TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- It isn't until you've narrowed down your next summer golf trip to the destination of northern Michigan that the real decisions begin.
It can be up to three or four hours drive between the best courses. So you can choose to stay at a couple different properties in various areas and do a "golf trail" of sorts, or simply post up at a multi-course golf resort where all the holes you need are right outside your door.
And do you want a golf-centric property or is the whole family in tow and you want lots of different activities and amenities?
Here are 10 of the best options for northern Michigan golf resorts and what sets each apart:
Treetops Resort, Gaylord
No Michigan resort runs deeper with thrilling destination courses than the 81-hole Treetops Resort. The four mountainous signature courses, plus remarkable Threetops par-3 and even a wildly undulating practice putting green you could putt for hours, deliver a collection of the most dramatic holes in the Midwest.
Definitely a golf-first property in the summer, there are also all sorts of golf schools, including ladies and junior camps. An assortment of accommodations can be found on the top of the ski mountain near the original course, from inn rooms to spacious condos and cottages.
Garland Lodge & Golf Resort, Lewiston
The enormous log cabin at secluded, 3,000-acre Garland Lodge & Golf Resort is a rustic marvel -- the largest log cabin east of the Mississippi -- while additional cottages, hot tubs and other outdoor areas make for true serenity in this north-central getaway. You don't have to get in your car at all with 72 holes at your doorstep (Forest Dunes is also relatively close). Golf junkies will have a blast on these affordable, woodsy courses. I've zipped around 54 holes in one day here. Twice.
Shanty Creek Resorts, Bellaire
A great variety of courses and accommodations await at 72-hole Shanty Creek Resorts, which like Treetops is also a popular ski spot in the winter, so expect rolling hills and elevated tees. The Tom Weiskopf and Arnold Palmer layouts are a fine one-two punch, while the older Schuss Mountain Course and Summit Course deliver more affordability and ease. There are three villages to choose from for lodging. The Summit Village offers tremendous Torch Lake views, as well as a spa and lots of meeting space for groups.
Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs
With space to accommodate 1,500 guests in a variety of condo and hotel options, 72-hole Boyne Highlands packs a punch for both golf nuts and families minutes from Harbor Springs. There's neat variety in the golf, from the Donald Ross Memorial to Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s Heather course and more modern Arthur Hills layout. There's also a whole lot going on off the course from fishing to mountain biking, ziplines and horseback riding.
Crystal Mountain, Benzie County
Perhaps Michigan's most well-known getaway for families, Crystal Mountain near Traverse City isn't as golfy as Boyne, Garland or Treetops. But 36 scenic and playable holes, led by the Mountain Ridge course, makes a lot of sense for a variety of groups. And while it's family-centric with a variety of activities and accommodations, the resort village's Kinlochen Lodge features a clever, dormy house-type retreat above the pro shop with spacious, Scottish-inspired appointments, and a great restaurant and outdoor patio. The property's recently built spa adds to the adult-themed amenities.
Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City
Style isn't a word normally associated with the more bucolic vibes of northern Michigan, but a big exception is the 900-acre, 600-room Grand Traverse Resort, whose location minutes from Traverse City gives it a near-urban flair. Views of the bay from the sleek, 17-story tower are spectacular, while there are five restaurant options, shops and several pools. The three 18-hole courses surrounding it are headlined by The Bear, a demanding Jack Nicklaus' design, though fortunately there are two more player-friendly layouts right on site. You're also a short shuttle ride to the hotel's Turtle Creek Casino and private beach club.
Inn at Bay Harbor, Petoskey
The area's most luxurious option, the Victorian-style Inn at Bay Harbor delivers an opulent property complete with a spa and fine dining. Its beachfront location on Lake Michigan is one of the north's best sunset spots. It doesn't get any better than the spacious, lake view suites with balconies. For golf, next door 27-hole Bay Harbor Golf Club may be the Midwest's most scenic layout, while you're also in the neighborhood of other favorites such as Crooked Tree Golf Club, Belvedere Golf Club and Dunmaglas Golf Course.
The Homestead, Glen Arbor
Its golf imprint is the smallest of the properties listed here, but The Homestead boasts an unbeatable location just minutes from the legendary Sleeping Bear Dunes and has its own beachfront property on Lake Michigan. A variety of lodging options ensure every group can find their right fit, while activities for all -- the Orvis Fly Fishing School to trails and water sports -- showcase everything summers in northern Michigan have to offer.
The golf product starts with the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School, with one- and three-day classes, to go along with a low-key, scenic, par-3 course, Mountain Flowers. Minutes away, the resort owns and operates Manitou Passage Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer 18-hole championship course that winds along the base of the old Sugarloaf Ski Resort.
The Inn at St. Ives and The Hideaway at Tullymore
The southernmost resort here within easy drive of Grand Rapids and Lansing, St. Ives is home to the fantastic Tullymore Golf Club as well as the original St. Ives Golf Club. The Inn is modest -- with 44 rooms but well-appointed with a great F&B -- while the newer 24-room Hideaway at Tullymore features breakout rooms equipped for groups with poker tables and flat-screen TVs. There are also a handful of cottages and rental homes available for larger groups.
Island Resort & Casino, Upper Peninsula
A trio of great golf courses await in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and you can access them at the affordable Island Resort & Casino Resort with the Perfect Foursome package. Timberstone Golf Course, Greywalls Course and the hotel's recently built Sweetgrass Golf Club are all very different yet very memorable, making it a particularly fun itinerary. There is also on-site casino gaming and comfortable rooms.
A few more northern Michigan stay-and-plays
It's tough to narrow it down to just ten resorts in northern Michigan. Here are a few more bonus picks:
The Lodge at Arcadia Bluffs: Michigan's top-ranked public course built a second floor on its clubhouse a few years ago to add 15 rooms overlooking the links and sunset over Lake Michigan. They also just opened a handful of four-bedroom cottages.
Otsego Club: An old stalwart of the north particularly known for its ski club, it's a low-key option in the heart of downtown Gaylord. There's the Classic Golf Course, a walkable course to go with a more dramatic mountain course.
Forest Dunes: Now home to 36 holes -- or, 54 when you consider the reversible Loop course alternates directions each day -- Forest Dunes is aiming to attract more golf groups to stay a night or two. The Lake Ausable Lodge has 11 guest rooms, plus cottages and villa accommodations for groups who want to stay under one roof.
Kingsley Club: Golf course architecture buffs should call on a PGA pro or member to request a tee time or two at this private, very low-key Mike Devries design that's earned national acclaim. They've recently added a handful of new four-bedroom cottages for buddies trips.
Lakewood Shores: On the sunrise side, 54-hole Lakewood Shores has been one of the best bargain resorts for vacationing Detroiters for years and sports the links-inspired Gailes course.
The Loon Golf Resort: Lodging is a relatively new thing for The Loon, home to 54 holes and now multi-bedroom condo units for golf groups.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort: 54 holes of golf and a variety of accommodation options make this value play near Traverse City worth a peek.