By Charlene S. Mixa
Panoramic Views, Terrific Golf and Delicious Food
Nestled high in the forested hills, Little Traverse Bay Golf Club offers panoramic views of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay and three inland lakes. Spectacular breathtaking views are found from many vantage points of this 18-hole traditional-style golf course, which is continuously rated 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest. Recognized as the #2 Most Female-Friendly Course in the Country in 2002 by Golf Digest, the course is a must see stop for a visit to northern Michigan.
Located outside of Harbor Springs, a quaint lakeshore town, Little Traverse Bay Golf Club is our final stop for golf in northern Michigan. Driving up the hill to the clubhouse our reaction is, WOW! With its clubhouse literally sitting on the top of the hill the scenic vista is inspiring. The crisp white clubhouse has its own charm with colorful flowers in borders and baskets. At the bag drop, the attendant promptly takes the bags and puts them on the cart with a complimentary bottle of water.
Camera in hand, I snap shots of this amazing view. Paired up with Peter and Tom, we prepare to see how Little Traverse Bay compares with other Michigan courses. The course is in excellent condition and well maintained, actually giving the feel and details normally expected only at private clubs. The starter offers to take pictures with the lake behind us. He shares the challenge of the day will be putting as “the ball will always roll toward Lake Michigan.”
No. 1 starts out at the top of the hill by the clubhouse and is a vertical downhill par 4 hole. Again, the view is terrific looking down to the fairway and green. The score card has a graphic of the course layout but not of the individual holes. We realize a yardage book providing specific information for playing each hole is a must. While the front nine has some elevation changes, many holes are along the valley. Playing No. 2, a par 5, is a long downhill fairway with a 90 degree dogleg left to a water and bunker protected green. From the huge elevated tee my drive is straight and long going through the fairway in to the rough near the lake. The second shot lands in a bunker near the green. With a great chip to the green and two putts, I make par. Each hole is unique and exciting from uphill, downhill, and valley holes among the woodlands. Fairways and landing areas are wide with water on only one hole. Undulating, tiered greens even have mounds to cross. No. 9 is all uphill from the base of the valley to the very top of the hill. I drive through the landing area into the thick grass below this green far above not realizing how long the landing area is.
The back nine is all about the ups and downs of a mountain course. No. 10 a par 3 highlights the terrain to come. From the elevated tee to the green below into a strong wind, everyone is guessing on club selection. I opt for a longer rather than shorter club and land on the green. Hurray, a par! Elevation changes are dramatic requiring careful consideration for depth of landing areas, adjustment of clubs for downhill and uphill shots. Again, terrific wide fairways but going through a landing area results in a shot from thick rough. The course weaves through the lush forest adding extra charm. With the back nine’s elevation we find more holes with spectacular views of the inland lakes.. Still trying to locate Lake Michigan, we watch as each of us miss putts. Even short putts just slide off the side of the cup and roll past the hole. Possible birdies or pars become bogies and double bogies. Frustration comes with attempting to read the greens and guess “where is Lake Michigan?” I am not sure the course is lady friendly, when I reach No. 15 a 529 yard par-5. Richard plays this long downhill hole with its vertical drop, beautifully landing on the green in three. Finally making a ten foot putt, he gets the only birdie of the day for the foursome.
It’s all uphill now as we tee off on No. 18. A totally blind hole, the only idea of where the green might be is the tall flag pole with the American flag flying. Since I can’t see the pin, the flag pole is my target. Finishing with a bogey, I am happy. My uphill second shot was just off the green. I am glad to not to have to climb the hill to the top of the green. Another spectacular view from the green on No. 18 is both of the vistas and looking down at the fairway. Great course, we really enjoyed it, the course, the condition, the challenge and excitement of each hole, but “where is Lake Michigan?”
Freshening up, we dine in the clubhouse’s restaurant. The Little Traverse Bay Restaurant serves an excellent meal to tempt our taste buds. While Richard enjoys the parmesan crusted Walleye, I order the early bird White fish. Both meals are delicious and well presented. The service is very good. The astounding view from the clubhouse is romantic as the sun sets over Little Traverse Bay.
If you go:
Little Traverse Bay Golf Club & Restaurant, 995 Hideaway Valley Road, Harbor Springs, MI 49740; 888.995.622 or 231.526.6200; www.ltbaygolf.com