Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is full of beautiful and challenging golf courses. It’s a shame that these courses are so far north and that the playing season is limited. They are the type of courses that you would play year-round if you could.
One of these courses is Wild Bluff Golf Course in Brimley, Michigan, just west of Sault Ste Marie. This prime golf property has been awarded 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digest Places to Play. Wild Bluff is owned by the Bay Mills Indian Community, one of several federally recognized bands of Chippewa (Ojibwa) and is part of the Bay Mills Resort & Casino. The golf course was designed by well-respected Michigan architect Mike Husby and opened for play in 1996.
Wild Bluff Golf Course offers golfers five sets of tees ranging from 5,316 – 7,056 yards and 6 different yardages on the scorecard, so there is suitable yardage for every level of golfer. There is a vast difference between the Blue (6,820) and White (6,179) tees, so a “Hybrid” yardage (6,446) has been created. I found that the White Tees at 6,179 yards (70.1/134) provided a great test of golf and still let me leave with a little dignity.
The course is situated on a natural bluff overlooking Waishkey Bay and Lake Superior and features deep and natural ravines with winding rivers and streams that border the Hiawatha National Forest. Most of the holes are situated on the bluff and offer tremendous views of the bay. You’ll find gently rolling terrain as most of the land on top of the bluff is relatively flat with undulation built into them. There are only a few holes that show the course’s natural elevation changes and luckily all of them play downhill.
This beautiful parkland-style course features wide, Bentgrass fairways that are tree-lined, although you must be having a really bad day if you keep finding the trees! You’ll find a few forced carries but nothing that can’t be handled easily. It’s the ravines and natural areas you need to steer clear of.
The greens are large, roll true, and very puttable. Many are often elevated and/or crowned. The easiest way to play them is to knock it close on approach! All in all, the course is designed so that every player can find a reasonable and fair challenge and enjoy themselves. Wild Bluff is certainly not the easiest course you will find, but if you keep the ball in play and hit a lot of fairways, you’ll score well.
Wild Bluff has several memorable holes, starting with the risk/reward factor on the first tee. Number one starts you off from a very elevated tee box. It’s a dogleg right and the green sits just right of the furthest bunker on the left. The green is reachable, but you will need to carry a lot of trees and rough off the tee. Mishit it and you may as well retee! A hybrid or 3-wood is all you need to find the fairway and will leave a short pitch shot into a large, well-undulated green.
Number 3 is probably the most challenging par 4 on the course. From the White tees, it plays 437 yards with a fairway bunker on the left that should not come into play. Favor the left side of the fairway to have the best angle into the elevated green. A good drive is still going to leave a long to mid-iron into the green which is protected with sand on either side and wetlands in the back. Par is a very good score.
Number 4 is a good-looking and challenging par 4 that plays 370 from the white Tees. Want more of a challenge? The hole plays 445 yards from the back tees. Sand traps flank both sides of the landing area off the tee. Your approach shot plays into an elevated, well-undulating green with bunkers on either side.
Number 6 is the first par 3 on the course and measures 168 yards from the White tees. It’s another elevated green that is large and guarded on the right side by a bunker.
Number 7 is considered the number one handicap at Wild Bluff. It’s a par 5 dogleg right that plays 492 yards from the White tees with trees lining both sides of the fairway. The fairway narrows in the landing area off the tee and there’s a bunker on the right side about 250 yards from the White tees. The fairway widens and then narrows once again in the landing area of your layup shot with bunkers on either side a little less than 100 yards from the green. The green is long and narrow and protected on the right side by a long bunker. It will take three well-executed shots to get on the green of this par 5.
Number 9 is a dogleg right, par 5 with an interesting twist from the White tees. It may seem short at only 487 yards but there is a gully/pond (depending on rainfall) that sits about 100 yards from the green. This presents a choice with your second shot: Are you going to go for it and go over the gully or are you going to lay up short and try to chip it close and make birdie that way? Regardless of how you play it, par or better is an excellent score here.
Number 11 is a short risk/reward par 5 that plays 432 yards from the White tees. Long ball hitters can cut the corner off the tee and get inside of 150 with a good drive. There’s a pond on the left side of the landing area that catches many errant tee shots, and the landing area is very narrow along the pond. Success off the tee may leave an opportunity to get on in two. The green is protected on either side by three bunkers and slopes gently from back to front.
Number 15 can easily be considered the signature hole at Wild Bluff. This challenging par 3 plays 187 yards from the White tees and significantly downhill. The day I was there, my rangefinder registered 181 yards and it played all of it. Hit it short and you may be wet. The green is not an easy two-putt and there’s a large bunker front left.
Number 18 is a very picturesque finishing hole that starts from a very elevated tee box that overlooks Waishkey Bay with Canada in the background. The hole plays 386 yards from the White tees and features strategically placed fairway bunkers on either side of the landing area off the tee. You’ll need to finish your round with an accurate approach shot and avoid the pond right of the green. The putting surface is elevated, slopes back left to front right, and is protected by sand left and water right. End with a par and consider the day a success
Before your round, hit a few balls on the range. Wild Bluff boasts some pretty impressive practice facilities with a double teed driving range, expansive chipping area, and a large practice putting green. There are four target greens on the range in the shape of a heart, club, diamond, and spade.
Inside the clubhouse, you’ll find a pro shop filled with all kinds of logoed apparel and some of the latest golf equipment designed to improve your game.
Wild Bluff Golf Course is part of the Bay Mills Resort & Casino, located across the street. Bay Mills is a full-service casino with numerous slot machines and all the standard table games. The hotel side offers comfortable accommodations, as well as convention and meeting facilities, and a few restaurants to choose from, including the Back Bay Grill and Games, which is home to the World’s Best French Onion Soup. My wife agrees! For more information or to book your next visit to Wild Bluff Golf Course and Bay Mills Resort and Casino, visit them online at www.baymillscasino.com. Your Baycation starts here!