The current condition of the U.S. economy has forced many golfers to take a pass this year on their annual golf trips to the Carolinas, the Gulf Coast, or Florida, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon the fun times with your family or friends all together. You may have to eliminate the airline tickets and 5-star resorts, but when you're on a golf trip the most important part is your experience on the golf course. Together with Golf Now! Chicago, we've compiled an exciting golf trail itinerary of a dozen spectacular courses that extends from Chicago's north shore region to Michigan's western shoreline. All you need is a set of clubs, a few tanks of gas, and this golf guide to create your own Lake Michigan Golf Trail. Enjoy!
Voted the 2008 "Best Public Golf Course in Illinois" by Golf Magazine you will be more than impressed by this golf facility and its services. After moving over 2.4 million cubic yards of soil and planting 4,000 trees world renowned golf architect Tom Fazio transformed the former Glenview Naval Air Station into an 18 hole masterpiece worthy of hosting a Nationwide Tour event. Established in 2001, The Glen Club will test every aspect of your game throughout its 7,100 yard layout. Aces on this track won't come easy as the par 3's were voted "Best Par 3's in Illinois" by Sports Illustrated. Not only does The Glen Club offer an incredible golf experience, but their fine dining and banquet facilities are not to be passed up.
Professional Caddie Tip: There is no need to try and get greedy on the par 3's...they're tough, so take enough club to hit the center of the green, get your two putt par and move on. Four 3's on the scorecard is always a good thing.
Featuring two 18 hole links style courses, Harborside International Golf Center is located only 15 minutes from downtown Chicago. Designed by Dick Nugent in 1995, Harborside's Port Course hosted the 2002 SBC Open which saw Bob Gilder defeat Hale Irwin in a sudden death playoff. Offering a great view of downtown Chicago and providing a stern test for players of all abilities Harborside is a must visit on the "Lake Michigan Golf Trail".
Professional Caddie Tip: While we al like the challenge of playing from the tips, amateurs would have more fun playing the game from the appropriate tees. At Harborside select the tees that provide a test, but that don't have you hitting 3-wood into every par 4. Once you see improvement in your game go back one tee box at a time.
Most golf courses are built on land, but have you ever seen one built on water? The designers of Lost Marsh Golf Course accomplished this feat by constructing island tees, fairways, and greens on George Lake to create 5 of their 18 holes. Playing host to the Duramed Futures Tour Golf Classic the past 3 years, Lost Marsh provides a challenge for the up and coming LPGA professional as well as the average amateur player. Be sure to take in the panoramic view of the Chicago skyline with the start of each nine as the first and tenth tees overlook the entire course. Lost Marsh's unique back nine layout presents you with the ultimate test of navigating Holes 10 through 14 without finding a watery grave. This 6,773 yard par-72 is located north of Cline Avenue just east of Interstate 90.
Professional Caddie Tip: The wind will usually play a factor at Lost Marsh so do yourself a favor by taking one or two extra clubs and swing smoother. If you like swinging fast, then be sure to stop by the pro shop at the turn and stock up on golf balls for the back nine... because you'll need them.
Celebrating its 11th anniversary this year, The Brassie Golf Club provides a comfortable setting for a relaxing round of golf. Listed at over 7,000 yards from the back tees, this links style golf course has perfectly positioned bunkers, knee high fescue rough, and six lakes that make it a test for players of all skill levels. Their well conditioned practice area, fully stocked pro shop, and patio snack bar will only add to your enjoyment on the links. The Brassie's location between Interstate 94 and the Indiana Toll Road make it easily accessible to golfers from Michigan, Indiana, and the Chicagoland area.
Professional Caddie Tip: When my player hits it into knee high fescue I always advise her to take a wedge and hack it out sideways to get it back on the fairway. Be smart at The Brassie and take your medicine if you hit it in the long stuff. This gives you an opportunity to hit your next shot close and make the putt for par.
Featuring the infamous "Alcatraz" island green on the 303 yard par 4 third hole, Briar Leaf Golf Club is one of the "Fabulous Four" 18 hole golf courses in LaPorte County. Established in 1973, Briar Leaf has gone through multiple changes to enhance the enjoyment of your round of golf. Since its inception, Briar Leaf has planted over 200 trees and added 21 bunkers to its 6,754 yard layout. Most recently, 800 square feet of putting surface was added to "Alcatraz" followed by a comprehensive renovation of the bunkers and a newly rebuilt clubhouse. Briar Leaf Golf Club is located one mile south of the Indiana Toll Road's LaPorte exit.
Professional Caddie Tip: You don't always have to hit "The Big Dog" on every short par 4. Briar Leaf isn't one of the longest courses, but its layout puts a premium on getting the tee ball in play. Don't be afraid to hit a 3-wood or a long iron off the tee to play for position... especially on the par 5 4th hole. There is a reason its nickname is "Road".
Golf course architect Ken Killian was able to weave his design of Whittaker Woods Golf Club through the beautiful forests and wetlands of Southwestern Michigan. Situated just north of the Indiana-Michigan border this 7,072 yard par-72 masterpiece stretches out over 400 acres of vegetation and natural habitats while 12 of the 18 holes border the new Whittaker Woods Golf Community. With water hazards straddling every hole but two, negotiating Whittaker Woods is a challenge for even the lowest of handicaps. Renovated from a 1920's farmhouse, their multi-level clubhouse features full locker rooms, a pro shop, banquet facilities, and O'Brien's Restaurant and Bar. Whittaker Woods is located just west of Interstate 94 off of Exit #1.
