Grand Traverse Bear Course

Tough and Tricky

A tough Nicklaus course with features that mimic those found in Scottish links courses

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Grand Traverse Bear Course

What You Need to Know

    • Course Info Grand Traverse Resort comprises three championship eighteen hole golf courses., The Bear by Jack Nicklaus, The Wolverine by Gary Player, and the original resort course – The Spruce.  All courses are open to the public
    • Fees: The Bear is $95-150, The Wolverine is $80-130, and The Spruce is $60-85. Resort guests receive up to 20% discount.
    • Yardage: The Bear has four sets of tees from 5281 yards to 6122 yards (71.1/139) to 7078 yards (76.1/150).
    • Location – Northern Michigan fifteen minutes east of Traverse City and 4.5 hours north of Detroit.
    • Practice Area –  Large two tiered grass practice range.
    • Lodging Grand Traverse Resort & Spa has a variety of accommodations.

Grand Traverse Resort enjoys a variety of golf course options, each offering a different experience.  They include The Bear by Jack Nicklaus, The Wolverine by Gary Player, and Spruce Run. The resort is Grand with an assortment of lodging options including the out-of-place 19-story Resort Tower.  If you want views of Grand Traverse Bay and golf this is the place to stay.  The facilities are extensive.   Several bars, restaurants and shopping options are available.  A full Sports Club provides tennis course, a full size gym and multiple pools with a water slide.

The Bear is the most well-know golf course and is one of toughest in America.  It was designed in 1985 by the Bear himself – Jack Nicklaus.

The Bear Course

Nicklaus built a tough parkland golf course with features that mimic those found in Scottish links courses.  He terraces fairway and tiers greens.  Tall grassy moguls and mounds with deep grassy rough in between are everywhere.  Then he adds deep pot bunkers that often require pitching out sideways to recover.

The terrain is rolling with trees, streams and lakes plentiful.  It’s rare to see this combination of features.

If you can navigate the drive on the generous fairways around the pot bunkers and wetlands, the difficulty lies in the approach to green complexes.  You need to be hitting your long and mid-irons with precision to score well.  Knowing that yardages for approaches is so important, they’ll lend you a Bushnell rangefinder.

Greens are smallish to medium size, sometimes tiered and in superb shape.  Trouble in front of greens is commonplace. Robustly guarded with bunkers, tall grass, mounds, water and/or false fronts they look like a fortress.   It punishes errant approaches.  Bring a lot of balls. Your success with recovery shots around the green are a major part of determining the score.

The variety of hole layouts kept it interesting. Every hole captures your attention and is different.

It’s tricky.  Careful tee shot placement is often the difference in the hole score.  Hence, this is a course you’ll either hate or want to play again to use your learning.

Hole Highlights

On the 376 yard par 4 fourth, players need a strong drive over thick wetlands.   On their approach, players must carry water to an L shaped green surrounded by large grassy mounds with water short right.

The ninth is a 168 yard par 3 with an island green that looks like #17 at TPC Sawgrass.  Hit the green or your wet.

Most would place the 367 yard par 4 twelfth on their favorites list.  A strong tee shot threads a narrow fairway. Thick trees behind the green frame the beautiful approach over water.  Then you make a 180 and play over the same waterway on the par 3 150 yard thirteenth to a bunkered green.

After a strong drive on the 543-yard par 5 fifteenth, the fairway jogs left leaving an all carry shot over water for the gambling big hitters. Most will lay up left, with a shorter club over the water.

If you keep your expectations low, play from the correct tees and rarely spray the ball, you’ll do okay on Grand Traverse Bear Course.  In all cases, it’s humbling.

Explore other Midwest golf course profiles from Quintessential Golf Magazine.

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