North Texas has long presented one of the strongest golfing participation rates in the country, and Dallas has been ranked No. 4 among the 10 Best Golf Cities in America by GOLF Magazine based on the number of quality courses, affordability and weather.
But when the summer temperatures top out in excess of 100 degrees, where can these highly educated golf aficionados escape to keep their golf ball in play during the summer?
The answer: Gaylord, Michigan, America’s Summer Golf Mecca. Texas golfers can escape the heat by flying into Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport (TVC). While TVC enjoys hundreds of flights by way of Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines, American Airlines makes it particularly convenient with daily non-stop flights from DFW to TVC. Once in the Great Lakes State, golfers can take a relaxing, hour-long car or shuttle ride through some of northern Michigan’s most beautiful scenery. They will understand as they sit back, relax and their stress levels drop, why many of the top course designers in the world have left their mark in the region.
Gaylord is centrally located toward the top of the state’s Lower Peninsula, or “Mitten,” as it is known, and is home to a collection of 17 championship courses. The region, which was listed among the “Top Buddy Trips” by Golf Digest, has hosted over a million golfers during the summer months over the past 36 years.
Big-game golf hunters who come to Michigan immediately seek out Treetops Resort to play the scenic Robert Trent Jones, Sr. masterpiece, which was one of his last designs in 1987 and helped coin the resort’s name; from the popular par-3 No. 6 hole tee, your golf ball drops 180 feet, and your view stretches for over 40 miles and seemingly millions of trees.
Tom Fazio has also made his mark on the Gaylord Golf Mecca. His work at Treetops is the only Fazio design in Michigan. It’s stunning and designed with the resort golfer in mind, for fun and challenge all at the same time. Another big-game and big-name course is the Smith Signature, which was designed by renowned swing coach, Rick Smith. It combines the strong features of golf found in Ireland (greens and bunkers) with the ruggedness of northern Michigan.
Rick Robbins and former PGA TOUR player Gary Koch designed the Tribute at nearby Otsego Resort, which is the senior resort member of the Mecca. It is a breathtaking golf experience that spans 1,100 acres through the Sturgeon River Valley, with holes that meander up and down ridges offering stunning views. One of the many highlights is standing on the tee of the third hole, a 380-yard par 4 that drops 200 feet to the green and showcases spectacular views of the river valley.
A popular add-on for any golf package in the Mecca is the beloved Threetops Par-3 course at Treetops, home of the famed ESPN Par-3 Shootout and often tagged the No. 1 par-3 course in America. The Shootout helped put the region on the national map, featuring superstars Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus over the years, and scored its biggest ESPN national replays when Lee Trevino aced the seventh hole in 2007. It’s regarded as the richest payday ever for a single shot – a cool $1 million. A plaque commemorating the moment sits on the tee and awaits golfers hoping to match the big skin.
Golfers can pair the many big-game courses of the region with a variety of accommodations – such as the resort-style lodging at Treetops Resort; or the Hilltop Lodge at Otsego Resort; or a luxurious home from Pine Cone Vacations – and experience one of the best golf trips in the country. The Hilltop, the premier lodging facility in the area, is a quaint executive lodge retreat with eight luxury suites and a common area with a 30-foot fieldstone fireplace as the centerpiece. It is perfect for groups looking for high-end luxury, while Pine Cone offers everything from condominiums, cabins in the woods, as well as luxurious four-, five- or six-bedroom homes with lake frontage.
For those seeking a close walk from their suite to the greens, Garland Lodge and Golf Resort and Black Lake Golf Club serve up resort accommodations and championship golf. Garland’s four courses weave their way through meadows, hardwoods and pines, and make ample use of the abundant natural water. A UAW property open for public play, Black Lake’s expansive grounds are equally as impressive as their 18 holes designed by Rees Jones.
Partnering with these stellar resort properties are stand-alone courses that offer immaculate greens, superior dining and friendly service. Michaywe Pines is often the host to the Golf Association of Michigan’s annual qualifiers. Established in 1924, Gaylord Golf Club is one of northern Michigan’s oldest clubs, and home to some of the best greens you’ll encounter in the Midwest.
Golfers with a more rustic woodland trip in mind will want to head for The Natural at Beaver Creek. The Natural offers 18 challenging holes that wind through elevated forested terrain around some of the most scenic wetlands found in Northern Michigan. The log cabins at Beaver Creek offer a peaceful setting, with two- and three-bedroom options accommodating groups of up to 16 golfers. In addition, RV travelers will find Beaver Creek is home to a large RV park equipped with all the modern amenities.
Rounding out the Gaylord Golf Mecca’s nine members are Indian River Golf Club and Lakes of the North Golf Course. Both standalone courses offer an excellent opportunity to enjoy the extra hours from daylight savings time and get in another round before the sun sets.
While golf and lodging are plentiful in the Gaylord area, there are plenty of other reasons to extend your stay. Take a break from the greens to enjoy boating or fishing on one of over 90 inland lakes, fishing nearby blue-ribbon trout streams, hiking and biking the expansive North Central State Trail, or shopping and dining in Gaylord’s downtown Alpine Village.