Sage Run at Island Resort & Casino will be the third new golf course to open in Michigan in the last three years when it comes online in early June 2018. The construction, shaping, and seeding have all been completed and now it’s just eagerly waiting and watching it transform into Michigan’s next great modern classic.
It might not sound like a lot of openings when compared to the mid-1980s to mid-1990s golf course construction boom, but it is a lot in the current era and indicates the golf economy is rebounding and that Michigan remains one of the leading golf destinations in America, and in the case the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a fast-growing golf destination.
“When we first built the Sweetgrass course, we wanted to have golf as an amenity for our resort guests,” said Tony Mancilla, the resorts general manager. “But over the years we have had more and more golfers coming to the resort and have evolved into a top golf destination. Adding a second golf course was a natural move for us and something that our golfing guests were demanding.”
The Sage Run course at Island Resort is part of an $8 million renovation aimed at enticing visitors to stay for a few days. It also includes the creation of a full-service spa, renovation of the bingo hall and a new sports bar.
Sage Run joins the celebrated Sweetgrass course at the resort for the Hannahville Indian Community, and offers a contrasting style and design by Paul Albanese, the architect of each course.
“Sweetgrass has been everything we hoped it would be and it has been very good to us,” Mancilla said. “Paul Albanese is an architect who lets the land dictate what the course will be, and at Sage Run the land is 180 degrees in contrast to the land where Sweetgrass was created.”
Sweetgrass, a flowing prairie links style course with gentle rolling hills, fun and challenging greens and beautiful fescue grasses has been a big hit since opening in 2008.
“Sage Run is 75 percent through great trees, very dramatic up and down through the hills with some great long holes going down the hills and some great short holes going up the hills; It’s a lot different,” Mancilla said.
Albanese said his company’s design philosophy is to never try to force a design.
“The property is much different than the property where Sweetgrass is located even though it’s a short few miles away by shuttle,” he said. “The only thing that will be similar is that it fits well with the land it is on like Sweetgrass, but it just so happens this property is very different.”
A natural drumlin, or elongated hill or ridge formed by glacial ice long ago, is the primary feature on Sage Run. Golf hole’s meander off of and around the hill offering a scenic variety of shots creating a fun thrill ride for golfers.
“It is a pretty prominent land form that is featured on the site,” Albanese said. “The holes go around, over and through the drumlin. Golfers will experience great holes through the trees, some in open areas and just a lot of variety in terms of landscape and feel.”
Natural long grasses edge the bunkers, and some of the short par 4s have blind shots to the greens. Albanese said Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, rated among the world’s top courses, served as inspiration.
“Sage Run has that same rough and tumble look with earth tones natural to that landscape,” he said.
The Sage Run name pays homage for the Hannahville Indian Community to the Potawatomi tribal traditions.
“We selected sage because we wanted to highlight another of our four traditional tribal medicines – along with cedar, tobacco and sweet grass,” Mancilla said.
About Island Resort & Casino
Located in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula just outside of Escanaba, Island Resort & Casino is one of the Midwest’s largest golf, casino and entertainment resort destinations. The resort features 314 guest rooms including elegant suites and a 42 –site RV Park. The 194,000 square feet casino offers an award-winning poker room, craps, blackjack, Spanish 21, three card poker, let-it-ride, roulette, and bingo.
The resort’s amenities also include the luxurious Drift Spa offering a variety of high-end spa services with access to the resort’s salt water pool, steam rooms and sauna. Multiple dining options include the signature 5 Bridges Steak and Seafood House, 5 Bridges Pub, Firekeepers Restaurant , T. McC’s Sports Bar, Mexican Express, Coral Reef Grille, Signature Subs & Pizza and an ice cream and bakery shop. The Island regularly hosts headline entertainment in the intimate 1327 seat Showroom as well as weekly bands and comedy entertainers in Club 41. The Island Convention Center provides the perfect venue for special events, business meetings, and weddings.
The award-winning golf has become the centerpiece of the Island Resort & Casino. Sweetgrass, ranked among Golfweek’s Best Courses, as well as recognition by GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest as a Best in State ranking, features an open layout with some of the game’s most fun greens to putt (Redan, Biarritz, Island, and Double-green). Sweetgrass is also part of the “Road to the LPGA” with its Symetra Tour Island Resort Championship featuring the future of women’s golf. New for 2018 will be the Sage Run course, also designed by Paul Albanese (Sweetgrass), providing a different kind of golf experience where holes flow through the hardwoods and around a drumlin ridge.