There are five good reasons passionate golfers head to Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan. Home to five of the best Michigan courses over 1500 acres it’s a popular Midwest destination. Seven times Golf Magazine awarded Treetops Resort their Silver Medal Award as one of the finest resorts in the United States.
In the winter, it’s a fantastic ski resort, with groomed ski runs, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. During the summer, it’s a family destination resort. with mountain biking, fly-fishing, tennis, golf and horseback riding.
It all started in 1954 when the patriarch of Gaylord downhill skiing, Ouellette “Lin” Meade opened the Sylvan Knob Ski Area. When Harry Melling, owner of the successful Melling Tool Company in Jackson, MI, purchased the 179-acre Sylvan Knob Ski Area in 1983, his goal was to be a ski resort. After expanding the resort with larger restaurants and accommodations, Harry had a grander plan. To make it a successful business, he needed to keep the resort open year round. He was to dive headfirst into the golf business. Melling hired the most prolific and respected golf course architect in the late twentieth century, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. to build the first course.
Over four hundred and fifty golf courses name Robert Trent Jones, Sr. as the principal architect. After their first tour of the site together, then stood on a hill with a view of the Pigeon River Valley on what is now the sixth tee of the Masterpiece Course. Observing the grandeur of the expansive view above the treeline, Jones had the immediate suggestion to change the name of the resort from Sylvan Nob to Treetops Resort. Melling was ecstatic. Treetops Resort was born.
Treetops is a full service resort. Besides the golf, you can book treatments at the Spa, go mountain-biking, fly-fishing or horseback riding. At all Treetops facilities, the service, merchandise, and amenities are all top notch.Treetops Resort offers a variety of room accommodations, including standard lodging just a short walk from our three restaurants. Or groups can stay in the Jones Cottage or one of many condos or chalets.
The first course built was the Jones Masterpiece course located next to the main Treetops Resort. The other four courses are Smith Signature, Smith Tradition, Fazio Premier and the outstanding Par4 course Threetops. They are all located on a parcel five miles to the north of the resort.
Treetops Jones Masterpiece Course
When Treetops Jones Masterpiece opened in 1987, Golf Digest named it the second-best new course in the country. Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed this course with many bunkers, water hazards, consistent elevation changes leading to multiple ravines with forced carries. At the headwaters of the Pigeon River, it weaves the natural terrain of valleys and ravines into an excellent test of golf. The Masterpiece Course is the most difficult course at Treetops Resort and perhaps the entire state. It has one of the highest slope ratings at 147. Hitting long irons and hybrids into these greens is tough because there are few bailout areas. First-time players of Jones Masterpiece should read the “Pro Pointers” printed on the scorecard. Blind tee-shots, elevated greens and hidden hazards will irritate the uninformed. Jones’ met his own standard of designing courses that are a “difficult par, easy bogey”.
Despite its difficulty, it’s also the most scenic of the five courses. It’s difficult to take in the scenery when the course requires constant attention and focus to survive. Shorter hitters can play it forward and enjoy the immense beauty of the area.
As the first course built, the Jones Masterpiece Course is the only course on the main resort property. It was Jones, Sr. last course design in Michigan and he said it was his “crowning glory” – a masterpiece – hence the name. This first course put Gaylord, Michigan on the golf destination map and ushered in a long golf boom era in Northern Michigan.
Lush bent grass (with poa invasion) are quick but receptive to approach shots. Fairways can be spongy but they drain well. Many elevated greens with front bunkers will test your iron play. Uneven lies on undulating fairways make those approaches doubly challenging.
The 465-yard par 5 first is a fabulous opening hole. With a good drive you need can reach it it two. A long iron or wood from a downhill lie needs to carry a pond fronting the thin green.
Jones, Sr. created the term “Signature” hole believing that each course should have at least one hole that represents the essence of the course architecture and memory. At Jones Masterpiece, this is the 180-yard par 3 Hole six. From the teeing ground looking toward a green over 120 feet below, you will get the same amazing revelation that Jones, Sr. and Melling had decades earlier.
Holes seven, eight and nine incorporate the Pigeon River into the layout. An unusual island tee box at hole nine is creative and clearing the water is easy.
One of my favorites is the downhill 343-yard par 4 fifteenth. A tiny slice of fairway sits 130-feet below as it turns left. Some may go for the green as the slim strip of fairway between two bunkers may be as difficult to find.
Success at Jones Masterpiece requires accurate and long approach shots with intelligent tee shot placement. It requires brains and brawn. Hang on, this may be a tough ride but the grandeur of the vistas will soften the blow.
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