Sweetgrass announces golf course expansion

HARRIS — Hannahville Indian Community is building a new golf course here in the Upper Peninsula as an amenity to its Island Resort & Casino, a complementary second course to award-winning Sweetgrass Golf Club.

If Sweetgrass is indicative of what’s to come, the currently unnamed new course will be highly regarded; it is scheduled to debut in 2017. Sweetgrass has been named a top course in the state by both Golfweek and GOLF Magazine since opening in 2008 and annually hosts the LPGA Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship.

“One golf course is a course, two is a destination,” said Tony Mancilla, Island Resort & Casino general manager. “We believe the new course and new spa we’re building – combined with our existing resort amenities and established golf-visitor appeal – will draw more people who stay longer and spend more.”

Paul Albanese, of the golf course architecture firm Albanese & Lutzke, was chosen to author the new course, which will be dramatically different than Sweetgrass. Ground was recently broken in open spaces but the majority of tree removal for fairways will take place this winter.

“The land is very hilly; a lot of vistas where you can see 20 miles,” said Mancilla. “The land is so good that we’re expecting the new course to be first class.”

Like with Sweetgrass, the Hannahville Indian Community directed Albanese & Lutzke to create a design that respects the land, making it fit the terrain as naturally as possible.

Golf industry veteran Albanese, who designed Sweetgrass, describes the main feature of the property as a “drumlin,” a long, sloping ridge that’s an outcome of past glacier movement in the region. He said it runs through the heart of the property and is prominent.

“The drumlin climbs 100 to 120 feet in some areas,” said Albanese, an East Coast native and Harvard grad. “The goal is to allow golfers to experience the drumlin throughout the entire course. It comes into play several times, in different directions; up, down, over and through. We are very happy with how the routing came out. We are really excited; I can’t see how it won’t be one of the top courses in Michigan.”

The new course, about six miles from the resort on adjacent Hannahville land, will be played roughly two-thirds through trees, with rugged features like non-manicured bunker edging. There will be a sprinkler system installed down the middle of each fairway but the intent is to allow the grass to brown out toward the fescue edges. Mancilla said there will be a drivable par 4 on each nine, and a good mix of long and short par threes and fours.

Regarding the overall look, Albanese said: “Think Royal County Down – lots of earth tones, browns and tans – it’s what the landscape calls for.”

(Information/Photo Courtesy of Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group/Island Resort & Casino)