Sage Run Golf Course Review

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The sixth at Sage Run is a 473 yard par 4.

Sage Run Golf Course Review

Sage Run Golf Course
Island Resort and Casino, Harris, Michigan
Grade: A+
Teacher’s Comments: I want to play it again immediately. As more people play Sage Run, it will be in conversation for Top Ten Public Courses In Michigan.

Sage Run is the second course at the Island Resort Casino near Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The first, Sweetgrass, is in the conversation for top ten courses in Michigan. After a few years, and some more exposure, Sage Run will be as well.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The sixteenth at Sage Run is a steeply uphill 348 yard par 4. The hole has upper and lower tiers to let players choose a landing spot.

Sage Run is routed across, and on either side of a large drumlin — an elongated hill created by glacial ice. Michigan based golf architect Paul Albanese skillfully used this feature to create not only some dramatic downhill shots, but also some equally dramatic uphill shots, such as the par four sixteenth, shown above. At some points, Sage Run’s drumlin reaches 200 feet.

From the tips, Sage Run extends to 7, 375 yards and plays to a 76.4/147. The middle tees come in at 6, 356 and a 71.7/133. On the recommendation of the starter, I played from the golds at 5, 841 yards which played to a 69/.2/128.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The twelfth at Sage Run is a 585 yard par 5.

My favorite hole was the par five twelfth. With a series of bunkers running down the middle of the fairway, it asks you to choose between the narrow upper left side and the wider lower right. The left side offers a fairly level shot into the green, while the right ultimately requires a steep uphill approach.

The decision as to which route to take really needs to be made as you tee up the ball, for there is a large bunker in the middle, perfectly positioned to catch a drive that runs straight down the middle.

I won’t even try to explain the disastrous way in which I played this hole. I just want another crack at it.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The eighth at Sage Run is a split fairway, uphill, 298 yard par 4.

Another memorable hole was the uphill par 4 eighth. The fairway forks around a tree. To the right is a safe path, which leaves a slightly longer, and uphill route to a well-bunkered green. To the left is a steeper blind shot over a patch of rough to fairway with a better angle into the green.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The fifteenth at Sage Run is a 482 yard par 4.

And then there are the holes which were just downright fun, such as the steeply downhill sixth and fifteenth. Both are just begging for a player to swing out of his shoes to see how far the ball can go. Beware, though. Ball placement on these is also important.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
Sage Run’s fourteenth is a 250 yard uphill par 3 with a carry over a swamp.

The uphill par threes at fourteen and five are also memorable. While the steeply downhill par three is practically a cliche at northern Michigan golf courses, Albanese turned these around at Sage Run. The fifth and fourteenth are steeply uphill shots that will have you guessing how many extra clubs are required.

Actually, I could go on at quite some length about the course design. Virtually every one of the holes offers interesting decisions from tee to green. Risk and reward is the norm.

Sage Run Golf Course Review
The tee boxes at Sage Run are simply markers on one side of a large grassy strip that typically runs straight into the fairway. This leaves quite a bit of space for positioning and imagination.

An interesting feature of Sage Run’s design are the teeing grounds, which for the most part run without interruption into the fairways. Tee markers are positioned on just one side of the grounds, giving players wide latitude on where to position their balls.

A ranger I talked to mentioned that in spite of this, he noticed that most players teed it up within a yard or two of the marker. If you are playing there, take full advantage of the leeway and create the most advantageous angle you can.

Conditions of the day I played were excellent. Frankly, I found it hard to believe that the course has been open for just over a year. Given the top notch conditions found at Sage Run’s sister course, Sweetgrass, I expect that it will only continue to get better.

Still, while Sweetgrass has a precisely manicured and peaceful look and feel, Sage Run is deliberately wild. Tree lined fairways, scraggly bunkers and large native waste areas add a distinctive character.

The course is named for one of the four traditional medicines used by the Potawatomi people: sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco. Sweetgrass is the other course at Island Resort. Given how much I like Sweetgrass and Sage Run, I hope that Cedar and Tobacco courses are in the future.

Sage Run is terrific, and is yet another course that makes a golf trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula worthwhile.

The Sage Run Golf course review was published August 15, 2019, based on notes and photos taken on a round in July 2019.

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