GLEN ARBOR, Mich. -- Northern Michigan is chock full of mega golf resorts that make for obvious centerpieces of a golf-til-you-drop vacation. But there's an intriguing option you may have looked over: the Homestead Resort, located northwest of Traverse City.
While The Homestead doesn't have the sheer quantity of holes of some other area resorts, no one boasts its stellar location on the shores of Lake Michigan and minutes from the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It makes for a summer paradise comprised of not just golf but bicycling, fishing hiking, kayaking, tubing and all sorts of other family fun.
Dave Pelz Scoring School: A short-game mecca
Homestead Resort's signature, 18-hole course may be off-property, but short-game guru Dave Pelz's sole Scoring School in the Midwest is located right on site. The resort built the school its own classroom, and the group has retrofitted a former driving range to include a handful of greens and bunkers for practice, as well as some other secluded greens scattered around the property.
The Pelz method is a scientific one, based on massive amounts of research and data and the belief that one of the reasons golfers struggle is that it's the result of a mish-mashed swing that comes from most beginning golfers learning the power game first.
Our morning primer with instructor Stefan Carlsmith was spent learning proper putting tempo and fitting plus practicing the school's preferred techniques for chipping, pitching and sand play. The Pelz School can be experienced in a one-day clinic or a three-day school ($425-2,545), the latter of which gets into full wedge shots and greater detail of all the short game tools.
For some added practice on the short game, you can head to Mountain Flowers, a nine-hole, par-3 course that heads up and back down the resort's ski hill. Holes range from 90 to 190 yards, each hole is vastly different and there are even some nice lake views.
Manitou Passage Golf Club
Bob Kuras (owner of the Homestead) had been working to build his own golf course on-property for many years before ultimately going the acquisition-and-upgrade route, purchasing King's Challenge, an Arnold Palmer design located nearby at the base of the now-defunct Sugarloaf ski slopes.
Now renamed Manitou Passage Golf Club after the Lake Michigan island you can see from the elevated, par-5 eighth tee -- one of Michigan's finest tee shots -- the product has improved greatly over the last few years thanks to some added maintenance and service. With a mix of holes playing up and down the old ski hill, along with some lower-lying wooded and wide open holes, it's quietly crept up into the mix as one of the best standalone public options in the state's northwest.
More golf near Homestead
You'll need both a dialed-in short and full swing to take on Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course, what most describe as the no. 1-rated public course in Michigan and located south of The Homestead. The links-style course sits high on bluffs overlooking the lake. It's mighty tough, with huge, fast greens and plenty of deep bunkers.
But one of my favorite things about the golf scene up here is all the mom 'n pop golf courses that are very affordable. Some nearby worth checking out are Pinecroft Golf Plantation, Mistwood Golf Course and the Old Course at Sugar Loaf.
Stay and play
Set on 500 acres, there is plenty of space to spread out at The Homestead. There are four main lodging options as well as an assortment of condo rentals both on the lake or higher up overlooking it. Nonna's is the main dinner spot, an Italian-themed menu in a northern Michigan setting, but you can also eat down at the beach club or several other spots on property.
Stay-and-play packages are available including rounds at both Manitou Passage and Mountain Flowers, as well as spa and dining options.
Those who want to try their hand at fishing can enlist in the services of the Orvis Fly Fishing School, located on site and also makes use of Michigan's famed Platte, Boardman and Manistee Rivers.
And, if you're in this part of Michigan, a dune climb at the Sleeping Bear Dunes is an absolute must before heading home.