Top 100 courses trip planner: 5 incredible Midwest golf road trips you can do

The 18th hole at Whistling Straits.

The Straits course at Whistling Straits will play host to the Covid-delayed Ryder Cup in 2021.

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Golf can be seriously private, but GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses You Can Play is not. This year, our expert group of course raters sat down with a simple goal: to build a list of the greatest courses you (yes, you) can tee it up at in a moment’s notice. The end result is list as varied as the courses it encompasses, from Bandon Dunes to Bethpage Black.

But why keep the memories to just one of our 100 greatest tracks? Whether it’s by way of a classic point-A-to-B-to-C road trip, a stay at an iconic resort (with or without side trips) or a stopover in the concrete jungle, knocking three or more Top 100 Courses You Can Play off your wish list is doable in one fell swing. Start packing.


The midwest is loaded with terrific golf (and even better food). Derik Hobbs

5 incredible Midwest golf road trips

Road Trip to Northern Michigan

Top 100 Courses: Forest Dunes (Loop-Red/Black, #34; Weiskopf, #73; Roscommon, MI), Arcadia Bluffs (Bluffs, #46; South, #56; Arcadia, MI)

Drive: It’s about a two-hour shot between Forest Dunes and Arcadia Bluffs.

Dine: “Soil to spirit distilling” is the main draw at Iron Fish Distillery, Michigan’s first working farm dedicated exclusively to making small-batch craft spirits, but the excellent wood-fired pizzas can help absorb some of the punch from the array of innovative cocktails like the Mocha Russian and salted-maple old-fashioned.

Diversion: Between the Platte River, Manistee River and Au Sable River, the area sports some of the country’s best fly-fishing; Orvis in Traverse City and the Gates Au Sable Lodge are among the highest-regarded outfitters.

Detour: About 90 minutes from Forest Dunes, in Charlevoix, you’ll find Rules Guy’s favorite 18 in America, Belvedere. This gem hosted the 2019 U.S. Hickory Open—and it’s pure joy with modern clubs too.

arcadia bluffs
The Upper Peninsula is loaded with good golf, namely gems like Arcadia Bluffs. Patrick Koenig

Road Trip the Midwest

Top 100 Courses: The Warren Course at Notre Dame (#70; Notre Dame, IN), Cog Hill (No. 4, #92; Lemont, IL), Stoatin Brae (#96; Augusta, MI)

Drive: The Warren Course is two hours due east of Cog Hill; Stoatin Brae is a stone’s throw from Kalamazoo, Mich., some 90 minutes east of Notre Dame.

Dine: Is it an exaggeration to say that Chicago deep-dish wouldn’t exist without the Malnati family? Not really, so find a Lou Malnati’s Pizza parlor, pronto.

Diversion: A stroll around the Notre Dame campus — with a stop to see Touchdown Jesus, naturally — promises inspiration, divine or merely aesthetic.

Detour: An hour south of Notre Dame, the Langford & Moreau course at Culver Academies is considered by many cognoscenti to be the best nine-holer in the country.

The Warren Course at Notre Dame. Patrick Koenig

Destination Kohler: Road trip to Kohler resorts

Top 100 Courses: Whistling Straits (Straits, #11), Blackwolf Run (River, #38), Marquette Golf Club (Greywalls, #65; Marquette, MI)

Drive: From your luxe digs at Kohler’s American Club to Marquette GC, it would be a four-hour trek due north, up stunningly beautiful Lake Michigan. Take the Kohler plunge, then go play MGC.

Dine: Restaurateur Stefano Viglietti’s resort-based threesome of Il Ritrovo, Trattoria Stefano and Duke of Devon offer different styles (Neapoli- tan pizza, classic Italian, English gastropub) and vibes but a shared excellence in terms of quality and experience.

Diversion: Next door to Kohler, in Sheboygan, there’s proof that the coasts don’t have a monopoly on beaches or surfing: Deland Park’s long, wide beach is a marvel, and a walk on the side- walk above it affords wonderful Lake Michigan views without the sand in the shoes.

Detour: Come June, Destination Kohler will join the trend toward top resorts with par-3 courses, with the debut of The Baths of Blackwolf Run, 10 holes of one-shotter fun featuring four water features; a two-acre putting course will also be introduced.

straits course at whistling straits
The Straits course at Whistling Straits presents a dramatic lakeside challenge. Courtesy Kohler Co.

Road Trip to the Great Plains

Top 100 Courses: Prairie Club (Dunes, #22; Valentine, NE), Wild Horse (#49; Gothenburg, NE), Hawktree (#100; Bismarck, ND)

Drive: The Prairie Club is 2:45 north of Wild Horse; Hawktree’s six hours farther north, but with minimal traffic. These are gloriously wide-open spaces!

Dine: Prairie Club boasts of being in “God’s Own Cow Country” and a steak in its Canyon Room backs it up.

Diversion: Your thoughts, especially those regarding how vast America is. Also, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center — Hawktree is on the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Detour: Get a taste of the Badlands while swinging good (er, well) at Dr. Michael Hurdzan’s spectacular Bully Pulpit in Medora, two hours west of Hawktree.

prairie club dunes course
The Prairie Club in Nebraska. Brian Oar

Road Trip to Wisconsin

Top 100 Courses: Sand Valley (#25; Nekoosa, WI), Mammoth Dunes (#29; Nekoosa, WI), Lawsonia (Links, #23; Green Lake, WI), Erin Hills (#31; Hartford, WI)

Drive: It’s about 90 minutes from Erin Hills to Lawsonia, and about the same from there to Sand Valley.

Dine: Puebla’s Kitchen in Hartford, six miles north of Erin Hills, is a family- owned-and-operated Mexican restaurant with warm hospitality and excellent chorizo tacos. Goeman’s Rapidmart at the BP station in Erin is a great place to stock up on the famous Spotted Cow from New Glarus, the acclaimed beer found only in Wisconsin. Lastly, anything on the menu at the semi- fast-food chain Culver’s, but especially the cheese curds, the frozen custard and, yes, the cod.

Diversion: Near Erin Hills, you’ll find the Ice Age Trail, a 1,200-mile hiking path throughout the state that showcases the variety of terrain left behind more than 10,000 years ago by receding glaciers. Tennis buffs can get their taste of Wimbledon on Sand Valley’s grass tennis courts.

Detour: Washington County, a 1997 Arthur Hills design, is a well-respected muni just seven miles from Erin Hills.

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A former executive editor of GOLF Maga­zine, Rothman is now a remote contract freelancer. His primary role centers around custom publishing, which en­tails writing, editing and procuring client approval on travel advertorial sections. Since 2016, he has also written, pseudonymously, the popular “Rules Guy” monthly column, and often pens the recurring “How It Works” page. Rothman’s freelance work for both GOLF and runs the gamut from equipment, instruc­tion, travel and feature-writing, to editing major-championship previews and service packages.