Island Resort and Casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will open its second golf course in June 2018. Sage Run Golf Course, a Paul Albanese design will complement the resort’s excellent Sweetgrass course, turning the resort into a golf destination.
I played and reviewed Sweetgrass in 2015, and thought it was an excellent course. I very much look forward to trying Sage Run Golf Course.
Sage Run will be the third new course to open in Michigan in the past three years. The others are the The Loop at Forest Dunes (The Loop Review and Photos Here) and Stoatin Brae at Gull Lake View Resorts (Stoatin Brae review here). The Loop has gained national attention, and Stoatin Brae, in this Golf Blogger’s opinion, should have. (As an aside, I have played more than a few courses in my time, and in comparison, think Stoatin Brae deserves consideration for national best new course honors.)
In any case, construction of these new courses just further cement’s Michigan’s reputation as a golf destination.
Island Resort and Casino is in Harris, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, not far from Escanaba. The resort is the property of the Hannahville Indian Community. The resort features 314 guest rooms including elegant suites and a 42 –site RV Park. The 194,000 square feet casino offers a poker room, craps, blackjack, Spanish 21, three card poker, let-it-ride, roulette, and bingo. There’s also the existing Sweetgrass course, on the edge of the hotel and casino property.
In addition to play by resort guests, Sweetgrass is part of the “Road to the LPGA” with its Symetra Tour Island Resort Championship featuring the future of women’s golf.
“When we first built the Sweetgrass course, we wanted to have golf as an amenity for our resort guests,” said Tony Mancilla, the resorts general manager. “But over the years we have had more and more golfers coming to the resort and have evolved into a top golf destination. Adding a second golf course was a natural move for us and something that our golfing guests were demanding.”
The Sage Run Golf Course at Island Resort is part of an $8 million renovation aimed at enticing visitors to stay for a few days. It also includes the creation of a full-service spa, renovation of the bingo hall and a new sports bar.
“Sweetgrass has been everything we hoped it would be and it has been very good to us,” Mancilla said. “Paul Albanese is an architect who lets the land dictate what the course will be, and at Sage Run the land is 180 degrees in contrast to the land where Sweetgrass was created.”
Sweetgrass is an open, prairie course, perfectly blended into the landscape by Paul Albanese.
“Sage Run is 75 percent through great trees, very dramatic up and down through the hills with some great long holes going down the hills and some great short holes going up the hills; It’s a lot different,” Mancilla said.
Albanese said his company’s design philosophy is to never try to force a design.
“The property is much different than the property where Sweetgrass is located even though it’s a short few miles away by shuttle,” he said. “The only thing that will be similar is that it fits well with the land it is on like Sweetgrass, but it just so happens this property is very different.”
A natural drumlin, or elongated hill or ridge formed by glacial ice long ago, is the primary feature on Sage Run Golf Course. Holes meander off of and around the hill offering a scenic variety of shots creating a fun thrill ride for golfers.
“It is a pretty prominent land form that is featured on the site,” Albanese said. “The holes go around, over and through the drumlin. Golfers will experience great holes through the trees, some in open areas and just a lot of variety in terms of landscape and feel.”
Natural long grasses edge the bunkers, and some of the short par 4s have blind shots to the greens. Albanese said Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, rated among the world’s top courses, served as inspiration.
“Sage Run has that same rough and tumble look with earth tones natural to that landscape,” he said.
The Sage Run name pays homage for the Hannahville Indian Community to the Potawatomi tribal traditions.
“We selected sage because we wanted to highlight another of our four traditional tribal medicines – along with cedar, tobacco and sweet grass,” Mancilla said.
Story with input and photos from Kevin Frisch at Fusion Media Strategies.