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Destination: Cadillac
The First Tee of Northern Michigan Golf

by Jim Neff

For decades the pretty community of Cadillac, ninety minutes north of Grand Rapids and forty-five minutes south of Traverse City, has been a recreation and tourism destination for generations of families. In winter, they come to Cadillac to enjoy alpine skiing at Caberfae Peaks, cross country ski on the Cadillac Pathway, try their ice fishing skills on the city's two lakes, and snowmobile along the hundreds of miles of trails connected to the home of the North American Snowmobile Festival.

In summer, Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell, connected by a canal, have been the main lure. Boating, fishing, camping at Mitchell State Park, strolling the Lakefront Walkway, and bicycling around the lakes, are delightful warm weather activities. Cadillac is also the northern trail head for the new White Pine Trail, a rails-to-trails state park that stretches from Cadillac ninety miles south to Grand Rapids. Add in scores of tourist related attractions, interesting sights, and scores of lodging and dining options, and it's easy to see why Cadillac has been a favorite spot for family fun vacations.

The missing component for golfers used to be the limited number of courses in the area, but now that has all changed. Limited has become limitless. Within the past five years the number of golf holes in the Cadillac area has more than doubled, to the current 135 (with more on the way). There are now no less than nine quality courses, six of which have opened over the past three years, that have joined with ten hotels to form the Cadillac Golf Council. The Council is bolstered by the fact that Cadillac is also the home of Avon Golf Grips, the largest manufacturer of golf grips in the world, so the area is benefiting from unprecedented enthusiasm for the game of golf. Just a chip shot away from downstate Michigan, Cadillac is now the "first tee" of Northern Michigan golf.

The "first tee" title is appropriate because of Cadillac's geographical location; it's the initial golf destination for downstaters traveling into northwest lower Michigan's golf Mecca. Conversely, it's also a great "finishing hole" for golfers returning home after playing courses farther north.

The Cadillac area might also claim the title of "Michigan's New Affordable Golf Capital." With nine distinctly different courses and affordable rates you can play a week's worth of golf in the Cadillac area for what it costs for just a couple of rounds elsewhere. Cadillac literally proves that great golf vacations can be reasonably priced.

The golf courses of Cadillac provide something for every preference. Be you a big hitter or shot maker, whether you like wide expanses or tree lined fairways, or if you're a walker or prefer a golf car, Cadillac has a course suited to your game. Here is a quick "nine hole" tour of the courses in the greater Cadillac area.

Briar Downs

Located north of Cadillac on M-115 near the village of Mesick, Briar Downs has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past two seasons, making it essentially a new course. Nestled on rolling terrain with woods, streams, ponds and wetlands, accuracy and shot making are keys here. The 18-hole course measures 5796 yards, par 70, so it's an enjoyable test even if you're not a long driver. And the greens are some of the best in the North.

The main strength of Briar Downs is its tremendous variety. No two holes are alike: You'll encounter doglegs, wide open par fives, tricky water edged par fours, and some really innovative and memorable par threes. Also, be on the lookout for deer, geese, and an abundance of wildlife.

Briar Downs is user friendly and economically priced. Call 1-616-885 1220.

Caberfae Peaks

Caberfae Peaks is better known as Michigan's first destination ski resort, celebrating 60 years of skiing this past winter. Last summer it debuted the first nine holes on its Peaks Course, the first phase of an eventual 36 hole layout designed by Harry Bowers, designer of The Rock and a colleague of Robert Trent Jones. The Peaks winds through the Manistee National Forest, and players cross ten bridges, encounter undisturbed ravines with wild flowers, and see wetlands and wildlife.

The Peaks plays to 3248 yards, each hole has four tee boxes, the fairways are bent grass, and the greens sport color-coded flags. Players will encounter a course devoid of real estate developments or man-made distractions. Each hole has its own character, and all the special touches you'd expect at a top notch course are in evidence. But perhaps the "signature" that you'll remember about the Peaks is the remarkable solitude and peacefulness created by the natural forest backdrop.

Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort is located twelve miles west of Cadillac on M-55. Call 1-616-862-3300.

Cadillac Country Club

Established in 1910, Cadillac Country Club is a 6017 yard, par 70, classic. The tight layout is memorable for its big, stately hardwoods, giving the course a traditional look to go with its cunning design and small, immaculate greens. Mostly flat terrain makes the course a neat place to play position golf and the bump-and-run. CCC combines wonderful modern service and conditions, while preserving an "Augusta-like" feeling.

Run by one of Michigan's top pros, Dave Kendall, Cadillac Country Club has hosted the Michigan Women's Amateur, the Northern Michigan PGA Championship, and the Insurance Youth Classic State Finals, so it's much respected.

Located on the western edge of Cadillac, CCC's clubhouse overlooks beautiful Lake Mitchell and is only about three minutes from Mitchell State Park and the M-55/M-115 intersection. Call 1-616-775-9442.


The "Cadillac of Clubs" opens for play this summer as an 18-hole public course with a 30-acre practice range and a 20,000 square foot putting green. Located along U.S.-131 and bordering the Pine River, the sight of Eldorado will be a greeting card for golfers entering Cadillac via the 131 expressway.

The creation of local developer Robert Meyer, and run by club pro Doug Bell, Eldorado has five tee boxes on each hole which are named, not color coded, that determine the 18-hole yardage: Eldorado Steel, 7,707 yards; Eldorado Power, 6,666 yards; Eldorado Chrome, 6,060 yards; Eldorado Ride, 5,555 yards; and Eldorado Comfort, 5,050 yards. Sweeping fairways and a fairly open design will allow players of all abilities to enjoy the distinctive layout.

