Michigan Seems Like A Dream To Me Now! It took us four days to hitchhike from Saginaw…..
The lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘All Gone to Look For America’ popped into my head as we drove past a sign for Saginaw en-route to Traverse City.
My mind drifts back to that fantastic week in late September when my friend and I travelled to Michigan to take part in the prestigious Americas Cup annual golf tournament. This was my first trip to the Great Lakes State of Michigan, I was thrilled to have been invited and honoured to be part of the UK/Ireland team.
We flew into Detroit from London and after a fantastic overnight stay in this amazing city we were ready to hit the trail. Chris Pokorski from Detroit Visitor & Convention Bureau, who was also playing in the tournament, collected us from the fantastic Aloft Hotel and before leaving took us on a whirlwind tour around downtown Detroit. Actually as it turned out we couldn’t have had a better guide than Chris. He knew everything there was to know about Detroit.
Our first stop was Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, Corktown. An area which is full character and popular for its trendy bars and restaurants. Many of the Irish immigrants who settled east of the city were from Cork in Ireland, which is how Corktown got its name. I loved the city’s magnificent architecture old and new and the fabulous murals, some depicting Detroit’s historical links with the auto industry or the music of Motown. Our final stop was Hitsville. We couldn’t believe our luck when we arrived in the middle of Motown’s 60th anniversary celebrations. It was 10 a.m. the beat was on and we were “dancing in the street” to the music of Motown.
Detroit Artist Sydney James’ Mural says it all “Full Of Detroit Soul”.
The road trip from Detroit to Traverse City took around five hours, this included a short stop at the Great Lakes Crossing Designer Outlet. After a mad dash shopping spree around the mall we were back on the road again.
Travelling in the comfort and style of a humungous SUV, I sat back and just enjoyed the drive. My friend Ann and I were interested in the names of the places we passed en-route. Neither of us could believe our eyes when we saw a sign ahead for Roscommon. We then got chatting with Chris about the Michigan/Irish connection and were fascinated to learn that there is a Clare County, Wexford, Antrim [my home county] Irish Hills, Robert Emmet and Beaver Island. Beaver Island on Lake Michigan is known locally as “America’s Emerald Isle”. The Irish who settled in Michigan and many other parts of the East Coast had left Ireland to escape the Great Famine of the 1840s.
The further north we drove the scenery became more beautiful. The autumn leaves glistened in the afternoon sun.
The huge lobby of The Grand Traverse Hotel was buzzing with golfers, many meeting for the first time, others who had played in previous events greeted each other like old friends. Once we had settled in and off loaded the baggage it was time to repair to the bar and join our new friends for some preprandial refreshments.
The first course we played was the legendary Heather Golf Course at the Boyne Mountain Resort.
The Robert Trent Jones Sr. course opened in1966 and was the first of the Boyne Courses. The Heather is widely considered to be one of the finest championship courses in the U.S. It was voted Michigan Golf Course of the year in 2018 and National Course of the year in 2019. The scenery of the surrounding hills is stunning. Playing the Heather was such an enjoyable and memorable golf experience.
The next day we travelled to the Treetops Resort, Gaylord to play the Signature course.
Treetops is home to five distinctly different golf courses. The Premier, by Tom Fazio; The Masterpiece by Robert Trent Jones,Sr; Signature, Tradition and the Three Tops by Rick Smith; and the Himalayas putting course.
The Signature is tough but fair. Built over hilly terrain with tree lined fairways and magnificent views as far as the eye can see. It is really not surprising that the Signature course is ranked one of the top courses in the State.
I would highly recommend playing the unique nine-hole par-three Threetops course. It is tricky to say the least but such fun.
Last but not least The Bear Course at Grand Traverse Resort. The Bear is one of Michigan’s best known courses and one of the most challenging in the country. Jack Nicklaus’s unique and beautiful links-style course will test the best in the game.
It was amusing to hear shouts of Feed the Bear, Feed the Bear, from golfers around the course each time a ball was lost into one of the lakes.
Playing Nicklaus’s Bear course was one of those unique golf experiences, no matter how you played on the day you will want a return challenge!
Thankfully we didn’t see any grizzly bears although we did see lots of geese, herons, and tiny turtles sitting around the edges of the lakes. In-fact I saw lots of those little critters on some of my close encounters.
For our final evening we visited downtown Traverse City and after a great dinner and a few glasses of superb Michigan wine, our wonderful UK & Ireland team was presented with the prestigious Americas Cup Trophy. What an end to a fabulous week!
Michigan in the Summer months is one of the premier golf destinations in America. No matter where you choose to stay you are never far from a golf course. There are so many top class courses that you will be spoilt for choice.
It was Autumn and, although a bit chilly in the early morning, it wasn’t too long before jackets were off and we were playing in beautiful sunshine. It was hard to imagine that a couple of months later this perfect golfing landscape would become a wonderland for winter sports enthusiasts.
As well as golf, you will find there is so much to do around Traverse City. Outdoor activities include biking, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and fly fishing. Indeed it’s the ideal family holiday destination. There are fantastic wineries, great shopping and superb restaurants. The famous Sleeping Bear Dunes are just a thirty minute drive from the city. The Dunes are part of the Lake Michigan National Lakeshore. The miles of magnificent beaches and mammoth dunes offer spectacular views across Lake Michigan.
The region around Traverse City is famous for its fruit growing and is the largest producer of tart cherries in the U.S. In almost every restaurant you will find cherries on the menu in some form. Not far from the city is The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The Village is the unique renovation of lots of historic buildings and was formally the Traverse City State hospital. There are fabulous gift stores some selling pottery, jewellery, and all kinds cherry related products from food to souvenirs. We enjoyed a very nice breakfast at the Red Spire Brunch House. There are plenty of restaurants, a taproom, a winery and at weekends, a farmers market. The tour around the old building sounds like fun, or you might enjoy hiking on one of the beautiful trails. A visit to this unique Village is a must!
The region is a paradise for wine lovers as there are over forty vineyards. We visited Chateau Chantal a wonderful French style winery on Old Mission Peninsula. As well as producing excellent wines there is a B&B and a cookery school. For a few dollars a glass you can sample some world class wine that is unique to Michigan. What a way to spend an afternoon.
One of the nicest and most luxurious hotels we visited was Inn at Bay Harbour A beautiful golf resort that stretches for five miles along the shores of the lake.
It is evident that the Irish tradition is very much alive today through music and culture. There are Irish bars, restaurants and golf resorts named after Irish places. The link is so strong, you can almost feel it. There was a céad míle fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes) everywhere we went. I don’t think it was just because we were Irish but they did like to party just like the Irish. Actually at times we felt we could have been in the company of long lost cousins. Maybe, who knows!