Bay Harbor Preserve / Links Golf Course Review
Bay Harbor Preserve / Links Golf Course
Teacher’s Comments: The Preserve is a vastly under-rated course. The Links is nationally known and spectacular.
Bay Harbor’s Preserve is one of three nines at the facility: The Preserve, The Links and The Quarry. Of the three, the Links is best known and justly lauded for its spectacular views of Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. The Quarry gets a lot of attention for its quirky thrill ride through an abandoned shale quarry. The Preserve, on the other hand, more nearly resembles other Northern Michigan courses, with its dense tree lined fairways and shots over water and marsh.
While lacking the “wow” factor, the Preserve might just have the best holes at Bay Harbor from a design point of view. Architect Arthur Hills, who has made a career out of Michigan golf, put together a collection of holes that offers lots of decision making and risk-reward scenarios.
As an aside, I think Arthur Hills is underappreciated as a golf course designer. Rarely mentioned in the pantheon of modern golf architects, he has nonetheless assembled an impressive portfolio: Red Hawk, Shepherd’s Hollow, Stonebridge, Lyon Oaks, Giant Oak, The Golden Fox and many others attest to his skills. Aside from Hills, I can only think of a couple of others — including Mike DeVries and Bill Newcomb — who so consistently “get” Michigan’s hilly, marshy, forested terrain.
From the tips, the Preserve stretches to 3, 378 and plays to a 73.6/142. The Links measure 3, 449 and play to a 74.3/146.
My favorite hole on the Preserve was the 467 yard par 4 sixth. I played from the middle tees at 404 yards. The hole is a winding affair, bending first left, then right, then back left to the green. A downhill tee shot to the left will find a wide fairway but a much longer approach. A shot right over the bunker shortens the hole considerably, but is more risky. The green is guarded by three vast bunkers, with the fairway snaking in between (see the photo at top).
I aimed to fly my tee shot over the bunker, mishit it and got lucky by falling just short. My second shot was over the crater to a wide spot in the fairway some 140 out. From there, I managed to find the green and two putt for a bogey.
What is liked about this hole — and indeed most of the holes on the Preserve is that the tee shots usually had two routes: one safe, and one risky. There was a certain level of comfort on the tee thinking that “all I have to do is put it out there in that wide spot.” From that safe spot, however, the shots became more treacherous.
In that same vein, the first at Bay Harbor’s Preserve has a very enticing landing area on the left and a mound with a facing bunker right. Check the yardages, however: the mound is closer than it looks and flying a shot over can leave a short iron to the green. That green, however, presents its narrow side to the fairway, and is guarded on the right by a bunker. Positioning the second shot is everything.
If you like golf that requires tactical thinking, the Preserve should be on your radar.
Bay Harbor’s Links nine — which I have written about before (see my first Bay Harbor review at the link) — is an iconic Michigan golf course. The views of Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan will not soon be forgotten — especially if you are finishing your round at sunset.
My favorite hole in the Links at Bay Harbor is the par five seventh, the entire length of which runs along a bluff over Little Traverse Bay. The hole is shaped a bit like an elongated “S”, with the tee box at the bottom and the green at the top. Mounding threatens golfers on the lower inside, while a large trap is in the crook at the top. The hole plays uphill for the second and third shots.
A safe route to the green involves playing right toward the cliff (there’s plenty of room), then back left to the curve, and finally right and upward to the plateau green. A big, risk-taking hitter might try to skirt the inside mounds off the tee shot, then blast a shot over the bunker to the green. The green is huge, so there’s a chance if you’re skilled enough to take it.
The biggest risk on the seventh, however, is having your concentration broken by the views. It’s the best water-view golf hole I’ve played outside of Pacific Dunes (see my Pacific Dunes golf course review at the link)
Conditions on the day I played were stellar. Tee boxes, fairways and greens were in perfect resort golf course shape.
Playing golf at Bay Harbor is not cheap by Michigan standards (although I will note that it is not terribly expensive when compared to other states’ sea or lakeside courses). However, a golfer can mitigate the prices by playing in the off-hours. Boyne has an online automated price adjustment system that lowers the price on underused tee times to encourage players to fill up the sheet. A round at twilight becomes quite reasonable.
Boyne Golf also has some amazing stay-and-play deals, so it’s worth checking those out. In addition to Bay Harbor, you also could play such worthy Boyne courses as Crooked Tree, The Heather, The Moors, The Donald Ross Memorial, and The Alpine.
The Bay Harbor Preserve/Links Golf Course Review was first published August 29, 2019 from notes and photos taken during a round in July 2019.
A photo tour of the Bay Harbor Preserve / Links Golf Course follows