Northern Michigan is one of my favorite places in this great country of ours. It’s a special recipe featuring the waters of Lake Michigan, dense Michigan forest, fresh air, interesting topography, and friendly people. It is always a fantastic time when I can take the HOG World Tour to Northern Michigan, an opportunity I’ll always take advantage of. On the last World Tour leg to the area I had the pleasure of staying at The Inn at Bay Harbor, an elegant resort right on the shore of Lake Michigan, minutes from the town of Petoskey.
Inn at Bay Harbor Overview
The Inn offers nine different types of accommodations, from a standard guest room to a penthouse suite. The property offers access to some great recreation in the area, like golf in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Located directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, guests can enjoy the pool or take a dip in the Lake. Other activities on property include kids activities, spa, dining, biking, shopping, and wine tasting from local vineyards.
I’ve been in the Penthouse Suite and the Master Suite, so I can speak to what they offer and show a few photos. Let’s go big first, with the Penthouse Suite.
Suitable for large groups, the 3,000 square foot Penthouse offers five individual bedrooms and common living and dining areas. There are two full kitchen areas for food prep (below).
Penthouse Suite Kitchen and Living Areas
There is also a laundry room with washer and dryer. The best feature of the Penthouse is the huge deck area overlooking the grounds and Lake Michigan. The view is stunning, especially at sunset.
The 720 square foot Master Suite offers a single isolated bedroom and large bathroom. The living area is spacious, including a kitchenette, fireplace, large screen TV, and a Murphy bed.
A comfy deck is also enjoyable for enjoying some fresh air. Unlike the Penthouse there is no washer/dryer in the room, but down the hall is a shared washer/dryer setup. This was great for me as I had been traveling for many days, and ran out of clean threads.
There’s some excellent dining on property at The Inn: Vintage Chop House & Wine Bar, Sagamore Room, Inn Cafe, Cabana Bar.
The Vintage Chop House served up amazing cuts of beef which I really enjoyed, and the atmosphere overlooking Lake Michigan was terrific. The breakfast buffet at the Sagamore Room had a large selection of very well prepared breakfast items.
There are many great reasons to visit northern Michigan: golf, water sports, skiing, biking, or just relaxing on a hammock on the shore of Lake Michigan. I strongly recommend staying at The Inn for your northern Michigan trip.
Sunset on Lake Michigan as seen from The Inn at Bay Harbor
Think golf buddy trip here. Your group of buddies could all chip in and book the Penthouse Suite. Golf in the day and poker, or whatever your fancy is at night in the shared living space.
If you were considering a Caribbean vacation but thought otherwise due to recent hurricane damage, think again. The Dominican Republic was not directly hit by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, and their tourism industry is 100% open for business. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive Caribbean resort suggestion or Caribbean stay and play golf ideas, read on.
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a sparkling brand new all-inclusive, adults only Dominican Republic resort which opened in November of 2016. The resort features 457 suites in several different buildings. Some rooms feature lovely swim-outs as seen below. In addition there is a spa, fitness area, beach, and massive pool area with bars all over so one isn’t far from a tasty and refreshing island beverage of choice, all included of course.
The resort features a spectacular open-air lobby area which contains resort registration, a bar, shops, coffee shop, and live entertainment most evenings.
My suite at Secrets Cap Cana was comfortable and spacious. The bed was so fantastic I wish I could have taken it home with me. I slept so well on it. Inside the room is a desk, sitting furniture, linen closet, large screen TV, safe, dressers, and secret box. The secret box is where you can request staff to put items you request, like room service.
The shower in the room was huge with three water spouts, two in the ceiling. The bathroom featured two very cool sinks, great lighting, and an isolated toilet.
The deck area in my room had a great view (night shot above). On the deck was a nice sitting area as well as a bathtub. I quite enjoyed my evening outdoor bath. It was, liberating. Yes I washed behind my ears.
Next time I get back, and I hope it is soon, I hope to get a “swim out” room. They’re rooms on the ground level with their own semi-private swimming area. See picture below:
Secrets features eight gourmet restaurants, all included with the all-inclusive resort fee. If you want to eat sushi every day of your vacation, there’s no extra cost. There are also restaurants featuring French, Italian, Japanese, buffet, snacks, and more. I really enjoyed the spectacular buffet for breakfast and lunch (below). There are numerous themed areas for meats, fruit, beverages, breads, entrees and custom prepared items. The meats and cheeses were fantastic. My go-to places were the buffet and the coffee shop. I enjoyed numerous lattes, shakes, and snacks in the coffee shop.
