You could play the same old courses all summer long, but why not hop in the car for a weekend golf trip somewhere new? From waterfront courses that feel like the West Coast to one buzzed by Indy race cars, here are four places to swing away:
1. Crooked Tree Golf Club at Boyne Resorts in Petoskey, Michigan
Drive time from Chicago: 5:30 hours (364 miles)
Last month, Crooked Tree Golf Club (greens fees from $45) reopened with three new holes designed by Arthur Hills, the man responsible for the courses at Palmetto Dunes in Hilton Head, the Ocean Course in Half Moon Bay, California, and Longaberger in Nashport, Ohio. Hills decreased the slope of Crooked Tree’s 16th, 17th, and 18th holes, considerably reworked the bunkers, and generally rounded out the elevated course with its rolling, pretty views to Little Traverse Bay.
Where to stay: Next door on the water, the 134-room Inn at Bay Harbor (from $247 a night or $108 a person for golf “stay and play packages) was recently named by Travel+Leisure as one of the world’s 500 Best Hotels. And here’s a bonus: Stay there and you’ll have easy access to the better known, waterfront Bay Harbor Golf Club, with its three scenic courses also designed by Hills.
2. Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan
Drive time from Chicago: 4:45 hours (286 miles)
Consistently ranked among the top public golf courses in the country, the dramatic Arcadia Bluffs (fees from $110 for twilight play) looks plucked right out of California’s rugged Big Sur coast, which makes sense since Arcadia is home to the highest point on Lake Michigan’s west shore. Elevated on a bluff that dips toward 3,100 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline, Arcadia is a fast, seaside links course with huge Irish-style dunes and intimidating bunkers. Translation: It’s tough, but who cares with scenery like this?
Where to stay: Go with friends and stay on the no. 2 hole at a four-bedroom cottage (part of a brand-new collection of 1,900-square-foot, stand-alone accommodations at Arcadia’s Lodge), set to open August 1 (from $1,000 per night for a cottage; standard rooms from $60).
3. The Straits Course at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin
Drive time from Chicago: 2:45 hours (153 miles)
Nicknamed the “Pebble Beach of the Midwest” and rivalling Arcadia Bluffs for stunning views, Kohler’s fearsome Straits at Whistling Straits (fees start at $205 for twilight play) is the full package: a challenging course with great service, top-notch conditions, and a respect for tradition (no carts here, instead you get caddies with great knowledge of the course). Designed by Pete Dye, the course named second best course in the country by Golf Digest has hosted multiple championships and will do it again in 2015 (the PGA Championships) and 2020 (the Ryder Cup). Beat the mayhem and go now to try out your swing across the oversized, rough-hewn greens.
Where to stay: Ten miles away at The American Club (from $279 a night), top off your golf experience with luxurious accommodations and a spa treatment next door at Kohler’s Water Spa (try the new thermal treatments and the fantastic Vichy shower Citrus Reviver). Plan it all out before you go with Chicago’s Kohler road trip itinerary.
4. Brickyard Crossing in Indianapolis, Indiana
Drive time from Chicago: 2:45 hours (179 miles)
Pete Dye, the hall-of famer who designed Whistling Straits, happens to live in Indianapolis, so it’s no coincidence that he was tapped to create the course at Brickyard Crossing (fees from $60 for twilight play), with four holes inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some days, Indy car zoom around you at 200-plus miles per hour. The course is also five minutes from downtown, where new museum and zoo exhibits will turn your golf trip into a fun family vacation.
Where to stay: The Omni Severin (from $179 a night) offers bacon flights at the hotel bar.
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3 weeks ago