less beautiful or the shots any less difficult, though. The course puts a premium on proper positioning, and literally every hole is tree-lined, some more punishingly so than others. The fairways are often narrow, but the rough isn’t overly punishing.
About half of the holes on this course have some water to contend with. After all, the Fountain Course gets its name comes from many of those ponds that feature fountains. While they certainly look pretty, they present a hurdle for golfers to avoid. Overwhelmingly, those water hazards and marshy zones surround the greens.
Greens & Surrounds
The green complexes were… well, complex. They were large and featured substantial undulations that would sometimes lead to double breaks. While the greens weren’t fast, they did pose a challenge if your green-reading skills aren’t up to the task.
Surrounding 11 of the 18 greens were bunkers. The sand traps were relatively well maintained, but what I did notice was a larger-than-normal amount of rocks inside them. On more than one occasion I found myself having to be aware of rocks that could have damaged my clubs. This is further reason to view those bunkers as true hazards.
A pet peeve of mine when playing some golf courses is that there is not enough variation, but that certainly isn’t the case here. The Fountains course features a 6-6-6 design, meaning six par fives, fours, and threes respectively. That diversity among holes ensures you never get bored, and that it means more opportunities to score. If you can keep it out of the trees, bunkers, and water hazards, that is.
#8 – Par 5 – 512 yards
Positioning is extremely important on this hole as the fairway slithers back and forth. Sometimes though, being out of position can be a fun experience. Following a wayward drive that had me in the trees on the right, I had to punch out of a narrow opening between rows of trees. Despite making the hole harder, it was so peaceful and soothing standing among those trees that I’d recommend a little walk there before going for the water-guarded green. It was serene and almost eerie in the coolest way.
#13 – Par 4 – 412 yards
I love a theme and this hole features a running theme of Vs: the sequoia trees on the sides of the hole, the bunkers surrounding the green, even the green itself. The hole itself is a bit of a “V” shape even as a dogleg to the right. When you play here, use the v-shaped tree behind the green as your target.
#9 – Par 3 – 186 yards
This par three is a microcosm of the Fountains experience. A secluded quiet space, surrounded by trees and greenery, featuring a water feature complete with a fountain. While the hole is solid from any tee box, my favorite view of this hole was from the forward tees. There, it’s a shot entirely over water, with rocks surrounding the tee box. The green is three-tiered and more complex than meets the eye.
While the phrase “Cabin in the Woods” conjures up scenes from horror movies for some, for me, it’ll now make me think of my experience with Garland Golf Resort and The Fountains course. If I had to describe The Fountains course as a movie genre, it’s a historical detective thriller. It’s rich in history, filled with opportunities to learn and chances to be surprised. The fact that this is just one out of a series of four 18-hole layouts at Garland means that this is a place that could warrant a multi-day investigation for yourself and your golfing buddies.