Best golf courses in Michigan, according to GOLF Magazine’s expert course raters
Gary Kellner/Dimpled Rock
For every great course that made GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., dozens of more must-plays were left on the outside looking in — including at least a handful in your home state. Some of these designs just missed out on a Top 100 nomination, others finished deeper down the ranking, but all are worthy of your time. To shed light on the best courses in every state, we broke out the full results of our Top 100 Courses polling into state-by-state lists. Here’s a closer look at Michigan.
Michigan golf by the numbers:
Number of courses and U.S. rank: 874 (3)*
Number of golfers per capita rank: 4*
Average public-course greens fees: $$ out of $$$*
Average daily temp and rank: 44.4 (40)
Annual precipitation and rank: 32.8 in. (32)
*Source: National Golf Foundation
Best Michigan golf courses (2020/2021)
1. Crystal Downs (Frankfort) [1, 2]
Because of its remote location, Crystal Downs was once overlooked but that changed when Tom Doak introduced the course to Ben Crenshaw in the 1980s. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive length of 6,518 yards from the tips. A combination of strong breezes, thick fescue roughs, undulating terrain and fiendishly contoured greens make this one of the harder courses relative to its tight par of 70 in the Top 100.
2. Oakland Hills – South (Bloomfield Hills) [1, 2]
Ben Hogan called this course a “monster,” a moniker the club fed off for decades. Happily, today’s membership asked Gil Hanse to return Ross’s playing angles to the course by reducing the number of pinched fairways. The course was closed for construction in 2020, and with greens like the 1st, 5th, 10th and 14th that are as good as any in inland golf, expectations are high for what’s coming when this fabled design re-opens in 2021.
3. Kingsley Club (Kingsley) 
Mike DeVries moved only 30,000 yards of dirt to build this minimalist Michigan masterpiece. From the opening drive at the split-fairway 1st, Kingsley offers golfers an inspiring number of choices, forcing them to think their way around the course. With spectacular par-5s, drivable par-4s and a dazzling variety of greens, Kingsley is a serious player’s paradise. If all those challenges fry your brain, don’t worry — there’s a bottle of Jameson hidden near the 18th tee.
4. Forest Dunes-Loop – Red/Black (Roscommon) [3, P]
5. Meadowbrook (Northville)
6. Orchard Lake (Orchard Lake)
7. Arcadia Bluffs – Bluffs (Arcadia) [3, P]
8. Franklin Hills (Franklin)
9. Country Club of Detroit
10. Arcadia Bluffs – South (Arcadia) [3, P]
11. Barton Hills (Ann Arbor)
12. Marquette – Greywalls (Marquette) [P]
13. Indianwood – Old (Lake Orion)
14. The Dunes Club (9-holer) (New Buffalo)
15. Lost Dunes (Bridgman)
16. Forest Dunes – Weiskopf (Roscommon) [3, P]
17. Point O’Woods (Benton Harbor)
18. Stoatin Brae (Augusta) [P]
19. Detroit GC – South (Detroit)
20. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) [P]
Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.
Course spotlight: Orchard Lake Country Club (Orchard Lake, Mich.), ranked 6th in Michigan. Orchard Lake is possibly the most intact Charles H. Alison in the USA as the routing today is almost identical to its original design. This 1926 Alison design began its Keith Foster restoration in 2012. Very bold bunkering returned to the surprisingly undulating topography, trees were removed from playing corridors and greens were expanded to original intent. Tee to green as good as any course in the Midwest. The greens are subtle and at times deceptive. Especially strong par-3s. Good variation of design and length in the par-4s and par-5s. Holes 15-17 might be the best stretch in Detroit area. — GOLF Top 100 Course Rater
How we rank America’s best golf courses
For the newly released 2020-21 U.S. list, each panelist was provided a list of 489 courses. Beside that list of courses were 11 “buckets,” or groupings. If our panelists considered a course to be among the top three in the country, they ticked that box. If they believed the course to be among Nos. 4-10 in the U.S., they checked that box, followed by 11-25, 26-50, and so on.
Panelists were also free to write in courses that they felt should have been included on the ballot (we had fewer than a handful of such additions in the U.S. vote).
Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly. It is an intentionally simple and straightforward process. Why? Because it invariably produces results that are widely lauded. Like the game itself, there’s no need to unnecessarily overcomplicate things.
For much more on how we rate courses, click or tap here.
Meet our course raters
We empower and hold accountable a group of 97 well-traveled — and well-connected — golfers/aficionados, each capable of expressing their own sense of design excellence at the highest level. The group is seasoned and experienced — we look for raters who know what’s out there, what’s changing and what’s coming down the pike. And from judging posts across four continents, our panelists are positioned to place courses from different regions around the globe into proper context, one of the main reasons GOLF’s Top 100 Courses rankings are the most esteemed in the game.
Other ranking outlets employ thousands of raters. Our less-is-more approach creates a more meaningful and thoughtful list. Think about it: When you plan a golf trip, do you call every golfer you know for their take? No. You contact a handful of people whose opinions you value most.