NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year

NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year. This is Hole 2, a 400 yard par 4.

NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year For 2022

Sweetgrass, at Island Resort & Casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, has been on my best of Michigan list since I first played in 2016. It is a challenging, beautiful and beautifully kept course (read GolfBlogger’s Sweetgrass Review and thoughts on a followup visit.

Last fall, the Michigan Golf Course Owners’ Association named Sweetgrass as their course of the year. At this week’s NGCOA Golf Business Conference in Orlando, Sweetgrass was named the National Golf Course of the Year for 2022.

I think it says something about Michigan golf that Stoatin Brae, in Augusta, Michigan was named the National Course of the Year in 2020.

Courses are considered for the title based on four criteria: quality of golf course, quality of ownership and management, outstanding 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. 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. You have to do more things for the game and help promote golf, and we’re doing that on a lot of different levels.”

NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year Pictured: Island Resort Logo
NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year

Island Resort & Casino is located thirteen miles west of Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The casino is owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community, a federally recognized Potawatomi Indian Tribe. From humble beginnings as a bingo hall, it has expanded to a casino, showroom, 400 room hotel, spa, fine dining and a water park.

The resort also has two golf courses. Sweetgrass is directly adjacent to the resort complex, while its sister course, Sage Run is located just a few miles away. (Read GolfBlogger’s Sage Run review.)

Both courses are designed by Paul Albanese.

Sweetgrass is a largely open course that some may be tempted to call a “links.” It is not though, since it is not on linksland proper. I’ve struggled over the years to describe the course (and a few others like it in Michigan). Land like Sweetgrass sits on — relatively flat with grasses and shrubs and occasional stands of trees and marsh — is more nearly a prairie. I like the term “prairie course.”

Albanese’ design also features classic green designs (Redan, Biarritz, Island and Double-Green), as well as some wonderful strategic holes — including an island green par three and a finishing par-five hole on each side.

A nice touch is that golfers are introduced to Potawatomi culture, with holes named after traditional clans, villages, allies, medicines and symbols. The dedication to nature and the area’s heritage makes for a unique golf experience.

NGCOA Names Sweetgrass National Course Of The Year Pictured Island Resort Championship logo

Sweetgrass is the host of the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship.

One of the areas that Sweetgrass was selected for, and the resort management takes pride in, is its contribution to the community through the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, which debuted in 2011 and has become the premier community event in the region. The Strong Kids Campaign – YMCA is the event’s official charity and guarantees that all kids, regardless of income, have an opportunity to receive free YMCA memberships. Other local charities and nonprofits have also received more than $250,000 raised from the tournament’s ticket sales.

“The Symetra Tour event raises about $100,000 each year, and that’s about one-quarter of the entire YMCA annual funding in membership scholarships,” explained Mancilla. “It gives under-privileged kids of economically struggling families a chance to enjoy time at the YMCA.”

The YMCA golf program is also supported by this effort, providing clubs for kids to use and youth golf clinics for them to participate in during the tournament.

“I think the biggest thing is having the pros play and the kids watch them,” said Mancilla. “It’s exciting when they’re here playing. They are young golfers trying to make their way and accomplish a huge goal. And we’re right in the middle of it, watching. Hopefully the little kids will think they can do it, too.”

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