Professional Caddie Tip: The name alone suggests that you might find yourself in the trees at least once at Whittaker Woods. There's a difference between being bold and being stupid. Just because your playing partner suggests that "Trees are 90% air" doesn't mean you have to fall for that trap. Tell him thanks for his advice and make the smart play back to the fairway.
Recently named Southwest Michigan's Top Public Course, Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club sits 15 minutes from Lake Michigan just east of Interstate 196. Established in 1969 and designed by Charles Maddox Sr., Lake Michigan Hills is an 18 hole par-72 that plays over 6,900 yards from the back tees. Featuring sharp doglegs, tee shots playing out of tree chutes, and high face bunkering Lake Michigan Hills will force you to play for position off the tee. Its fully stocked pro shop, state of the art driving range, lounge, and bar will fulfill your every need while you enjoy this Southwest Michigan treasure.
Professional Caddie Tip: While the bunkering at Lake Michigan Hills is punishing, most of the bunkers are short of the green so don't be afraid to take an extra club and hit your approach shot to the back section of the green. It's easier to make a birdie putting than it is playing a bunker shot.
Designed by architect Jerry Matthews in the mid 1990's, Heritage Glen Golf Club sits in the heart of Michigan's wine country. This player friendly course provides you with two different settings to enjoy an 18 hole round of golf. Certain holes weave through thick pine forests while other parts of the course have a Scottish links feel. Playing at 6,630 yards from the back tees Heritage Glen is located 12 miles west of Kalamazoo just north of Interstate 94.
Professional Caddie Tip: When playing a round at Heritage Glen Golf Club you will encounter a lot of uneven lies. For a right handed player a ball above your feet will tend to go left so be sure to aim right of your target, whereas a ball below your feet will tend to go right so you need to aim a little further left of your target.
The signature Beech Tree located near the 18th green is where our next stop on the "Lake Michigan Golf Trail" gets its name. Designed by award winning golf architect W. Bruce Masters III, Beeches Golf Club is an 18 hole par-72 that plays over 7,100 yards from the tips and features a shared double green on the 13th and 15th holes. The front nine and back nine are truly opposite designs with waste areas scattered throughout the front nine and water hazards strewn throughout the back nine. Located 4 miles east of downtown South Haven off Interstate 194, Beeches Golf Club is a must stop on your way to or from Grand Rapids.
Professional Caddie Tip: You are NOT allowed to take practice swings in a bunker, but you are allowed to take practice swings in a "waste area" so when playing a match at Beeches Golf Club be sure to ask your playing partner if you are in a bunker or a waste area before taking a practice swing. Golf is tough enough without having to add unnecessary penalty strokes to your scorecard.
Recently given a 4 ½ star rating by Golf Digest for "Places to Play" Hawks Head Links provides an exclusive setting to enjoy world class golf, fine dining, and luxurious accommodations. Ohio based golf architect Arthur Hills fashioned this 7,003 yard par-72 golf course through the sand dunes and woodlands of southwestern Allegan County. After a fun round of golf head on over to The Inn and enjoy an array of cuisine in their restaurant followed by a wonderful nights sleep in the restored Old English Tudor Mansion. Hawks Head Links is located less than 2 miles from Lake Michigan and is visible from Interstate 196.
Professional Caddie Tip: Too many amateurs spend the bulk of their warm up time on the practice range beating drivers. At Hawks Head spend more time on the putting green before your round. Remember that on most golf courses you will only hit 14 drivers per round, but you will putt 30-40 times which gives you a greater opportunity to save strokes on the green.
Despite the fact that it is a public golf course you will experience what it is like to belong to a private golf club at our next stop on the “Lake Michigan Golf Trail”. Rated the “Best Conditioned Golf Course in Michigan” by Golf Digest in 2008, The Ravines Golf Club is an 18-hole Arnold Palmer design that opened back in 1999. Cut through a cathedral of soaring pines, The Ravines is a par-72 that plays over 7,100 yards from the back tees. The signature hole par 3 17th is where the course gets its name due to the 100 yard gorge your tee shot will have to carry. The Ravines’ Fireplace Room and Bar provides an extensive menu of food and drinks to enjoy after your round. This 4 star rated gem is situated 3 miles northeast of downtown Saugatuck just east of Interstate 196.
Professional Caddie Tip: When playing the par 5’s at The Ravines try to lay your second shot up to your favorite distance and then play your third shot as if it were a par 3. Too many times amateurs think that because it’s a par 5 they have to hit it as close to the green as possible, but that could leave a very awkward shot with a bad angle to the pin.
Designed in 1965 and owned by the Matthews family until 1997, Grand Haven Golf Club has been labeled the “Pine Valley” of Michigan. Located less than ½ mile east of Lake Michigan and 12 miles south of Muskegon this former host of the LPGA Shoreline Classic carves its way through wooded terrain and rolling sand dunes. Grand Haven boasts some of the slickest greens on the “Lake Michigan Golf Trail” and has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the top 50 public courses in the United States. Upgrades to its irrigation system and the addition of new tee boxes have stretched Grand Haven more than 450 yards to its current length of 6,820 yards.
Professional Caddie Tip: When playing courses (like Grand Haven Golf Club) with fast greens it’s important to stay below the hole, but if you do find yourself above the hole be sure to play a lot more break than what it looks. The faster the greens the more break you need to play.