Bang for your buck: Michigan Edition

Michigan is one of the greatest states for public golf. It boasts a combination of excellent high-end and affordable options for the golf nut.

This is not a final list. Over time, courses will be added and removed depending on research and experience. This is meant to be a guide to help golfers find affordable and architecturally-interesting golf courses that might be overlooked and underappreciated.

Requirements:

  • The highest rate charged for walking is less than $100.00

  • Must have regular tee times available to the public

  • Must have architectural interest beyond your typical local course

The DeVries trio

Perhaps the most underrated and affordable golf trip is in the Grand Rapids area. Destination resorts are fantastic but secluded and often difficult to get to. Grand Rapids has an airport and a city filled with restaurants and breweries to choose from. It’s also home to three designs from one of the world's most underappreciated modern architects, Mike DeVries.

Pilgrim's Run Golf Club - Mike DeVries - Pierson, MI
Peak walking rate: $69

 Pilgrim's Run GC

Pilgrim's Run GC

Pilgrim's Run is fun golf. The par 73 course had 18 great green complexes on a nice piece of land. The golf course had an interesting founding with DeVries working with owner Bob Van Kampen and his six employees who each designed three holes. DeVries, with the help of superintendent Kris Schumaker, put all of the ideas together to create a great public option, 30 minutes from Grand Rapids.

Mines Golf Course - Mike DeVries - Walker, MI
Peak walking rate: $54

Set on some severe land, the Mines delivers some dramatic holes that flow with the natural topography. DeVries’ natural bunkering sits perfectly into the landscape, providing strategic interest and beautiful aesthetics. The Mines is a mere 8 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids.

Diamond Springs Golf Course - Mike DeVries - Hamilton, MI
Peak walking rate: $30

40 minutes from Grand Rapids is Diamond Springs, a prime example of what golf needs more of. Diamond Springs maintains a single cut of grass across its entire property. This keeps maintenance costs down and allows the golf course to be affordable and sustainable. Set in sand hills, Diamond Springs has terrific natural land that DeVries was able to take advantage of.

Stoatin Brae at Gull Lake - Renaissance Golf - Kalamazoo, MI
Peak Walking Rate: $99

The short par 4 8th. 

Stoatin' Brae is the new prize of the Gull Lake Resort. The course was designed and built by Tom Doak's talented associates at Renaissance Golf. Brian Schneider, Brian Slawnik, Don Placek and Erik Iverson took a nice rolling property and built a strategic test. The course features some fantastic holes such as the short par-4 8th, and the stretch of 10-14 provides the crescendo in a stellar routing. Stoatin' Brae's native areas are a little penal and thick for my liking, but that could be solved to provide an even better experience.

Champion Hill Golf Course - Jim Cole - Beulah, MI
Peak walking rate: $41

Typically when I hear “designed by owner”, I cringe and think of disastrous maximalist designs that offend my sensibilities. Champion Hill and Jim Cole bucked that trend, not once but twice. Champion Hill and Pinecroft. Champion Hill sits on an incredible sandy property with rolling hills that's reminiscent of Crystal Downs. Cole built a golf course that accentuates the land and has simple effective bunkering and good green sites. Champion Hill shows how simple good golf should be and has a price that reflects that.

Pinecroft Golf Course - Jim Cole - Benzonia, MI
Peak walking rate: $41

Similar to its sister course, Champion Hill, Pinecroft is on a great (not quite as good) piece of land. The course has a few more design quirks than Champion Hill and better views of Crystal Lake. The courses offer a $30 replay rate for golfers looking to play both in a day.

Manistee Golf and Country Club - Tom Bendelow - Manistee, MI
Peak walking rate: $35

Manistee gets little acclaim but boasts stunning Lake Michigan bluff views. The Bendelow design’s greens have shrunk significantly, and the course doesn't fully take advantage of its site, but it's worth a stop.

