BOYNE Golf - Transforming for the Next Generation - Written by Scott Kramer
Over the past 75 years, BOYNE Golf in Northern Michigan has grown into one of North America's largest golf destinations – now encompassing 10 courses and three resort properties, including Inn at Bay Harbor and Bay Harbor Golf Club, The Highlands at Harbor Spring and Boyne Mountain resort.
Growing up in Michigan, I remember family trips to Boyne Mountain and The Highlands where I experienced the fun variety of golf. Today, both properties still have much of the same ambiance as back then but have begun an exciting new transformation that will carry on its legacy for the next generation.
Everett Kircher, who founded Boyne Resorts in 1947 by acquiring 40 acres with a modest ski hill for $1, has since then built North America's largest family-owned golf and ski company. A former Michigan state senator said back then, as he accepted the $1 from Kircher for the land - “Anybody damn foolish enough to want to build a ski hill … I’ll give you this property.” A Studebaker salesman from Detroit, Kircher never looked back. Eventually, he acquired land for The Highlands and expanded into golf, creating summer activities that kept employees working year-round.
As golf exploded onto the scene in the 1960’s, Kircher saw golf demand rise -- warranting a championship layout from renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr., who created the Heather course. It opened immediately as one of America's top public courses -- triggering the beginning of one of the world's premier world-class golf destinations. In 2019, The Heather was named the National Golf Course of the Year. Today, Kircher’s vision has passed on to his son Stephen, who continues to elevate the Boyne experience through several major renovation projects across golf, skiing and lodging.
Just north of Petoskey near Harbor Springs, The Highlands is undergoing significant transformations both on and off-course. Imagine staying in upscale accommodations reminiscent of an English country estate with Scottish Highlands charm.
The Highlands’ 72 holes collectively offer a perfect golf experience where groups can check into the lodge and never get back into their car during their stay. A major part of the resort's golf transformation, one that I'm especially excited to see evolve, is at the Donald Ross Memorial -- a composite re-creation of classic holes Ross designed in the early 20th century at renowned courses like Seminole, Pinehurst, Oakland Hills and Aronimink. This was the very first project of its kind creating a tribute course honoring a legendary architect. Working with Michigan-based architect and Ross expert Ray Hearn, BOYNE Golf's team has begun bringing the holes even closer to their originals. Based on those I've seen already completed, this is a must-play.
The Highlands also features two other outstanding tracts. The popular Arthur Hills course takes golfers through various landscapes -- reaching a pinnacle on the 13th tee with a 50-mile panorama. And The Moor, widely regarded as a members' favorite, was renovated -- widened fairways, expanded collection areas around the greens, trees removed, and refreshed bunker sand -- all to create more variety, fun and shot options.
Two years ago, The Highlands added an expansive Trackman Range Experience, which combines mind-blowing, state-of-the-art technology golf entertainment venue, that doubles as a top practice facility that's part of the award-winning BOYNE Golf Academy. The academy houses revered instruction plus a state-of-the-art GEARS Golf system that can fit you into the best-possible equipment.
BOYNE Golf’s flagship property, located across Little Traverse Bay and along the shores of Lake Michigan west of Petoskey, is the nationally esteemed Inn at Bay Harbor. Its high-end Bay Harbor Golf Club was designed by Hills, and offers a unique 27-hole combination that takes golfers along Lake Michigan bluffs, through a rock quarry and among the hardwoods. Five minutes away, BOYNE Golf ’s Crooked Tree Golf Club is carved through stands of centuries-old hardwoods, while perched on bluffs overlooking Little Traverse Bay.
BOYNE Golf's third property, Boyne Mountain Resort, is 20 minutes south of Petoskey. Its lodging options include the Mountain Grand Lodge, condos, and the cool new Chalet Edelweiss located right on the hillside. The two fantastic 18-hole layouts – the Monument and Alpine courses -- offer outstanding mountainside golf and some of Michigan's most spectacular panoramas.
I’m especially excited to visit again because the resort just unveiled SkyBridge Michigan. Billed as the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge for pedestrians, it spans 1,200 feet between the peaks of McLouth to Disciples Ridges, 118 feet in the air. Open year round, it showcases panoramic valley views and extensive light displays. You ride the historic Hemlock Scenic Chairlift to the mountain’s top, then venture out onto the bridge.
BOYNE Golf’s variety of courses is collectively refreshing, the course conditions are unparalleled across ten courses, and the scenery amazing. Summer-time golfers can easily fit in 36 holes every day and play well into the evening hours -- close to 10 p.m. for much of the summer. Or visit in the fall when the changing leaf colors provide a fall spectacle to behold.
In addition to BOYNE Golf, the region’s Norman Rockwell-like lakeside resort towns of Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Boyne City and Traverse City have long been summertime playgrounds – attracting people from all over the world, including golfers. It’s no wonder, as the area's outstanding golf offers the perfect buddy trip destination.
BOYNE Golf is easily accessible by car throughout the Midwest. Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport offers non-stops from 17 major U.S. cities during summer, and private aircraft are welcomed at Boyne Mountain’s 5200’ airport that recently received four million dollars in upgrades! To score a great golf package – or to find out more information – call www.boynegolf.com.