Time was when the quaint Lake Michigan towns of Traverse City, Boyne City, Petoskey, and Charlevoix, some 300 miles northwest of Detroit, were mainly known for skiing. Fortunately, the locals figured out the hilly, wooded terrain and the breathtaking views offered by Lake Michigan and its offspring bays made for spectacular golf courses. Only California's Monterey Peninsula is comparable in terms of quality courses with water views.
What the golf season lacks in quantity (only five to six months each year), the golf courses make up for in quality. In fact, this area leads in the overall golf category--an average of the number of golf courses per avid golfer and the number of top-ranked courses open to the public.
ROLLING FARMLAND. Chicago and Milwaukee have been golfing towns for decades. Long-term relationships with the PGA Tour, and the need to get outdoors when the weather is good, fosters the area's affection for the game. Golf-course growth has moved out to the far edges of the metro areas.
Here, it's north and west along the corridor between the two cities, and even farther west past Rockford, Ill., toward Galena in the state's northwest corner on up to Madison, Wis. On the west lies the Mississippi River; to the east, Lake Michigan. In between is rolling farmland, ideal for golfing tranquility.
SCENIC VENUES. It didn't take long for word of the golf-course development success in northern Michigan to reach the other side of Lake Michigan. A decade ago, developers began constructing wonderfully scenic venues. Located in an area surrounding the lakeside city of Sheboygan are the Blackwolf Run Golf Club and Whistling Straits. They are impressive monuments to the game, even if you can play them only half the year.