Rackham Golf Course - Donald Ross - Huntington Woods, MI
Peak walking rate: $40

Few public golf facilities have the rich history of Rackham. The Donald Ross design was commissioned in thanks to Horace Rackham, who donated the land to the city. Rackham immediately became of the country's finest public facilities. Legendary prize fighter Joe Louis regularly played Rackham, and it was home to Ben Davis, one of the country's first African American PGA pros. The design lost a little luster when a highway easement cost the original design. Today, the original Ross back nine remains intact, and it’s a course that should be cherished by the local golf community.

Monroe G&C.C. - Donald Ross - Monroe, MI
Peak walking rate: $40

Not all of the original Ross design remains at this one-time private facility. An early 2000s remodel added ponds on the outsides of doglegs and altered the routing of the hall of fame architect. Despite the disappointing changes, Monroe is still a good, playable option for public golf in Detroit.

Eagle Eye Golf Course - Chris Lutzke and Pete Dye - Bath, MI
Peak walking rate: $75

Designed by long-time Pete Dye associate Chris Lutzke with the help of his predecessor, Eagle Eye offers a strategic and challenging test. While there are plenty of water hazards to lose balls in, Lutzke provided enough width and alternative routes for players to avoid them.

Black Forest at Wilderness Valley - Tom Doak - Gaylord, MI
Peak walking rate: $48

One of Tom Doak's early designs featured a construction team of Doak, Gil Hanse and Mike DeVries. The trio built a course with a bunkering style akin to Billy Bell and the Los Angeles area George Thomas designs. Black Forest is one of the most challenging Doak designs, but unfortunately, this course is a shell of what it once was. Hopefully, the course's management will turn around as Black Forest has seen better days.

Angels Crossing Golf Club - Bruce Matthews III - Vicksburg, MI
Peak walking rate: $49

The 2004 Bruce Matthews features massive green complexes and wide fairways. There are a few forgettable holes, but the sum of all parts is a strong offering with some thought-provoking holes, including the 250-yard Redan 12th.

Shadow Ridge Golf Course - Donald Ross - Ionia, MI
Peak walking rate: $23

Shadow Creek's back nine was designed by Donald Ross and set on a nice piece of land. The course expanded to 18 holes by purchasing the nine-hole course across the street. The Ross nine is the only one worth seeing, and it’s a shame that tree planting from the early 90's has taken hold and narrowed the corridors.

Marquette Golf Club - Heritage Course - Langford & Moreau - Marquette, MI
Peak walking rate: $43

 8th hole at the Heritage Course at Marquette CC

8th hole at the Heritage Course at Marquette CC

Marquette is home to the accoladed Mike DeVries-designed Greywalls Course, but its original nine holes at the 36-hole facility were designed by the Chicago pair of Langford & Moreau. The bold green complexes and surrounds make the Heritage course a must-play when visiting Greywalls and the UP.

Wawashkamo Golf Club (9 holes) - Alex Smith - Mackinac Island, MI
Peak walking rate: $35

Built in the late 1800s, Wawashkamo has stood the test of time and delivers a fun, playable test for all. The course still retains the original greens and tee boxes from its 1898 design. Wawashkamo's charm comes from its old school cop bunkering and tiny greens. The course also offers hickory rentals for $40/round.

Iron River Country Club - Langford & Moreau - Iron River, MI
Peak walking rate: $24

The 1932 Langford & Moreau-designed 9-holer is well worth a quick spin when in the UP. Iron River has the bold green complexes and bunkering that make a Langford & Moreau design unforgettable and easy to spot.

Cascades Golf Course - Tom Bendelow - Jackson, MI
Peak walking rate: $20

The 1929 Tom Bendelow design has fallen victim to shrinking fairways, greens and the overplanting of trees, but it remains an enjoyable place to play golf. The original green complexes remain, and for $20 on the weekend, there are far worse places to spend an afternoon.

Belvedere Golf Club - William Watson - Charlevoix, MI
Peak walking rate: $75

The semi-private facility is one of the more underrated courses in the country. Architect William "don't call me Willie" Watson used the land and simple strategic bunkering to create an enjoyable round of golf. Tee times to the public can be tough during peak season, but before early June and after September, Belvedere welcomes with open arms.

Places yet to see but look interesting...

Cadillac C.C. - Cadillac, MI
Peak walking rate: $55

Hiawatha Sporting Club - Hiawatha, Mi