Eldorado will also boast a first class, full service restaurant, so it will be a premiere dining experience, as well as one of northern Michigan's finest new golf courses. Also, check out the vintage El Dorado Cadillac automobile on display. Call 1-888-DRIVE18.

Emerald Vale

Another new course. There's a good chance the first nine holes will open late this summer, with the entire eighteen ready for play in 1997. Located north of Cadillac on M-42, two miles west of Manton, it will be an upscale course that weaves through pine plantations, hardwood forests, and open meadows. Golfers will enjoy the 120 feet of elevation change, wide fairways, and large greens. The course will play 6700 yards from the back tees and will feature 60 sand bunkers and grassy hollows. Call Golf Cadillac at 1-888-223-GOLF for more details.

McGuire's Resort

McGuire's is Cadillac's largest and most famous golf venue, a complete golf resort rivaling any in the state. With 27 holes, 123 guest rooms, tennis, a swimming pool, a fine dining restaurant, and a host of amenities, McGuire's is a vacation in itself.

Under the direction of pro Bill Snider, the 18-hole Spruce course and 9 hole Norway course both provide outstanding tests. Each benefits from the 1,468 foot elevation of the resort, giving players spectacular vistas of Lake Cadillac.

The Spruce course is an extraordinary blend of bunkers, berms, water hazards, and fast greens, playing to a manageable 6443 yards. Spilling off a ridge and onto a flat plain, you'll encounter holes that slash through pine forests complemented by holes that have an open-meadow Scottish feel. For this summer, the par three fifth hole has been completely renovated, over 700 trees have been added, and taller grasses seeded in natural out of-rough areas.

The Norway course has been a staple of Cadillac golf for decades, and features rolling terrain and major elevation changes. Best described as "sporty," the Norway stretches 2792 yards.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about both of the McGuire's courses is their playability. Although each is a good test of golf, the Spruce and the Norway can be enjoyed by golfers of every skill level. When you complete a round at McGuire's, you tend to smile a lot because you've played a course that's both fair and fun.

Golf packages are a specialty of McGuire's, located on Mackinaw Trail on the southern edge of Cadillac. Call 1-888-MCGUIRES.

Lakewood On The Green

Lakewood on the Green, five minutes west of Cadillac, may define the term "nifty." This is a 9-hole course where the yardage does not seem too imposing, but a lake forms the right edge of six fairways, and the other three holes feature ponds or creeks. The layout is tight, requiring precise drives and accurate iron shots. And the two par three holes, one with an island tee, are absolutely delightful.

Unlike many of the courses in the Cadillac area, Lakewood is bordered by beautiful homes, so it's like a stroll in a cozy neighborhood. The terrain is mainly flat to easy rolling, so Lakewood is a nice course if you like to walk (and carry).

Call 1-616-775-4763.

The Rose

South of Cadillac near the village of Tustin, The Rose is spread out over 320 acres of majestic white pine, maple, and birch trees. When it opened two years ago I called it "the prettiest new course I played all year," and I stand by that assessment. The rolling terrain is has been expertly used in the course design so that each hole is an entity in itself; you can play a complete round and never see another foursome.

The 18 holes play to around 6,000 yards and a par 71, but that's only a small part of the story. Several tees are perched on natural ridges, creating splendid overlooks. There is just the right blend of wide (good driving) holes and narrow (shot making) holes, with numbers nine and eighteen being two of the best finishing holes in the North. And this is an unbelievably magnificent course to play during the fall color season.

The Rose also features a beautiful log clubhouse and restaurant. Take U.S. 131 to exit 168 through Tustin to Mackinaw Trail. Turn right to 18 Mile Road, turn left. Call 1-888-THEROSE.


Wedgewood opened late last summer and the 9-hole course quickly became a local favorite. A nice mix of elevated tees and greens, with rolling fairways lined with towering pines, make this a new course that plays and feels like an established one.

The 3085 yard, par 35 course, designed by Pete Smith, places a premium on solid driving. Six of the holes are over 350 yards long, four of the par 4s measure more than 390 yards, and the par 5 third hole is a 515 yard monster.

Located just a few minutes from Cadillac West (just across the street from Lakewood On The Green), Wedgewood is a very challenging, yet playable, addition to the Cadillac golf scene. Call 1-616-779-3980.

Golf Cadillac on the World Wide Web

Cadillac also has one of the most spectacular and all-inclusive information sites on the Internet World Wide Web. Complete information about golf, lodging, restaurants, special events, attractions, and four season fun is available. Many of the golf courses and businesses have their own home pages linked to the Cadillac main page, providing color pictures, statistics, maps, and prices. Access the Cadillac home page at http://www.michiweb.com/cadillac. You can also E-mail to CAVB@netonecom.net.

If you want to know more about Cadillac golf, contact the Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau at 1-800-369-3836. There is also a special "Golf Cadillac" number, 1-888-223-GOLF.

Michigan Golfer

Business Directory

Golf Courses

Cadillac Country Club
1005 S. Lake Mitchell Dr., Cadillac

Lakewood on the Green

U.S. 131 at M-115, Cadillac

Brian Downs
5441 E. M-115, Mesick

The Rose - Cadillac
16264 Eighteen Mile Road, LeRoy
MI 49655

Resorts and Other Lodging

McGuire's Resort

Bill Oliver's Best Western
M-55, Cadillac

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