Getting Caught Up, Part 1: A Day to Remember in Michigan

I have a lot to cover from the last two days on the road, so I am breaking it into two parts. I’ll write both tonight, but will set the second story to post sometime tomorrow morning.

After all, I could spend hours talking about the events of yesterday as I got to play twice in the beautiful state of Michigan.

Tullymore Golf Club • Stanwood, MI • 8/13/12

The morning round was at the Tullymore course, which is part of the St. Ives/Tullymore Resort I had stayed at the night before. The Tullymore course was the main reason I went there, but the great evening round on St. Ives was an excellent “bonus.” I was drawn to Tullymore because of the course architect, Jim Engh. I fell in love with a couple of his courses in Colorado, so I figured his design skills paired with the natural surroundings in that part of Michigan would be a can’t-miss prospect.

One of Engh’s signatures is the unique serpentine bunkers and the dramatic mounding surrounding fairways and greens. He also seems fond of having a lot of good risk/reward holes. These traits were definitely evident at Tullymore. However, it lacked the elevation changes and overall scenic quality of the St. Ives course.

Tullymore turned out to be a vastly different course than St. Ives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s built more amongst marsh land. There aren’t any major elevation changes, but there is a great variety of hole designs and plenty of challenges to be faced. Tullymore is still rich in stunning views, just not as much as its little brother. To me, I think if you could blend the best elements of each course together (the scenery and elevation shifts of St. Ives and the fun/challenging design elements of Tullymore), you’d have a really spectacular course! Each one really is great in its own right, but they both leave you wanting elements from the other course to creep in just a bit.

I actually played the Tullymore round with a friend I met through GK. It turned out we were both going to be in Michigan at the same, so it worked out well. We’re playing tomorrow (Wednesday) in his home state of Ohio, as well, so that’s been a fun component to this trip.

We played Tullymore early in the morning and were the second group off the tee (he also had another of his golf buddies with him). We had a lot of fun out there, even though the course kicked our butts and it was rainy/drizzly off-and-on throughout the round. The course was in excellent shape, too, so you can tell they take great pride in being a high end golf resort. I would highly recommend Tullymore and St. Ives if you are ever in the Stanwood, MI area.

Some pictures from Tullymore Golf Club (8/13/12):

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As soon as we finished, I hit the road once again. I made my way up the western coast of Michigan in order to play the course that was always my top choice in this state:

Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club • Arcadia, MI • 8/13/12

To be honest, I didn’t know a ton about Arcadia Bluffs. I knew it was always highly ranked on Top 100 U.S. lists and generally at the top of any Michigan state course lists. I knew it was basically Michigan’s version of seaside/lakeside links courses like Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay. However, it usually doesn’t quite get mentioned in the same breath as those.

I’m not sure why. I’ve played all the Bandon courses (except for the new par-3 course they opened earlier this year) and I’ve played Chambers Bay. Arcadia Bluffs blows all of them away in my opinion. I’m looking forward to someday playing Whistling Straits when I ultimately make my way to Wisconsin, because I’m curious how well those courses will even measure up to this one.

Arcadia Bluffs is one of the most dramatic and spectacular courses I’ve ever played. It’s set along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, but it’s easy to forget you’re on the edge of a lake because it looks and feels like an ocean. It feels a lot like Bandon, to be honest. However, the course is much more dynamic than any of the Bandon courses. In a way, it’s almost too “over the top” because it takes some classic links elements to extremes. The bunkers are giant, deep and plentiful. Many of them feature the old school layered turf look on the bunker walls–some faces at least 20-feet high! Many other more rough-edged bunkers are strewn throughout the dunes. A nice, thick layer of golden heather lines the holes to contrast with the well-manicured green fairways, greens and rough.

There’s not a flat lie on the course with hills everywhere and the holes cut out of the rugged dunes landscape. Many major elevation changes and so many great views along the lakefront that I took more pictures here than any other course I’ve ever visited. I could barely put the camera down long enough to hit my shots (and hit them poorly, I might add).

The weather was beautiful in Arcadia, as well. While it was raining almost everywhere else in western Michigan, this area seems unaffected. I would have expected the weather here to be more temperamental (again like Bandon) and they said it can be, but this summer has been very mild and calm. It was overcast and a little windy as we teed off. The wind picked up a little as the afternoon progressed, but it never got too bad. The sun eventually broke through the clouds and cast a beautiful reflection off the lake as we played the back nine. Almost every hole here has a great view of the lake, but holes 11-13 are the pinnacle as they lead you right along the cliffs overlooking the lake.

The course was in excellent condition, though the pace was quite slow. It’s a tough layout and that naturally slows thing down, plus people want to bask in the scenery as much as possible. The clubhouse is beautiful as it sits atop the hill and overlooks the entire course and waterfront.

There are not enough superlatives to describe Arcadia Bluffs and my experience there. Now, I wouldn’t want to play this course every day because it is so far removed from “normal” golf, but it’s the kind of place you design a trip around every year and it’s an absolute must-play if you are ever in Michigan. It’s truly an incredible course and it’s a round I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Some pictures from Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club (8/13/12):

(I just wish these pictures looked as spectacular as in person. These don’t even begin to show how stunning this course is.)

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No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. The pins here are super short, which is odd (presumably to keep them out of the wind a bit more).

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Some bunker shots below, including the biggest bunker of them all on the 8th hole. My playing partner got caught in that one, which gives some great perspective!

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A close-up view:

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I had a long, dark and rainy drive from Arcadia all the way down to Hammond, IN, where I was staying last night. I did stop for dinner in the town of Manistee (just south of Arcadia), which is a really cool old port town that, yes, also reminded me of the town of Bandon a lot. I ate at Big Al’s Pizza & Subs and had some good, albeit greasy, pizza.

While I was there, a local patron was attempting the restaurant’s “Man v. Food” style challenge. He to eat a four-pound stromboli in an unspecified amount of time (he knew the time limit, but I didn’t find out what it was). His friends and other diners cheered him on as he got down to the final few bites with 8 minutes left on the clock. He seemed poised for victory…until he grabbed the “emergency” bucket and unceremoniously “surrendered” to the almighty stromboli of doom. It was still an exciting little way to cap the day, though!

Previous Day: Brickyard Crossing (IN) and St. Ives (MI)

Next Day: Cog Hill #4 and #2 (IL)

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