Boyne Mountain Resort, Michigan

The Donald Ross Memorial Course at Boyne Highlands, about a half-hour drive north of Boyne Mountain


The Kircher family has never been afraid to dream big. The late Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne USA Resorts, brought skiing to Northern Michigan in 1947 and added golf two decades later, sparking a development boom that transformed this region into one of America’s premier outdoor playgrounds.

At Boyne Mountain, the first of Boyne USA’s three Northern Michigan properties, Kircher’s son Stephen continues to think big as Boyne’s president of Eastern operations. He oversaw the May 2005 debut of the 220-room Mountain Grand Lodge & Spa, a luxury Alpine-style condominium-hotel, and the adjacent Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark. Those facilities, plus seven restaurants, two golf courses and more than a dozen ski runs, make Boyne Mountain one of the most versatile resorts east of the Rockies, and fulfill a dream hatched by the elder Kircher to replicate a pedestrian-friendly European ski village at the resort.

In the summer, the Mountain Grand’s spacious two-story, three-bedroom suites are an attractive draw. While my wife relaxed at the Solace Spa with a 90-minute scrub and massage treatment, I found my own solace on Boyne Mountain’s two courses, the 7,061-yard Monument and the 7,045-yard Alpine. Designed by Michigan architect Bill Newcombe, the courses zigzag along tree-lined slopes before dipping to flatter, more open terrain. Both begin with a scenic cart ride up a ski hill to neighboring first tees.

With sweeping drops to narrow fairways carved from the forest, the Monument requires more heroic shots. Fittingly, holes here are named for some of the game’s heroes, including Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Kathy Whitworth. Kircher says a third course is under consideration; Pete Dye has already done a preliminary routing.

The 88,000-square-foot Avalanche Bay, with 14 aquatic adventure rides serving all ages, made the biggest splash with my two young children. Themed as a Swiss-Austrian village bowled over by an avalanche, the park maintains a decidedly un-Alps-like 84-degree climate year-round.

An assortment of water-spewing gadgets and gizmos kept the kids busy while I hurtled down three waterslides in a futile attempt to relive my youth. The ridiculously fast Vertigo tube slide flushed me out the bottom, dazed and confused, and the Rip Zone surfing simulator was nearly as wild. Next time, I’ll stick to the more serene Boyne River float ride, while I ponder what Kircher and company could possibly dream up next.

With 162 holes spread among three resorts, Boyne looms over the crowded Northern Michigan golf scene. It all began with the Robert Trent Jones-designed Heather Course at Boyne Highlands, about a half-hour drive north of Boyne Mountain. Following a renovation of its bunkers this spring, the Heather will host the Michigan Amateur in June. The Highlands’ 165-room Main Lodge, an English country estate-style hotel, is in the midst of an ongoing renovation project that includes newly spiffed-up guest rooms.

In the 1990s, Arthur Hills laid out the Hills Course at Boyne Highlands, followed by the Bill Newcombe-designed Moor Course, giving the property 81 holes (including a nine-hole par-3 course). Hills (with input from Stephen Kircher) also designed the renowned Bay Harbor Golf Club, located across Little Traverse Bay from Boyne Highlands. Bay Harbor’s 27 holes, along with the nearby Inn at Bay Harbor, remain Boyne’s crowning achievement. The celebrated Links/Quarry 18 is the main attraction, with the Links nine skirting high bluffs along Little Traverse Bay and the Quarry plummeting into and out of a former shale mine. Another 18 holes, Crooked Tree Golf Club, are perched just down the road from The Inn at Bay Harbor, now a Renaissance Golf Resort by Marriott that welcomes the golf-weary with a soothing waterfront setting, a spa and fusion cuisine at Sagamore’s.

No matter who you are, there’s something for you at Boyne—and plenty more if you’re a golfer.