GAYLORD, Mich. -- With less money and time, more golfers are making convenience the top priority when booking their next golf trip.
Buddy trips just need a couple ingredients -- golf, booze, grub and a bed -- to make most participants happy. The best golf resorts in Michigan aim to please with multiple courses, restaurant variety and comfortable accommodations. Here are the eight best Michigan resorts for a golf binge:
Shanty Creek Resorts, Bellaire
Variety is the spice of life at Shanty Creek Resorts, home to four golf courses and three resort villages. Arnold Palmer's The Legend and Tom Weiskopf's Cedar River are the must-play courses, although the Summit and Schuss Mountain remain solid complements. Golfers can't go wrong staying at the newly renovated Lakeview Hotel & Conference Center in the Summit Village or the spacious one- and two-bedroom suites of the Lodge at Cedar River.
Lakewood Shores Resort, Oscoda
The only major golf resort on the Sunrise side of northern Michigan has a well earned reputation for value. The Gailes will always be the headliner, a top-20 Michigan golf course replete with sod-wall bunkers and double greens to authenticate its links theme. Sandy waste areas and pine tree-lined fairways characterize the Blackshire Course. The Serradella Course, Lakewood Shores Resort's original parkland layout, lights up when hundreds of flowers bloom each year. The Wee Links, a pitch-and-putt, par-3 course, sits right behind the new condo-style lodges built in recent years.
Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort, Augusta
The Scott family welcomes guests like they are family at this unlikely golf haven near Kalamazoo. The family -- Darl Scott and his two sons, Charlie and Jon, and brother, Jim -- designed a course a decade: The West Course from 1963-65, the East Course from 1975-76, the Stonehedge South in 1988 and Stonehedge North in 1995. The tough-but-scenic South Course and the tournament-tested Bedford Valley Golf Club in Kalamazoo, a classic William Mitchell design purchased in 1988, are a 1-2 punch that's vastly underrated. Golfers can aim to go low on the unique routing of six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s at Stonehedge North. The comforts of home, including a living room and a kitchen, accompany the 64 condo villas at Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort.
Treetops Resort, Gaylord
Shot for tantalizing shot, Treetops Resort might be golf's holy grail. Three acclaimed designers -- Robert Trent Jones Sr., Tom Fazio and Rick Smith -- all left their own stamp. The Masterpiece Course, designed by RTJ in 1987, will always be the toughest challenge. Smith, the resort's managing partner and instructor to the stars, used elevated tees to make his Signature Course and nine-hole par-3 Threetops Course genuine thrill rides. Arguments over which of the five layouts is best can be settled over beers and burgers at The Sports Bar. For excitement, check out the popular local act, Jeff & Sue, on weekends at the Hunter's Grille.
Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Acme
Paul Nine planted the seeds of golf at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa by hiring William Newcomb to transform the scruffy nine-hole Acme Public Golf Course into Spruce Run in 1979, a course tough enough to host the Michigan Open. A more heralded tournament host, the Bear Course by Jack Nicklaus, followed in 1985 and jump-started a long run with the Michigan Open. The addition of the Wolverine Course by Gary Player completes the three-headed golf monster Grand Traverse runs so expertly today. It's all here -- the spa, a golf school, multiple restaurants, a private beach and more.
Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs
Two decades before RTJ Sr. brought golf to Treetops, he did the same thing at Boyne Highlands Resort. The Heather Course, which dates to 1966, still might be its best play. The Hills Course by Arthur Hills comes in a close second. Boyne Highlands is one of just two golf resorts in Michigan to offer caddies. They're available on the Heather Course and the Moor Course. Boyne's original founder, Everett Kircher, and his son, Stephen Kircher, now a top company executive, traveled the country to research the building of the Ross Memorial, a replica course stocked with famous holes from Donald Ross designs. To settle all bets, goof around on Cuff Links, the lighted par-3 course behind the Bavarian-themed lodge.
The Inn at Bay Harbor, Petoskey
The most luxurious golf resort in Michigan, The Inn at Bay Harbor improved its golf offerings with two key decisions in recent years. When Boyne USA Resorts began managing the Hidden River Golf & Casting Club in Brutus in 2010, it added another viable option just 25 minutes away. Hills, the original architect of the visually striking 27 holes at Bay Harbor Golf Club, returned earlier this year to revamp the Crooked Tree Golf Club across the street. The changes will unlock more playability on three holes and enhance the golf experience. Both Crooked Tree and Bay Harbor overlook Little Traverse Bay.
Garland Lodge & Resort, Lewiston
Garland Lodge & Resort, founded by Herman Otto, built a simple nine-holer in the 1950s that would eventually morph into the Monarch Course, the first of four Garland designs by his son, Ron Otto. Groups love the convenience of Garland. The first tees of all four courses are steps from the main log lodge, home to a lively Antlers Bar and Grille, Tamarack Restaurant and accommodations.