The resort occupies a massive acreage on the southeastern shore of the Dominican Republic, just 30 minutes or so from the Punta Cana airport. The Punta Cana airport is home to flights from most major airlines.
Naturally the fantastic weather and warm shallow waters of the Caribbean provide many possible activities. On property of course is the beach, with soft, fine sand. The water is very shallow and warm, and the shallow area extends hundreds of feet out. My guess is 500 feet. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach as the service folks came by with my beverages of choice. One must stay hydrated of course. Other water activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, yachting, water sports and even working out in resort provided classes on the beach.
My group enjoyed a catamaran excursion which was very fun. The excursion included a scenic cruise along the shoreline, snorkeling, and even chilling out sipping beverages served up in a floating bar.
Secrets Cap Cana features a huge pool area. Sections and slivers of the pool wind in many directions. Numerous areas have a small connected pool area which is surrounded by a small number of lounge chairs. The pool could easily accommodate hundreds of people, yet each person would feel like it isn’t crowded because of the layout.
There are several bars in the pool area and plenty of service people to make sure the fun is flowing. There’s also a hot tub, but it didn’t make sense to use it when I was there.
The Dominican Republic is undoubtedly the golf capital of the Caribbean. It’s home to the 39th ranked golf course in the world, Teeth of the Dog, the masterpiece of famed architect Pete Dye. Teeth of the Dog is located at Casa de Campo, roughly a 60 minute drive from the resort. A mere 30 minutes away is Punta Cana, a Jack Nicklaus signature design which is ranked the #1 course in the Caribbean and Latin America. These two courses produce some of the most scenic and dramatic oceanside golf you’ll ever experience. There are nearly 30 other courses to choose from in the Dominican as well, including another famous Pete Dye called Dye Fore.
On most nights one can enjoy live entertainment at Secrets, ranging from small combos to full bands, and DJ’s.
If you have a group or business need, there is a business area with computers. There are some great meeting areas and banquet rooms which can handle very large groups.
Service is very important in the travel industry. The staff at Secrets works hard to provide their part of a fantastic experience. Despite only being open for about a year, the management at Secrets has their system down and have trained their staff to be courteous, knowledgeable, and ready for anything.
Photo courtesy of Greg Corbo
I was warmly greeted by every staff member and all were extremely polite and helpful throughout my entire 5-day stay.
The weather in the Dominican Republic doesn’t fluctuate much, except in rainy season. I was there in rainy season and it rained for 10 minutes on the way to the resort from the airport. That was it. Year-round the temperatures are always going to be somewhere between 75-90. The humidity is quite high and I did have to adjust, coming from a desert. Be ready to sweat when not in the pool or the ocean. Stay hydrated and bring plenty of sunscreen.
Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a fantastic choice for a romantic, all-inclusive trip with your loved one. The crisp new facilities are warm and welcoming with great dining and activities and of course, great weather.
Secrets and the fantastic golf courses nearby would also make for a great golf buddy trip. Forget Florida, South Carolina or other golf destinations. Make the Dominican Republic the location of your next golf buddy trip.
I had to take a moment to soak in what was happening yesterday. I was in one of those “special golf places” which leaves memories for a lifetime. The contrasting green of Punta Espada Golf Club and the blue waters of the Caribbean were really making me thankful for the opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on through my 11+ years of hard work on one of the internet’s top golf blogs.
Punta Espada Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus signature design golf course in the Dominican Republic. Hole after hole lines the Caribbean with dramatic views and thrilling and challenging tee shots over the water. I couldn’t help saying to myself numerous times, “Pebble who?”
I’ve played more Jack Nicklaus courses than I can remember, but this one is different. Many of Jack’s courses can look a little too similar to me, but this one is a one and only, unique experience. Perhaps it’s the terrain. Perhaps Jack was completely in the zone when he designed it. Probably a bit of both.
I’ll be posting my full review in the next few weeks. If you’re planning a Caribbean golf stay and play, I strongly recommend Punta Espada Golf Club.
On the recent HOG World Tour stop in northern Michigan I had the pleasure of staying at Forest Dunes resort, and playing the unique Tom Doak designed reversible course there called The Loop. Check out my review of The Loop.
While The Loop may be the attention grabber, Forest Dunes is home to a Tom Weiskopf design simply called Forest Dunes Golf Club. Forest Dunes Golf Club sits inside 500 acres of land within the Huron National Forest. The course is a 7,116 yard par-72 design which is quite different than The Loop. For one it isn’t reversible.
A Tale of Two Nines – Forest and Dunes
The front nine (Forest) is carved through some fairly dense northern Michigan trees in more of a traditional American parkland style of golf, less links influence. So there’s more carrying the ball and little running up shots. Due to the dense trees lining most holes, each hole is isolated. No parallel holes. It’s quite serene.
