Island Resort & Casino – Sweetgrass Celebrates 15 Years of Golf Excellence


Resort and Casino Evolve into one of the Leading Midwest Golf Destinations

Harris, MI – Slow and steady growth is a common mantra of business professionals and organizations. In the case of Island Resort & Casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, exceptional growth and demand for golf has been the norm since Sweetgrass Golf Club opened 15 years ago.

As one of the Midwest’s largest resort casino destinations, Island Resort & Casino recognized golf’s popularity and its growth across Michigan – now a top golf destination in the country. The demand is partially due to the golf boom in lower northern Michigan that has now extended north into Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula.

The resort, located just west of Escanaba, Michigan, is owned by the Hannahville Band of the Potawatomi Nation. In 2008 the Hannahville Indian Community hired acclaimed Golf Course Architect Paul Albanese to build its first golf course. The course’s name, Sweetgrass, refers to an aromatic herb and sacred plant used in Native American peace and healing rituals that is planted throughout the course.

The prairie links-style course meanders to a wide-open vista where many greens and flags can be seen in the distance. The greens are also some of the most fun to putt, featuring Redan, Biarritz, Island, and Double-green.

Sweetgrass also features historic wood and iron bridges repurposed from other parts of the state, adding compelling design components to the course while deepening a story woven in Native American roots.

Throughout the course, golfers encounter the rich history of the Hannahville Indian Community, with holes named after traditional Potawatomi clans, villages, allies, medicines, and symbols. This dedication to nature and the area’s heritage make for a unique golf experience.

“It’s my own philosophy and the Native American philosophy that we always try to make the design fit the land, and truly allow it to reflect the principles of Native Americans’ respect for the land,” said Albanese, a Harvard University transplant who now lives in Plymouth, Mich. “This also inspired stories to share throughout the course. We put some wooden posts in the side of a hill along the fairway that represent the remains of a fort from the 1650’s. And the green complex itself worked out very nicely to be a redan-style green. Redan is the French word for fortress.”

Sweetgrass’ location adjacent to the hotel makes stepping up to the first tee convenient for golfers. In addition, the rooms in the upper floors of the hotel tower provide a panoramic view of the spectacular par-5 9th and 18th holes, which share a strategic pond.

“Over the 15 years since the Sweetgrass opening, it has been exciting to see how we have grown to become a top golf destination, to see the EPSON Tour evolve and impact our community, and to be named National Course of the Year. It’s a testament to the quality golf experience we offer and the strong team of employees that make things happen,” said General Manager Tony Mancilla, who appreciates the resort’s massive expansion. “You have to start small, make your mistakes, and work to get better. And we add a little more every year. We’re not done growing yet.”

Sweetgrass has hosted 11 EPSON Tour events, won numerous golf course design awards, and earned the 2022 National Golf Course of the Year from the National Golf Course Owners Association.

The EPSON Tour is now Michigan’s longest-standing professional golf event. June 23-25 will be the tour’s 12th season, bringing in 156 players from all over the world seeking their LPGA Tour card. Money raised by local charities through this event account for about one-third of the local YMCA’s annual budget, and players have long recognized it as one of their favorites on the feeder tour.

“Players come from all over,” said Mancilla. “This is the area’s most international event. It’s so unique and brings us something different to support. When the players get here and park their car, they never have to get back in it for a week because everything is right here – the hotel, restaurants, practice facilities, and golf course.”

The continued demand for golf has led the resort to add a second course in 2016. A new hotel tower was also recently added, bringing the property’s guest room total to 454. The new hotel features golf suites and a steakhouse on its top floor.

Sage Run, also designed by Albanese, is a completely different golf experience from Sweetgrass. It features a more rugged terrain with hardwoods, open areas, and a massive ridge/drumlin and bunkers that Albanese likens to Royal County Down, a Northern Ireland golf club rated among the world’s finest.

The Island Resort & Casino Opens Next Month on May 5 – Golf Packages Combine the Best Golf in the Region

Whether it’s a buddy trip or a couple’s golf getaway, fully customized golf packages can be booked featuring 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-night lodging options with up to four rounds of golf. Package prices range from $95-$758, depending on time of year and single or double occupancy. Golfers looking to expand their golf options can check out the hugely popular Perfect 4-Some package. Combining both Island Resort courses with the acclaimed Greywalls in Marquette and TimberStone in Iron Mountain make the region a top golf destination. These packages include 3, 4, and 5-night lodging options at Island Resort with four rounds of golf.

Golfers seeking to escape big city stress and experience one of America’s most scenic golf destinations amidst the peaceful beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula should plan a trip to Island Resort. The destination is easily accessible via regional airports in Escanaba and Marquette connecting through Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing, or Grand Rapids.

For more information on booking 2023 Island Resort & Casino golf packages visit:

About Island Resort & Casino
Located in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula 15 minutes west of Escanaba, Island Resort & Casino is one of the Midwest’s largest golf, casino and entertainment resort destinations. The resort now features 400-plus guest rooms, more than 1,200 of the latest slots, a poker room, various gaming tables, a sportsbook, bingo hall, two championship golf courses, the luxurious Drift Spa, an RV park, a headline entertainment showroom, a pool with waterpark features, an expansive convention space that can be customized, and enough dining choices to please every palate. The resort is easily accessible via regional airports in Escanaba and Marquette – connecting through Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing, or Grand Rapids. Visit


About Author

Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native who has been the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine since 2006. Besides being an avid golfer, Glen enjoys traveling, music, and cheering on the finest professional sports team of all-time, the Green Bay Packers. Glen’s ultimate golf goal is to play in all fifty states and currently he is more than half way there. His other dream, albeit far-fetched, it to record an ace in all seven states of our distribution area. Thanks to an ace in Illinois in 2015, and one in Michigan in 2016, he has three down, four to go!

Comments are closed.