When people think about great golf courses across the country, thoughts immediately go to California’s coast, the desert of Arizona and Las Vegas, or the plethora of Florida layouts.
But the upper peninsula of Michigan? Not so much.
Until now, that is.
The selection is based on the quality of the golf course, quality of owners and management, contributions to the local community, and significant contributions to the game of golf.
“When we received the Michigan Golf Course of the Year award back in October, we were very excited,” said Tony Mancilla, general manager of Island Resort & Casino. “Michigan has a lot of great courses, so just winning our state was huge. Now to earn the national award and recognition is the cherry on top.”
Sweetgrass is a par-72 layout with five sets of tees, ranging from 7,273 yards from the tips to just 5,075 yards from the forward tees, making it playable for all levels.
Greens fees vary by season, with summertime rates at $85 and spring and fall rates much lower. As with all courses in the region, Sweetgrass is closed during the winter.
The resort is located in Harris, about 13 miles west of Ecanaba. Opened by the Hannahville Indian Community in 1981 as a bingo hall, it has expanded over the years and now includes two golf courses.
Sweetgrass is the crown jewel, opening in 2008 and playing host annually to the Island Resort Championship on the Epson Tour — the LPGA’s developmental circuit.
Its signature hole is 15, a par-3, which features an island green.
But Sweetgrass officials know this latest honor is about more than the golf.
“I recently talked with other courses’ owners about how this is a big deal, because it’s more than just about having a great golf course,” Mancilla said. “You have to do more things for the game and help promote golf, and we’re doing that on a lot of different levels.”
The Epson Tour event falls into that category, having been played annually since 2011 and raising about $100,000 each year for charity. The YMCA is the event’s official charity. Area nonprofits have received more than $250,000 from ticket sales to the tournament.
“The (Epson Tour) event raises about $100,000 each year, and that’s about one quarter of the entire YMCA annual funding in membership scholarships,” said Mancilla. “It gives under-privileged kids of economically struggling families a chance to enjoy time at the YMCA.”
Morgane Metraux won the 2021 tournament in June, an effort that helped her earn a promotion to the LPGA Tour this season.
Island Resort underwent a $30 million expansion, adding a second hotel tower with 138 guest rooms. In addition to golf, the resort features spa suites, a water park, and top-floor fine dining.
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