After a cold and cozy winter, the time is right to capture the magic of Pure Michigan in spring and summer... and that means taking to the greens to tee up for your first golf getaway of the season! Luckily, the Great Lakes Bay has more than 20 lush courses, including four championship courses, two of which - Apple Mountain Resort and The Fortress - were named among MLive.com's 50 Must-Play Michigan Golf Courses.
Soar over challenging water hazards and sand bunkers or golf among the summerscapes from atop a tall, sloped ski hill. Just add a variety of restaurants, craft beer hotspots, and places to enjoy fun on the waterfront, and you'll have the makings of a Great Lakes Bay Golf Getaway, paired perfectly with these tips from our local Pure Michigan golf pros!
#GoGreat Golf In Frankenmuth
If you're coming for your Go Great Lakes Bay golf getaway from the south, consider starting at The Fortress in Frankenmuth. This 18-hole, par-72 Dick Nugent-designed championship course has three sets of tees to accommodate players of different skill levels, with the farthest measuring 6,900 yards. "If the course feels too difficult, I encourage guests to move up a tee," says Kyle Martin, The Fortress' Head Golf Professional. "We want to make the course playable for everybody, no matter what level of play you're at."
You'll find what Martin considers their toughest hole on the back 9. "Our 13th hole is a long par 4 and it was ranked as one of the 20 hardest holes in Mid-Michigan," he says. Thankfully, The Fortress is every bit as beautiful and scenic as it is challenging. "I think our prettiest hole has to be our 17th hole. It's a par three in a really quiet, tranquil area of the golf course, tucked right against the Cass River."
For golf aficionados who want to Go Great Lakes Bay for a golf getaway this spring or summer, Martin encourages them to try as many courses as they can. "I wouldn't say you need to play the courses in a specific order, but I would encourage guests to play as many as they can. We have so many different terrains and Apple Mountain has big elevation changes, so you have the opportunity to play a lot of different types of courses."
On-site Restaurant: The Fortress has a pavilion next to the clubhouse that seats about 170 people. "Our brats are delicious!" says Martin. They're also just 435 yards from the front porch of Zehnder's Restaurant in downtown Frankenmuth.
Nearby fun: "We're in a unique situation because we're a division of Zendhers," Martin explains, "so guests that stay at Zehnder's Splash Village can take a shuttle to our restaurant and golf course. We're all encompassing: guests can enjoy whatever they're looking for, from the golf course and hotel to the water park and restaurant."
More Frankenmuth To Explore
- Stop for a sip at America's oldest microbrewery - Frankenmuth Brewery
- Taste world-famous chicken dinners at Bavarian Inn Restaurant & Zehnder's
- Things to do in Frankenmuth
- Places to stay in Frankenmuth
#GoGreat Golf In Saginaw
About 30 minutes north of Frankenmuth, you'll find another of MLive.com's 50 Must-Play Michigan Golf Courses, Apple Mountain Resort in Freeland. This championship course masquerades as a ski hill during the winter months and has the highest elevated tees in the Valley, spectacular, sweeping views, water located on or near 14 holes, true greens and generous fairways. Apple mountain offers four sets of tee boxes, which measure 6,947 yards from the back tees.
"We have two signature holes," says Chad Maxim, PGA Head Golf Professional at Apple Mountain. "Number 5 is a downhill par 3, off the back of the ski hill, that leads to a green shaped like an apple. The back 2 bunkers make the leaves on the apple." Maxim says hole #6 is another scenic shot. "It's a par 4 and it's the highest point in Saginaw County. From the back tees, it has a really nice view." The entire course has a beautiful, up-north feel to it, in part due to the elevation changes and rolling terrain that are less commonly found in the Valley.
To play your best at Apple Mountain, it helps to play the course a couple of times. "Our most difficult hole is probably Number 2. It's a par 5 with out-of-bounds to the left, a big water hazard to the right, and the green is fairly well bunkered," Maxim explains. "Basically, the aggressive line is not always the best line there. Try a 3-shot hole and give yourself a chance to birdie. It looks easy, but it plays hard."
