After driving from the East coast, we traveled north into Michigan to play one more course. Our destination was not quite as far north as the Upper Peninsula, but the town of Arcadia was getting pretty close to that region of the state. We stayed overnight in the town of Manistee, a short drive south of Arcadia. During the 1880‘s lumber boom, the town of Manistee had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States. We did not take the time to drive around the city, but the evidence of their lumber fortunes was quite evident in the port city of Ludington, 30-miles to the south.
Built on the bluffs above the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club was opened in 1999. The course is situated on 3,100 feet of lake frontage, dropping 225-feet from its highest point down to a bluff 180-feet above lake level. The golf course was designed to resemble seaside Irish links, with rolling terrain and windswept natural fescues throughout.
Golf Digest selected Arcadia Bluffs as one of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the United States in 2005. The club was ranked #10 in America's 100 Greatest Public Courses list and #56 in the 100 Greatest Golf Courses list. It was worth the drive north to play such a great course.
Club house and lodging at Arcadia Bluffs
Location: Arcadia, MI
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #3
Date: 1 Jul, tee off at 9:45 AM
Conditions: sunny, 4 MPH wind, 76 degrees
Lost balls: 0
Lost balls: 0
Score: 78 on a par 72
The course had a few players out when I arrived but there were no crowds waiting to tee off next. The pro shop informed me I would have to wait until 11:00 AM if I wanted to pair up with the next group behind me. I chose not to wait. The only other person on the practice range was the starter. He was taking advantage of some free time to practice his golf swing. After my warm up, he provided me with an introduction to the course and I teed off by myself.
The first thing you notice driving into the golf club is the size and shape of the bunkers. They appear to be built by stacking pieces of sod until the desired height and shape has been formed. The average bunker was 7 to 10’ deep with steep embankments that make hitting a ball out of them very difficult. I practiced some bunker shots on the range where my success rate in clearing the bunker’s edge was a poor 30%. The practice paid off after my approach shot on hole #4 landed in a bunker; I landed my 3rd shot on the green and made the putt for a par.
459-yard par 5 hole #1 (view of fairway bunkers)
Fairway bunker on hole #3
311-yard par 4 hole #4 (view of approach shot to the green)
Green side bunker on hole #4
Fairway bunker on hole #7
352-yard par 4 hole #8 (view of approach shot from fairway - note green side bunkers)
Playing golf on the shore line of Lake Michigan would usually be impacted by the wind. The gentle breeze was as calm as my golf swing; I shot par on the first 4-holes and the last 2-holes of the front nine. A double bogey on hole #5 was the only problem as I finished the front with a 4-over par 40. I was having fun.
144-yard par 3 hole #2
467-yard par 5 hole #3
557-yard par 5 hole #5 (view of 2nd shot from the rough)
149-yard par 3 hole #6
409-yard par 4 hole #7
It looked like my pace would slow down when I caught up to a slow-moving foursome on the 8th hole. When they stopped for drinks at the turn I was allowed to play through which again opened up the course ahead of me. I continued to play at my own pace until the last 4-holes where several foursomes brought me to a halt. The beautiful scenery made the round very enjoyable; the slower pace did not impact my score as I continued playing well with a 2-over par 38 on the back nine. I played the round in 4-hours which was 1-hour ahead of pace according to the golf cart’s GPS system.
399-yard par 4 hole #10
563-yard par 5 hole #11 (view of 2nd shot from the fairway)
View of hole #11 green
160-yard par 3 hole #13
304 yard par 4 hole #14
150-yard par 3 hole #17
We returned to Ludington after the golf to catch a ferry across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. This was not just any ferry: the 410-foot long coal-fired S.S. Badger has been in service since the 1940‘s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The S. S. Badger was originally used to ferry railroad cars across Lake Michigan. It has been re-purposed to carry cars, trucks and passengers. This is the first car ferry we have utilized where the ground crew drives all of the cars onto the ferry. Perhaps it has something to do with how they must be loaded onto the ferry, but their method for loading the cars involved a handful of young men who sprinted back onto the ferry after driving each vehicle off of the ferry. The process was than reversed for loading the outbound passenger vehicles. It was amazing to watch; similar to watching a track team practice 100-yard sprints.
The S.S. Badger sitting in the Ludington port
Sailboats sitting in the harbor at Ludington
Traditional send-off to the S.S. badger by tourists gathered below the lighthouse
Sunset as seen aboard the S.S. Badger
The ferry ride across Lake Michigan was very relaxing under a setting sun to the west. We arrived in Wisconsin 4-hours after our departure from Ludington.