50 Words or Less
The Tribute Course at Otsego Resort is a lovely surprise of a course in Gaylord, Michigan. Scenic elevated views, greenery, and the immaculately-maintained course shouldn’t distract you from a challenging but fun round of golf.
In Japan, there’s a phrase called shinrin-yoku, which basically translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” It’s the practice of surrounding yourself in nature and taking in the health benefits including lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress-hormone levels. While golf isn’t always the most relaxing thing for everyone, at the Tribute course, it was for me. Whether on the tall tee boxes, carting through groves, or listening to a running stream on the 9th, I found myself feeling calm and grateful to be on this course. Undoubtedly many other golfers will too.
Like any modern golf course worth its salt, the property features exactly what you’d expect in terms of practice facilities. There is a driving range and a simple putting green on the property just beside the clubhouse. It offered just enough to warm up and whet the appetite for the golf to come. Along with the Tribute Course, the Otsego Resort also features a second 18-hole course called the Classic. Given how much of an adventure the Tribute is, the Classic is a good candidate for a warm-up round in preparation for playing the Tribute.
Customer Service & Amenities
The Otsego Resort is a lot more than just The Tribute, although to me that was its shining jewel. The resort features a small pro shop and grill, a beverage cart on the course, and a more substantial restaurant called the Duck Blind Grille. There, I’d recommend any one of the drinks on their extensive and interesting cocktail menu, especially the Italian Margarita. You can imbibe several since there are a ton of lodging options available at a myriad of price points.
The customer service was solid. The staff were all welcoming, helpful, and polite. One negative I will mention is the lack of on-cart GPS units. Make sure to bring a rangefinder when coming to this course. That will be extremely important because often distances will be more or less than static yardage due to the massive change in slope from shot to shot.
Beauty & Scenery
While people can wax poetic about the breathtaking views at Treetops’ (review HERE), the views at the Otsego Resort (and The Tribute specifically) were equally jaw-dropping. Outside the golf season, Otsego is a ski resort, and that’s evident through the huge elevation changes and skiing infrastructure on the peripheries of the golfing spaces. The course is nestled in the Sturgeon River Valley covering over 1,100 acres and taking you on an over 7.5-mile-long adventure.
It is an adventure, not just because of the golf, and elevation changes, but because of all of the nature and wildlife. It’s common to see all kinds of wildlife including turkeys and deer and more exotic animals like bears, elk, porcupines, and more.
Those views I mentioned in the last section are accentuated by the fact that there are so many elevated tee boxes. Nearly every box is raised. Because of the elevation, I found my animal instinct wanted to take over. I wanted to tee it high and let it fly with my driver on every hole.
However, it’s not exactly open season to swing drivers with reckless abandon. Throughout the 18 holes, there are a variety of hazards to consider, like tall grass, forests, and bunkers. Other holes, like the 8th, feature a water-filled ravine that will keep you from taking the big stick.
Precise wedge and iron play are of paramount importance on this course. Except for one hole, each green features at least one bunker that a slightly offline shot can find. While there isn’t much water, the one time it does make an impact is on the approach shot on the 7th hole, which features a small pond. Fairways are pristine. Rough is thick and punishing, but not overly so.
Because of those elevated tee shots, you will inevitably find yourself having several uneven lies whether you’re in fairways or rough. While there were occasions where I found myself hitting uphill to a green, far more often you should expect to have the ball below your feet.
Greens & Surrounds
To me, the difference between good and great courses is the little things, and The Tribute course does pay close attention everywhere. Several times while playing The Tribute, I found myself excitedly looking through bunkers, seeing how smooth the sand was, occasionally seeing stairways into and out of bunkers, and also noticing just how few rocks were in them.
A good deal of attention was also being paid to the greens. They were well taken care of, rolled smooth, and were moderately fast. Despite the severe lack of rain, the greens didn’t look any worse for wear. In general, the greens here are large and tended to break less than I thought they would.
The Tribute course is the epitome of the phrase, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” What it’s got and flaunts are elevation changes. Those elevation changes don’t just create beautiful views, they invite thoughtful analysis about your game and club selection. While it can be frustrating to miscalculate and end up a club short or long, for many midwestern golfers, this provides a starkly different and exciting experience from the norm. At its core, this course is an extremely well-maintained feast for the eyes that begs to be played.
#3 – Par 4 – 430 yards
Do you know that feeling of utter surprise tearing open a wrapped present on your birthday? The par 4 3rd hole of the Tribute was that feeling in golf course form. After finishing the 2nd hole, you hop in the cart and turn the corner to be surprised by a high tee, and a magnificent drop where you can see over 30 miles. Try not to be too distracted by the view, because this hole plays much shorter than its stated yardage. With a bit of luck and a roll from the downhill slope, it is reachable with a great drive.
#9 – Par 3 – 240 yards
This beast of a par 3 is long when playing from the back tees, with a massive amount of the hole being a forced carry over wetland areas. Like so many of these holes, the natural beauty of the surroundings can be a distraction from playing the hole successfully. While not really in play, that wetlands demand that you stop for a moment and listen to the sound of the running creek and the wind through the thick foliage surrounding this hole. After your moment of zen, favor the left side as the potential bailout and know that missing a bit short won’t kill you.
#11 – Par 5 – 481 yards
The 11th hole demands you to be confident with a strong draw (for righties) or lay up. It’s a tee box that sets you up with a blind shot if you do want to hook the ball or bunkers straight away as your target to lay up. To me, it’s an excellent risk-reward hole. It’s the chance for a true choice that can make the hole a standard 3-shot par 5, or a go-for-it eagle opportunity.
If I believed in bad omens, the skunk I saw scurry out in front of my golf cart on hole number one could have been a sign of a bad day. Yet there weren’t any negatives to report, outside of some dry conditions that are the fault of mother nature and not the course. Otsego Resort’s Tribute golf course was a massive surprise of a good time. So much so, that I’d say before setting out on an expedition to Gaylord and the North, you need to be adding a visit here to the itinerary.