The back nine (Dunes) exits the forest and turns to a more rugged and exposed experience. The dunes on the back feature large sandy waste areas and native vegetation which line and sometimes cross the fairways and surround the greens.
Speaking of serenity… Forest Dunes occupies about 500 acres and there are no homes on the course.
The look and feel from the tee of the Weiskopf course is very pleasing to the eye. Most often it’s WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Tee shots need to be fairly accurate or they’ll end up in the dense forest, waste areas, water hazards, or some of the terrific fairway bunkering. There are a few situations where from the tee one doesn’t realize there are two different paths to take, split fairways. A better familiarization with the course would really help in those situations.
There’s also a nice bit of elevation change from tee to fairway or tee to green on the front nine. The elevation changes make the tee shots even more interesting. More rolling hills and dunes are on the back, which hide some of the native areas.
The fairways on the Weiskopf course were in terrific condition when I played there, and I found most of them thankfully. Only on the 9th did I run into tree issues. Lies on the shortgrass were like lies on high quality carpet. The only difference is you don’t want to take a divot out of high quality carpet. It won’t grow back.
Most of the fairways are not terribly penal or unforgiving. There can be positions in the fairway which are not optimal; ones that perhaps bring overhanging trees into play or bad angles to the green. A little course knowledge helps for those situations. Same goes with some of the small native areas and waste areas which can jut out from the sides of some of the fairways, especially on the back nine.
I really enjoyed the green complexes at Forest Dunes. Many of the greenside bunkers are Robert Trent Jones Sr.-like large. There can also be more rugged bunkering with native grasses around the edges and less pristine and precision in the shaping on the back.
Some greens are guarded by forced carries, water, and of course sand, so flying it all the way in those situations is required. Other greens offer options for chipping, pitching, or even putting off the surface (one of my favorite shots because chipping is one of my least favorite shots).
Despite the fact that I couldn’t make any putt for birdie inside of 10 feet, and there were a lot of them, I still enjoyed the putting surfaces. They rolled very true and well. Putts that were on line dropped but puts, like mine, that were off by even a fraction of an inch, did not.
One very unique feature at the Wekskopf course is the 19th hole. No that doesn’t refer to the bar. The bar is the 20th!
19th Hole at Forest Dunes
The 19th is a short par-3 which is used to settle matches or bets in the event that there’s a tie after the 18th is completed. What a cool idea. My group was hitting sand wedges into the green but it looked like the hole could be stretched out a bit more. One fun part, hard to see in the photo above, is the bunker in the middle of the green which made the green’s shape like a donut.
Forest Dunes has a tremendous practice facility. From numerous practice greens to a solid and interesting driving range to a very detailed and creative short game area. The answers to your game’s issues are there somewhere.
I also noticed a putting course which had just been seeded. I imagine it will be fully operational by the 2018 season, if not sooner.
The clubhouse is large and elegantly appointed inside and out. Inside the clubhouse are a few rooms, a restaurant, and the pro shop. The shop is fully stocked with great gear and apparel.
The clubhouse as seen from the 18th fairway
I enjoyed several great meals in the restaurant. Two of them were smoked filet mignons with baked potato and French onion soup. The reason I had a second one was because the first one was so good. No, they weren’t at the same sitting.
In addition to the rooms in the clubhouse, there are “villas” which are about a one minute walk from the clubhouse or any of the courses’ first tees. The villas have numerous rooms, with shared living space. Each room has its own shower. The shared living space in the villas feature large cushy reclining chairs, couches, a large flatscreen TV, kitchen, microwave, refrigerator, and kitchen table.
Villa sweet villa
I stayed in one of the villas (photo above) and loved it, sans a closet or somewhere to hang up my expensive golf shirts.
Bring bug spray.
I had a fantastic time taking on the challenge of Forest Dunes Golf Club. The variation between nines, immaculate conditioning and maintenance, and fabulous design made it one of my favorite golf experiences of the year.
Forget boring flat Florida golf or the other traditional golf travel locations. The Loop and Forest Dunes golf club are the perfect recipe for a memorable golf buddy trip.
The Loop at Forest Dunes review
Normally I dread fall and winter. But when I have an apparel piece as nice as this sitting here burning a hole in my psyche it’s a different story.
Say hello to the new Galvin Green Dash Jacket. I just tried it on. I may wear it the rest of the week, even though the temperatures here are still in the upper 90’s.
It may take a few weeks to put this beauty to the full fall test so stay tuned and I’ll get my review posted as soon as conditions allow.