After 3:30 p.m. in summer, you can probably play The Bear at Grand Traverse for a $70 twilight green fee. (Brandon Tucker/GolfAdvisor) Rates at Manitou Passage Golf Club don't hit $75 midweek/$85 weekends until mid-June. (Courtesy of Manitou Passage G.C.) The summer twilight rate for Grand Traverse Resort's Wolverine Course is just $60. (Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor)

Three days and $200: What can golfers afford in Traverse City, Michigan?

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The green fees of northern Michigan are predicated upon one thing.

A short season means the courses must cash in while the sun shines. What feels like a $50 course in metro Detroit probably charges close to $80 near Traverse City to make up for the lost month (or more) of revenue.

This economic reality makes it tougher for golfers to find quality courses on a limited budget. What can you get for $200 and three days of golf surrounding Traverse City? Afternoon and mid-week tee times will deliver probably more than you thought possible.

You can probably snare The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme if you're willing to go for its lowest rate, a $70 twilight tee time after 3:30 p.m. daily in summer. The Wolverine by Gary Player ($60 summer twilight) and the under-appreciated Spruce Run ($45 twilight) are more affordable options. The Wolverine is good enough that it could anchor any trip. So is LochenHeath, but it's another pricey tee time tougher to justify on our limited budget.

Manitou Passage Golf Club -- a recently restored Arnold Palmer design in Cedar, 30 minutes from Traverse City -- shows off the beauty of the Leelanau Peninsula from its elevated tees. The eighth tee stares across the horizon of Lake Michigan. Rates don't hit $75 midweek/$85 weekends until mid-June. A perfect day could be spent exploring the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes in the morning, followed by a tee time at Manitou Passage after 1 p.m. that is $10 cheaper. The post-3 p.m. rack rate drops by $20.

So by this formula, anybody can theoretically tee it up on three top courses designed by recognizable architects -- The Bear, The Wolverine and Manitou Passage -- for roughly $195 in the height of the season. Not bad, right? Granted they're all afternoon starts, which aren't very convenient and don't always guarantee a full round. Spring or fall, we could play this trio at midweek prices to stay close to our budget.

If you'd rather play in the morning or before noon, scratch The Bear and look for some more local favorites, maybe Crown Golf Club ($42-$54 in summer) or Elmbrook G.C. a short but solid course that's 6,100 yards. The Grandview Golf Club near Kalkaska 35 minutes away has earned four-star ratings from Golf Digest in the past and peaks out at $49 in summer.

Those willing to drive a bit to the outskirts can explore the price combinations of four courses at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire (

The Legend, Cedar River, Schuss Mountain, and The Summit) or go south to Thompsonville and play Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa's Mountain Ridge Course and/or Betsie Valley Course.

It just takes a little creativity and research to find a Traverse City-based golf trip that fits even the most frugal of budgets.

May 02, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.