Top 10 Midwest golf destinations



With spring temperatures warming up, it's time to officially point your golfing compass to the north. The best golf destinations in America's Midwest feature a pleasant variety of itineraries. Golf groups can choose between upscale, standalone resorts and larger cities with an excellent golf scene for visitors. Value is often a key driver of Midwestern golf packages, but a few can do luxury as good as any resort in the land.

We've compiled our top 10 below. What is your favorite Midwest golf getaway? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @GolfAdvisor.

1. Kohler, Wisconsin

The four Pete Dye-designed golf courses at Destination Kohler, along with unrivaled amenities at the five-star American Club, set the pace for golf destinations in the Midwest. The main draw is the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup host Straits Course, but the next door Irish Course is a similar links examination. Meanwhile, Blackwolf Run, a U.S. Women's Open host, is a marvelous parkland complement and also a top 20-rated course by most national panels.

While most Midwestern destinations hang their hats on value, you'll pay a pretty good penny at Kohler, but there's no more complete and luxurious 72-hole getaway.

As a bonus, you're just an hour away from 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills, which has on-site, dormy house-style accommodations in the clubhouse. Also, Mike Keiser's latest getaway, Sand Valley, officially opens in May, 2017.

2. Little Traverse Bay, Michigan

Traverse City may be the capital of northern Michigan but it's the towns of Charlevoix-Petoskey-Harbor Springs that wrap around Little Traverse Bay that are the best draw for golfers. The prestige dates back nearly 100 years with Belvedere Golf Club, a boyhood haunt of Tom Watson. Modern meccas have since joined, highlighted by four-course Boyne Highlands Resort, ideal for golf binges that take full advantage of long summer days, and on the other side of the bay, 27-hole Bay Harbor, a thrilling layout with Lake Michigan frontage, plus others in an old quarry.

3. French Lick, Indiana

If you thought the Hoosier State was all corn rows, one look at the Dye Course at French Lick Resort will change all that. The Dye Course, built in 2008 when the resort was revived after a period of decline, is perched on some of the highest elevation in the state and features remarkable, long views in all directions. The resort has been a golf hotbed for nearly a century, starting with hot springs and not-so-legal gaming. The Donald Ross Course, and the West Baden hotel, home to a massive domed atrium you have to stand in to believe, are both marvels a century later and are among the Midwest's best one-two punches. (More: Brandon Tucker visits French Lick)

4. Gaylord, Michigan

The best thing about northern Michigan golf is the solitude and the elevated tee shot, both of which were perfected in Gaylord and most notably at Treetops Resort. Treetops is home to four signature courses that helped usher in the modern era of showy, destination golf, plus arguably our nation's most thrilling par-3 course, Threetops. This is one of the North's most golf-saturated areas. The Otsego Club -- plus other nearby 72-hole resorts Shanty Creek and Garland, and well over a dozen good daily-fee courses -- give you plenty of options and bang for the buck. You're also within 40 minutes of Traverse City, home to plenty more golf, boating, casinos and the best dining and bars in the area.

5. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, located 90 minutes north of Chicago, might be surrounded by uninspiring farmland, but the hilly forests near the region's three biggest lakes are ideal for golf. The luxurious Grand Geneva Resort & Spa boasts an interesting history, opening in 1968 as the Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel. The only place to see cute bunnies running around today are the resort's two courses, The Brute and The Highlands. Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer each designed strong routings near the shores of Lake Como at Geneva National Golf Club. Life away from golf revolves around water sports. You can ride along on a boat tour of Lake Geneva as the U.S. Mail celebrates its 100th anniversary of delivering the mail by boat in 2016.

6. Branson-Ozarks, Missouri

There's no golf destination quite the Missouri Ozarks' Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock, owned by Bass Pro Shops' Johnny Morris, who has made a huge splash into the golf scene. Morris' commitment to golf in the last few years has made the Branson area that much deeper as a golf destination. Top of the Rock is a remarkable par-3 course, and Buffalo Ridge Springs, a revamped Tom Fazio design, similarly dazzles. A family-friendly Gary Player course will open this summer, while Coore-Crenshaw and Tiger Woods have designs under construction as well.

