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