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Bay Harbor Golf Club in Michigan: Great 'coastal' golf, away from the oceans

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Bay Harbor Golf Club
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Bay Harbor Golf Club in northern Michigan is one of America's most beautiful golf stages. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)

PETOSKEY, Mich. - For spectacular coastal golf, you don't need to head for the Pacific Ocean towns of Monterey or Bandon, or the Atlantic shores of Kiawah Island, Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach.

As of the mid-1990s, the shores of giant Lake Michigan, which spans 60 miles across from Michigan to Wisconsin, began featuring a handful of stunning golf courses. Among the best and most unique is Bay Harbor Golf Club in northern Michigan, an increasingly popular golf spot.

Bay Harbor is a new addition to the upscale golf vacation town of Petoskey, just a couple of miles down the road. That doesn't mean the course is a resort-style pushover out to reward its guests with a good score. It's very challenging, especially to the first-time visitor. It was built with the intent of keeping a strong membership and even possibly going entirely private. As a result, architect Arthur Hills built a few holes where a little local knowledge goes a long way.

But, for the resort golfer, there is GPS in each golf cart - offering detailed hole information. This is one of the Midwest's premier golf experiences: You'll have a good time out here.

Bay Harbor features three nine-hole courses: the Links, Quarry and Preserve.

The Links nine plays high above the lake, offering stunning views on almost every turn.

It isn't so much a links-style course that demands a ground game, although the Links nine allows a ground game in spots. There are forced carries, and greens can hold approach shots well.

On the short downhill par-4 third, you must choose between a wide fairway to the right or a more direct-but-penal route to the green on the left, which plays right along the banks of the lake.

The par-5 fifth features a fairway that plays right along the bluff overlooking the lake to the right. The green is even higher up, nestled right against a steep slope leading down to the water. Its shorter yardage allows you to gamble for the green with a fairway wood, but anything right is long gone.

The Links nine is wide-open and beautiful, but the Quarry nine is simply one-of-a-kind. It plays through and around an abandoned shale rock quarry and is one of the most unique and visually spectacular stages for golf you'll find anywhere. Bring your camera. From the higher points of the course, like the fourth tee, you can look over the old quarry and wetlands and out into Lake Michigan.

But there's a price to see this kind of beauty: the Quarry is the most difficult of the three nines at Bay Harbor, featuring forced carries and tricky approaches on almost every hole. Consult your cart's GPS liberally on this nine.

The par-5 third especially is the kind of hole you really need to think through. It has a landing zone off the tee that is tough to identify, and the quarry comes into play on the right, with a waste area left. From that shot, you need to position a good layup to a fairway that's downhill and again difficult to judge. The third shot plays over a ravine to a small green tucked within a bowl of heavy rough.

The fifth is another stunner, originally a par-5 that has been converted to a long par-4 instead. It has an elevated tee and a fairway wide enough that it's almost impossible not to hit, followed by a shot over water to a small green at the base of one of the quarry's 40-foot walls.

Not all the holes are long epics. There's a good mix of short par-4s, too, including the Quarry's first hole but most notably the 6th, which plays downhill to a shallow green jutting out into wetlands.

Don't let the "Quarry" name fool you. You'll get up close and personal with the lake here as well. The eighth is a downhill par-3 that plays to a green that juts out in front of the rocky shores. The ninth - the club's most photographed hole - plays along the water to the left and finishes between the clubhouse on the right and beach on the left.

There is a third nine here that's less heralded than the Links and Quarry: The Preserve. It plays farther inland, with fewer Kodak moments, but it's more of a heavily wooded, prototype northern Michigan course. You'll still get good hole variety, pristine conditions and a championship test.

Bay Harbor Golf Club: The Verdict

Bay Harbor easily deserves its place among the top golf courses in Michigan and its national recognition as well. This is a golf course you have to see to believe, with stunning scenery and superb hole variety. Each hole presents its own challenge and its own unique eye candy.

Bay Harbor is among Michigan's most expensive rounds. If you want to make sure you see the Links and Quarry nines, be sure to call (800) GO-BOYNE in advance and make a special request to play those two nines. Expect to pay $150-199 to play here, although twilight specials are available in the summer for $99.

Where to stay near Bay Harbor

Located just down the street from the golf club on the same Lake Michigan shores is the new five-star Inn at Bay Harbor.

A less upscale option is the Boyne Highlands resort, just around the bay from Bay Harbor, about 20 minutes away by car. It is an older chalet-style hotel at the base of the ski mountain, but it recently upgraded all of the guest rooms with modern amenities and stylish d├ęcor.

Guests of the Inn at Bay Harbor, nearby Boyne Highlands or any Boyne property receive discounts on Bay Harbor and Boyne's other golf courses across northern Michigan.

Fast Fact

Shell's Wonderful World of Golf came to Bay Harbor in 1998 and featured Phil Mickelson versus Tom Lehman.

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Bay Harbor Golf Club - Quarry NineBay Harbor Golf Club

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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