The Big Cedar outdoor activities (from fishing to hunting and cave tours) are a 180-degree shift from kitschy downtown Branson, but there are great courses in this area as well, including Branson Hills (formerly Payne Stewart Golf Club), LedgeStone Country Club and Thousand Hills. (More: Mike Bailey visits the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf)

7. Brainerd-Iron Range, Minnesota

The best resort golf courses in Minnesota lie north of the Twin Cities surrounding Brainerd and further afield at Giants Ridge Resort in tiny Biwabik near the Boundary Waters. Brainerd's best options are spread out near various lakes. The Classic at Madden's on Gull Lake in Brainerd and Deacon's Lodge at Breezy Point Resort in Pequot Lakes, a Palmer design named after his father, regularly land on top-100 lists. Cragun's Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake in Brainerd and the Grand View Lodge Golf Resort & Spa in Nisswa both boast multiple courses worth seeing.

Driving two hours northeast, golfers will discover the Legend Course and the Quarry Course at Giants Ridge, two Jeff Brauer designs blessed by supreme natural beauty. Brauer also hit the jackpot at The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, a casino-owned course in Tower, Minn. that overlooks Lake Vermilion.

8. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Families flock to the water parks in this children's fantasyland, but golfers will find a few water hazards of interest, too. The headliner is Wild Rock Golf Club at The Wilderness, where its most dramatic holes were cut from a quarry by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. Trapper's Turn features 27 holes by two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North and Roger Packard. Christmas Mountain Village offers a more rustic retreat away from the chaos of the family attractions of the Dells. Guests can stay in villas, log cabins, cottages, town homes or in a tent at the campground. The 18-hole Oaks Course and the shorter, narrower, nine-hole Pines Course ride the ski hills of central Wisconsin.

9. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Think you need to drive all the way to remote northern Michigan for a golf getaway? Not so fast. Mid-Michigan's west side, anchored by Grand Rapids, has a fine collection of destination courses. The city itself continues to emerge as a great weekend getaway, thanks to a revitalized downtown area, a world-class craft beer scene and arts (the New York Times even named it a top-20 destination for 2016). You're also within a short drive of beach towns like Holland, which is home Golf Advisor's top-rated Michigan course in 2015, Macatawa Legends Golf & Country Club.

North of town, Pilgrim's Run is a legendary value pick. Also, you're just an hour from Jim Engh-designed Tullymore G.C. at St. Ives, a top-100 candidate on many national panels. The Thoroughbred Golf Club and Ravines Golf Club round out a versatile itinerary.

10. Indianapolis

While Indianapolis doesn't have any true golf resorts, it does have one of the most popular courses in the Midwest at one of the country's biggest attractions, plus a nice collection of daily fees and semi-private clubs throughout the area that deliver great value compared to Chicago's best public courses. The marquee course in Indy is Brickyard Crossing, built into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (site of the annual Indy 500 and NASCAR's Brickyard 400). This Pete and Alice Dye gem is one of the most popular golf courses in Indiana with all 18 holes on the racetrack grounds. Indy's revitalized downtown, which was built up around Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts) makes for a good base for any Indianapolis golf vacation (the Crowne Plaza built in the old Union Station offers rail cars for rooms). Other terrific public golf courses in the area include family owned Purgatory Golf Club and Rock Hollow as well as The Trophy Club. And if you venture about 45 minutes to West Lafayette, there's the Hale Irwin-designed Coyote Crossing G.C. and Purdue's Kampen Course, another Dye design and one of the best college courses in the country.

May 06, 2016



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greergolf's avatar
greergolf wrote at 2017-05-16 03:56:37+00:00:

Of course I favor Minnesota golf destinations due to living in that great state for five years. Over 500 golf courses that can only be played in five months in most years means that you can play golf 150 times in consecutive days and never play a bad track. From the banks of the mighty Mississippi with The Jewel and Mississippi National to the far reaches above Duluth and Lake Superior, to the great suburban courses around the Twin Cities, golf in Minnesota is fantastic. Second up is definitely Wisconsin. Stop in the Dells to play Trappers Turn, then head directly to Lake Geneva before turning north to Kohler. I have close friends that are golf writers who would support this list. Thanks again Gold Advisor for leading the way!


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