Arcadia Bluffs in northern Michigan may not be as well known as great resort courses such as Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits, and Bandon Dunes, but it’s every bit as scenic, challenging, and memorable. And course designer Rick Smith may be better known as an instructor, yet he and Warren Henderson created a very special layout.
Of course, they had a spectacular piece of property. Set on 265 sloping acres alongside Lake Michigan, the links-like design begins high on the property before dropping 225 feet down to the bluff, which still sits almost 200 feet above the lake. With no trees on site, just about every hole offers stop-and-gape lake views, while the fescue-covered dunes and revetted bunkers will make you think Irish links, complete with a few blind tee shots. The routing ebbs and flows between short and long, downhill and uphill holes.
The first visit to bluff’s edge comes at the green of the very long, downhill 5th, where the approach must carry a massive bunker complex. The bluff returns at the canyon-like par-five 11th, which begins a thrilling three-hole stretch along the lake. The tee shot on the 240-yard 13th is the course’s most demanding test, a forced carry over a deep ravine.
The steeply uphill 18th is a slight letdown as a closer, but an Adirondack chair behind the green is one of the best 19th holes in golf.