There are 15,000 golf courses in the United States. Yet, only one involves a mile-and-a-half, horse-drawn carriage ride between nines. And only one is laid out on a battlefield where American soldiers died in a failed attempt to wrest control of the Great Lakes from the British.
Both of those courses are on Mackinac Island. The island is smaller than four square-miles, yet boasts two iconic golf courses that each are literally one of a kind.
Wawashkamo Golf Club, known on the island as “Wawa,” sits where the Battle of Mackinac was fought during the War of 1812. The course has a cannon on the first tee near where the British had their cannons, and there’s an actual burial ground for American soldiers near the 6th green.
Wawa is one of “America’s Historic Golf Landmarks” both because of the battle and because it represents 19th-century links-style golf. The course was built in 1898 by two-time U.S. Open champion Alex Smith, a Scotsman who laid out the holes in the island’s interior with few trees, no water hazards, relatively short length, small greens and very deep rough. Each of the nine holes has a unique design feature, like the “circus ring” of tall fescue grass that encircles the 3rd green, and each has two tee boxes so you can play the course twice and experience 18 different holes.
As the oldest continuously-operating golf facility in Michigan, Wawa looks like something you could have played in 1900 – which makes sense because little has changed at the course since then. It’s a perfect fit for an island that already feels like you’re stepping back in time.
The golf course at the Grand Hotel also dates back nearly as long, but today the original 9-hole course near town has been complemented by nine more holes a mile-and-a-half away in the island’s interior. While the shorter Grand nine near the hotel features incredible views of the Straits of Mackinac and beautifully manicured tees, fairways and greens, the newer Woods nine offers stunning views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula with a more modern golf design.
Together, the two nines make up The Jewel. And when you’re playing all 18 holes, you get from the Grand nine to the Woods nine by taking a leisurely 15-minute, horse-drawn carriage ride that gives you sights of the island most visitors never see – and an experience that few golfers get to enjoy.
Even if everybody in your party isn’t a golfer, Mackinac Island’s golf courses are a popular attraction. You can play foot golf at The Jewel, and at Mission Point Resort you can play an 18-hole putting course called The Greens of Mackinac. The putting course – like miniature golf, but with real grass – is right on the water and has a laidback atmosphere where you can carry a beverage with you during your round.
Wherever you play on Mackinac there are no automobiles, so it’s a peaceful bicycle ride or carriage ride to the course. Once you’re at the course, however, golf carts are allowed!