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Golfing on a Jewel: 5 reasons why playing this course on Mackinac Island is an experience like no other

This isn't your ordinary round of golf at this popular tourist paradise

The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island.
The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – As if Mackinac Island weren’t enough of a paradise for tourists with its scenery, shopping, the majesty of the Grand Hotel, the fudge, horse carriages and endless bike trails, there’s another activity on the island that makes it a popular destination.

Did you know that you can have a great golf experience?

Yes, you can play a full round of golf on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan, and in fact, it might be the most unique experience you can have with your golf clubs.

Here are five reasons why a round of golf on Mackinac Island’s Jewel Golf Course is an experience like no other.

1). The ferry ride


Some ferry rides to Mackinac Island will take you underneath the Mackinac Bridge.
Some ferry rides to Mackinac Island will take you underneath the Mackinac Bridge. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

Unless you can afford a private plane to the small airport on the island (more on that later), have your own private boat or can somehow morph into a fish that can swim with golf clubs on your gills, you’ll need to take a ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you are on) to get to the island. But it is a fun boat trip to take, especially on the select rides that take you under the bridge. As for how to get your clubs to the course on the island, there are three options if you are just doing a one-day trip and not staying at a hotel on the island.

  • Take your clubs on the ferry, take them off when reaching the island and walk from the dock to the golf course. It’s roughly a 1,000-yard walk, but also is mostly uphill.
  • Take your clubs on the ferry, take them off when reaching the island, but after walking off of the dock, pay a small fee for a horse carriage ride that will take you up to the course.
  • Have the ferry company take your clubs before boarding the boat and tell them you want them shipped to the Grand Hotel, which will then have your clubs at the course’s pro shop waiting for you once you arrive. The big risk with this option is making sure the clubs get to the course before your tee time. If you choose this option, get on a ferry ride scheduled well before your tee time, just to be safe.

2). Spectacular views


Views from the Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island.
Views from the Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)
The Grand Hotel in the background next to the No. 9 hole.
The Grand Hotel in the background next to the No. 9 hole. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

Whether it’s holes that are near the Grand Hotel, tee boxes perched high up that offer views of the surrounding Straits of Mackinac or the Mackinac Bridge in the background, or horse carriages riding on the streets next to the course, there’s no shortage of scenery that will fill up the phone with photos.

The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island.
The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

3). A horse carriage ride between the front and back nine.


The front nine, called “The Grand,” was built in 1901 and redesigned in 1987, so once upon a time, the island only had a nine-hole course. That changed in 1994, when another nine called “The Woods” was built.

But there’s a dynamic with that nine.

It is located on another part of the island, roughly a mile away from The Grand nine, so there are two options to get to the other nine holes once the first nine are finished.

One is to walk with clubs on your shoulders to the other nine, which is exhausting.

A more desirable option is to take a free horse carriage ride that is provided by the course to the Woods nine.

It’ll take about 30 minutes.

A horse carriage on Mackinac Island.
A horse carriage on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

Once you have completed the Woods nine, there’s another horse carriage ride back to the pro shop of the course next to the Grand nine. From there, it’s repeating the process and choices of getting your clubs back on the ferry for the ride back to Mackinaw City or St. Ignace, assuming you are leaving the island that day. If staying longer, then enjoy the rest of your trip!

4). Parts of the course are right next to an airport.


The airport on Mackinac Island.
The airport on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

How many times have you played golf and planes are seen flying over your head on a tee box or green?

That can happen at Mackinac Island on the Woods nine.

The small airport on Mackinac Island is located near the tee boxes for the 17th and 18th holes, with the 10th green and fairway not too far away either.

Hopefully your drive or approach shot doesn’t strike one of those planes.

5). It’s like playing two different courses.


The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island.
The Jewel Golf Course on Mackinac Island. (Keith Dunlap/GMG)

The Grand nine is short in yardage given it is on limited acreage, so some average golfers who can hit the ball a long way off of the tee can drive some of the par-4s, even from the back tees, or at the very least, get close to the green. But the surrounding views are stunning. The Woods nine is more a golfing test with longer holes and more narrow fairways, and it also puts you right in the middle of nature, among forestry and creeks. Put both nines together, and it offers a wide variety of golf shots and scenery.


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