Grand Traverse Resort & Spa (The Bear) – Played May 2017
- Rankings: Golf Digest Public #72
- Location: 100 Grand Traverse Village Boulevard, Acme, Michigan
- Year: 1984
- Architect: Jack Nicklaus
- Course Access: Resort
- Walking Rules: Carts Available
Score Card Information:
- Black: 7,078 yards, Par 72, 76.1 Rating/150 Slope
- Blue: 6,601 yards, Par 72, 73.3 Rating/147 Slope
- Blue/White: 6,347 yards, Par 72, 72.0 Rating/144 Slope
- White: 6,122 yards, Par 72, 71.1 Rating/139 Slope
- White/Yellow: 5,688 yards, Par 72, 66.2 Rating/134 Slope
- Yellow: 5,281 yards, Par 72, 67.0 Rating/128 Slope
This was the sixth round of the trip and it was at this point that I was realizing I needed to get in better shape! I was feeling it a little bit. The weather was supposed to be bad, but I was the first one out and played in just about 3 hours to beat it. Those are the best days!
Alright, a little bit of background. Per the website the resort is owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. It opened in 1980 and features almost 600 rooms, suites, and condos. It has ample meeting space dining options, shopping, and a spa. I encourage you to check out the website for the resort to check out all the options.
The facility has three golf courses highlighted by The Bear. It also has a golf academy on site featuring a Dave Pelz Short Game School. The Bear is an apt name for the course because it is very difficult. It is ranked on the toughest courses list for a reason. I got a good chunk of the back nine in a stiff wind. Believe me, it was no joke. That is probably why the course hosted the Michigan Open for 28 years as well as a Champions Tour event in 1990.
Let’s get into the tour!
Hole 1 – 364 yards – Par 4
Right before the first tee is a reminder of the history and architect of the course. It was dedicated a few months after I was born! According to the website, Nicklaus believed the course would challenge players, but also allow for a good time for players of all levels. With ten holes featuring water hazards and thick rough, I’m not 100% sold on that, but I will leave that up to you.
It gets harder on the second. While it is listed as over 400 yards on the card, it plays longer due to the uphill slope that is quite pronounced.
This is a pretty hole. I’m not sure there is much strategy, but it looks good. The hole bends to the right. The hazard on the right is the main danger.
There isn’t much room for error off of this tee. There is water everywhere and a menacing pot bunker behind the green. The main issue may be the deep rough if you miss the green. It makes chipping very difficult.
This tee shot was a challenge for me playing the course for the first time. I wasn’t quite sure when the water came into play. I played it safe and took three wood up the left side. Driver brings the water into play.
The sixth is a longer, demanding hole. There is plenty of room in the fairway, but there is a fall off on the left side that leads to deep rough and a difficult lay up.
The tee shot here is all about keeping the ball to the right side due to trouble down the left. Depending on the wind you can take less than driver, but the hole plays back up the hill.
The tee signs have a sleek design with plenty of information.
The ninth is a tough finisher to your front nine. As you can see below you cannot miss it anywhere except long. During my round the wind was starting to whip making the difficulty level even higher.
This one is reachable for longer hitters, but some bunkers are waiting to catch wayward shots. There is also plenty of thick rough.
I didn’t love this hole to be honest, but it was more that it didn’t really standout. Hit the fairway, middle of the green, and try to make a putt.
The tee shot is the easiest part of this hole. The fairway is pretty wide and the long grass you can see isn’t in play.
I couldn’t get the full experience of this hole since the grounds crew was doing some work. Without the machinery I can imagine it is a great hole. The green is surrounded by deep bunkers. With wind coming through the trees club selection is quite difficult.
The yardage on the card is deceiving because of the slope that extends all the way to the green. The landing area is generous. The bunker up the left side is in play as is the long rough on the right.
I’m not sure this hole is an architectural gem, but it is pretty. Sure the houses are an eyesore, but just focus on the hole. From the tee you are high up and have an expansive view. The angle will definitely get you some more yards on the tee ball.
Stay out of the left bunker and things are alright. Other than that hit it as far as possible.
The green is guarded by some treacherous bunkers. Pars will be hard to come by out of those. You’ll also notice the internal contouring of the green can present some challenges.
This par three has a distinctly parkland feel. There is once again plenty of sand, but it is offset from the putting surface so only bad misses will get caught. The green is large in area to give the player some margin of error with a long iron.
The finisher is perhaps the hardest hole of the day. There is room to take the ball up the left, as seen in the second photo, but the water waits for any balls leaking to the right. The water can be carried, but wind will certainly play a factor.
The water wraps back around to affect the second shot. This view reminded me of so many PGA Tour telecasts where the leaders have to carry a hazard to finish off a win. With the wind whipping it certainly required a solid shot.
Overall, the Bear is a brute. With the wind up the course can really play hard. That being said, the conditioning was great and if you choose the right set of tees the day will be fun. I liked the scenery and despite some forgettable holes I would certainly recommend the course. A benefit of staying at the resort is that there are other course options to give you a bit of a break from the big, bad bear! Northern Michigan continues to impress.