Halfway House: Quick snacks and drinks for golfers making the turn
Putters Point Café: Cold sandwiches, hot dogs - something quick after the round
The Restaurant at Apple Mountain: The Restaurant just reopened with a brand-new menu for lunch and dinner featuring seasonal items and down home type of food like salads, sandwiches, steaks, fish, and lobster mac & cheese.
More Golf Around Saginaw
- Beech Hollow Golf Course
- Crooked Creek Golf
- Green Acres Golf Course
- Kimberley Oaks Golf Course
- Pleasant View Golf Course
- Saginaw Country Club (Private)
- Swan Valley Golf Club
- Twin Bridges Golf Course
- Twin Brooks Golf Club
- Twin Oaks Golf Club
- Valley View Farm Golf Course
More Saginaw To Explore
- Set out on a shallow-draft boating adventure with Johnny Panther Quests
- Explore almost 10,000 acres of Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
- Things to do in Saginaw
- Places to stay in Saginaw
#GoGreat Golf In Bay City
Less than 15 miles northeast of Apple Mountain is Bay Valley Resort, another championship course. It was designed by Desmond Muirhead in 1973, is well bunkered, has four sets of tees, and features large, fast greens.
Lakes, ponds and streams running throughout the property add to the natural beauty of the course. Fortunately, all of that water doesn't present too much of a concern for golfers. "The majority of the water is off to the sides of the holes," explains Tom Napieralski, Director of Golf at Bay Valley.
"Our toughest hole is probably number 6," he says. "It's a par 5, it's 587 yards, and navigating water on all three shots requires three good shots to get on the green. And then you've got to putt on a pretty severely sloping green."
If hole number 6 makes you nervous, you'll enjoy holes like number 14, which Napieralski says is one of the prettiest. "It's another par 5 and it's got a huge lake around the whole left-hand side." And their signature hole, number 5, is another place you can practice your inner Zen. Called the HeatherHole, because it was covered with mounds of heather when the course was designed, this is another area of the course whose beauty is easy to soak in.
On-site restaurant: Players Lounge. "We have great beers on tap, a lot of wraps, and our smokehouse burger is great," says Napieralski. Friday nights feature a fish fry with dollar drafts and wine, as well as live entertainment.
Local Tip: If you're headed to downtown Bay City, stop at Old City Hall for dinner. It features casual fine dining on one side and a tavern on the other. With 30 beers on tap, over 100 wines, and tasty cuisine from around the world, it's well worth a visit.
More Golf Around Bay City
- Bay County Golf Course
- Green Hills Golf Course
- Maple Leaf Golf Course
- Saginaw Valley Public Golf Course
- Spring Valley Golf Course
- White Birch Hills Golf Course
More Bay City To Explore
- Pedal through a brew tour with Sunrise Pedal Trolley
- Cozy up with a craft beer at Tri-City Brewing Company
- Things to do in Bay City
- Places to stay in Bay City
#GoGreat Golf In Midland
Less than half an hour west of Bay Valley Resort, treat yourself to an overnight stay in Midland and explore the local courses. Currie Municipal Golf Course, situated along the banks of the Tittabawassee River, offers three intriguing courses, each with stunning views.
Designed by Jerry Mathews of Natural Golf Design, this former 9-hole course was re-designed and expanded to 18 holes in 2002. The scenic course, which takes advantages of the natural beauty and wooded landscape, accommodates players of all skill levels with five tee boxes.
Another course suitable for players of all levels, this 9-hole course features three tee boxes. If you've played here before you may remember it as 18-holes, but the front nine is now a driving range that opened in 2015.
This par 3 course is perfect for beginners or players focusing on their short game. Players who want to work on the technical aspects of their game can also take advantage of Currie's driving range, practice bunker, and practice putting. It's great for a casual family game, too.
More Golf Around Midland
Local eateries: After a day on the course, unwind at one of Midland's many restaurants. You have dozens to choose from, from upscale to casual to pubs! Bar Oxygen, Café Zinc, Maru, Oscars, and Whichcraft Taproom are all good bets.
More Midland To Explore