While the region doesn’t immediately garner images of golfing, the area of Escanaba in Michigan`s Upper Peninsula is home to the acclaimed Sweetgrass Golf Club. Since opening in summer 2008, this 18-hole championship course has received numerous awards and accolades from various publications. It has been named as one of “America’s Best New Courses” of 2009, and one of the “Best Casino Courses” of the same year. With more than 650 public courses in the State, those are pretty impressive praises.
When designing the course, architect Paul Albanese remarked that he had two objectives in mind. One was to build a course that would provide a great golf experience. The other was to reflect the Native American values and principles of the Potawatomi. He more than accomplished both goals.
Owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community in Harris, MI, the Island Resort Casino’s Sweetgrass Golf Club stretches 7,275 yards. With its picture perfect design, each hole is unique in paying homage to Indian lore. The course yardage book helps explain some of the legends associated with the tribe. Hole 14, for example, shares the story of the Snowbird Legend, while the 17th reflects on Wisdom.
Rich History with Golfing
In addition to the rich history lesson, golfing is spectacular. Hole 15 is a par 3 with an island green and is not only challenging, but breathtaking as well. Throughout the course, sand bunkers and water hazards strategically defend the layout, while golden fescue frames the wide fairways. Other interesting features of the course are the five “rescued” bridges. Further, course superintendent John Holberton says the historic bridges were rescued from around the region and provide the course with a unique feel.
One of the restaurants at Island Resort Casino is named 5 Bridges Steak & Seafood House. In addition to this popular restaurant, the resort offers a variety of dining options including the 5 Bridges Pub, Firekeeper’s Restaurant, Coral Reef Grille, Signature Subs & Pizza, T. McC’s Sports Bar, Coffee & Custard Shop, and the Wine Club.
A popular option offered at Sweetgrass is the “Perfect 4-Some” stay-and-play package. Guests can combine their number of nights lodging with golf at Sweetgrass, Greywalls Golf Course in Marquette, or Timberstone Golf Course in nearby Iron Mountain.
RV Park Option
Another popular attraction is the Island Resort Casino RV Park, which opened in 2000. Open May 1 – November 30, this spacious RV park offers 42 paved sites along with a full service amenities. Its proximity to both the casino and golf course is convenient (approximately a two-minute walk to either venue). Trees surround the RV park and provides seclusion from the casino parking. The casino hotel also has an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
Second Golf Course Under Construction
Given the overwhelming success of Sweetgrass Golf Club, Island Resort Casino officials decided to build a second golf course. Currently under construction a few miles away, Sage Run is set to open in the fall of 2017 with a grand opening in 2018.
“We selected sage because we wanted to highlight another of our four traditional tribal medicines, along with cedar, tobacco, and sweet grass,” says Tony Mancilla, manager of the Island Resort and Casino. “The word ‘run’ in the name references the 10 holes that traverse significantly downhill on the course.”
Some of Sage Run’s more noteworthy design aspects include furry-edged bunkers and a number of short par 4s. These include blind shots to the greens from the tees, carrying past the rise in front of them. There is also single-row irrigation, which elicits changing turf as it nears fairway edges and into the rough. Paul Albanese and his course design team of Albanese & Lutzke are in charge of the design and construction.
If this course is anything like the Sweetgrass Golf Club, the golfing public and RVers will be ecstatic when it debuts next year.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer who lives in Olympia, Washington. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, “The 19th Hole,” which posts every Saturday on rvlife.com. Email rick at email@example.com.