Bay Harbor Golf Course
Teachers’ Comments: Expensive, but the views are spectacular.
I simply cannot make up my mind about the Bay Harbor Golf Club. I went expecting a links style course running along Michigan’s inland sea, and was rewarded on about half the holes. The remainder, while always good, mostly interesting and sometimes downright unusual, always fell short when compared to the lakeside.
The holes along Lake Michigan are simply spectacular. On the Links and Quarry nines, there are a total of six holes that I would consider “on the water” (although to be sure, there are only three in which you are in any danger of actually being in the water). Another five offer more distant views. Two are along dunes areas with no view, but retaining the links feel. The remaining seven may as well be in the state’s interior.
The Links nine I enjoyed immensely. With the exception of the ninth hole, each has a wonderful dunes feel, and you can see the water from six. The par 5 seventh is simply one of the best holes I have ever played. From the tee, it looks like a ball that drifts to the right will drop into the lake; it won’t but the thought got into my head. Mounding and tall grasses left threaten to eat your ball. Your second shot must find fairway that hooks around a large bunker. Finally, the green rises up to a high (and highly exposed) plateau. The wind was howling up there on the day I played.
I am less sure about the Quarry nine, which is largely built around and through a huge shale quarry. It is an unusual setting and nearly a year later, I am still having a mental debate as to whether I liked it. After much consideration, however, I think that my reaction was merely one of being let down after the Links nine. It was as though I passed from the sublime to the base.
The Quarry begins in wood and marshlands, then opens up to the quarry itself, which offers glimpses of the water from afar. The fairways descend slowly to the quarry bottom, then climb out again to the Quarry’s seventh. From the middle of the seventh, lake again makes its appearance. The eighth is a par three right on the water, then the ninth plays parallel to the lake, finishing with a hole just above the waterline.
There are a couple of gripping holes on the Quarry where the tee shots are made from perches high on the steep shale sides to fairways far below. Visually, the Quarry is all hard edges, which stands again in contrast to the softness of the Links.
If I were the manager at Bay Harbor, I would send people to play the Quarry first, then the Links. The effect would be to build to the most spectacular holes, rather than starting on a high point before sending them to the quarry bottom.
Conditions on the day I played were immaculate. The greens were like the proverbial pool tables. Even the most fastidious golfer could not have found fault.
The Links/Quarry pairing measures 6,827 from the back tees with a rating of 73/145. From the middle tees, it’s comes in at 5,936 yards and plays to a 69.8/132. It’s a tough course. Bring your “A” game. Bogey golfers must absolutely play it forward to have a good time.
Because of the distances between holes, and several very steep climbs, Bay Harbor simply is not practical to walk. The carts do, however, have some very nice built-in GPS units.
Playing Bay Harbor during the summer season is a very expensive prospect. In 2013, prime time rounds are $195. Play after five, though, and the price drops to $95. If you start right at five, you may be be able to finish in July and August while there still is sunlight.
At those prices, I can’t afford to play Bay Harbor very often. For the same investment, I could play two or three very good courses with very good scenery in Up North, Michigan.
Still, you should put Bay Harbor on your bucket list.
More photos follow: