Dunmaglas, Pure Michigan Golf

July 10, 2022

Dunmaglas is a Scottish phrase, the battle cry of a clan, in fact. The golf course in Charlevoix, Michigan, is aptly named and gives some indication of expectations. Pro Tip: Don’t head into battle unless you are prepared for it. The naturally undulating and forested terrain around Charlevoix and this slice of northern Michigan…. will show its grandeur and weaponry when confronted by unarmed and unsuspecting golfers.

During my visit, I took a quick history lesson from the staffers, Paulo and Pat. Dunmaglas was originally built in 1992 by owner Chuck MacGillivray; he named the course after his family’s ancestral home in Scotland. With the help of Larry Mancour and Dean Refram (nickname Dozer), MacGillivray built a difficult and long golf course at 6,897 yards, set on 900 acres of unspoiled wilderness. A low-handicapper, MacGillivray wanted a tough battle, which led to the golf course’s reputation. Today, you’ll find plenty of open tee times for those willing to take the Dunmaglas test. In 1995, MacGillivray faced financial hardships, so he sold the course to Mike Pung. Pung concluded the course wouldn’t stay viable unless it were softened a great deal. In the ensuing years, trees were removed, bunkers were filled in, and the course severity was reduced. Thankfully, as an 18-handicap, I waited to play Dunmaglas AFTER the softening.

Besides the history, yardage, awards, and accolades, Dunmaglas is a unique and must, stay and play northern Michigan golf experience. It’s not a typical resort course, and I found the clubhouse and adjoining event barn representative of its outdoorsy and quaint personality. You’ll not find any country-club attitudes; it’s a pure golf experience, forget about the GPS monitor on the carts (no such thing), and leave your handicap and ego at check-in. Instead, bring a good attitude, an extra sleeve of balls, and focus on the panoramic views, not your score. This is not a course for walking with a pull cart either; even the golf cart will be tested to ascend to tees and greens.

I’d do a quick pulse check if you’re not awe-stricken on No. 14, the signature hole. This elevated tee sits atop high ground that plays downhill to a fairway cut narrowly through the trees. We gaped at simultaneous views of Lake Charlevoix stretching out to Lake Michigan. Every great northern Michigan golf course hosts a scenic, elevated tee shot, and this is (for sure) one of the best. After my battle, I understood why Dunmaglas was ranked as one of the “Best 50 Upscale Courses in the United States” by Golf Digest.

On Father’s Day weekend, my golf gal pal Maureen and I motored up north and checked into our on-site condo at the Dunmaglas Inn with a patio facing the 18th green. We arrived just in time for the final shreds of sunlight to filter through the pines. It turned the bunkers and green into a mysterious and dusky landscape, reminiscent of what the Scottish Highlands might look like. The stay & play experience turned the weekend up a notch. Just to the west are downtown Charlevoix’s Village Pub and their famous whitefish dinner platter. Also, head east to Boyne City and belly up at Stigg’s Brewing for locally-brewed suds. We chose a beer-flight appetizer, then fueled up on spicy stuffed Rellenos and enchiladas at Red Mesa Grill.

I included my Dad and Uncle Steve at Dunmaglas for the first Saturday round. On hole # 2, dad asked, “This is great, but what are we gonna do when it starts to get hard?” I suggested we focus on the views and camaraderie. We had a fun father/daughter experience, and my dad got a much-needed break from his chores at Holmestead Farm in Traverse City. Just Maureen and I played the course again the next day, thinking we’d see improvements the second time. Instead, I laughed out loud as I put in on 18, realizing I shot two-consecutive 101s. Bruised but not defeated, I would live to fight on in my golf game.

Don’t wait too long to plan your Dunmaglas stay and play weekend at one of the eight onsite condos. Ask the Pro Shop for details about the two-bedroom, three-bathroom condos that overlook the finishing hole. Stay the night and play Dunmaglas twice, and let me know how you fare on this stunning golf battlefield. Win or lose, it’s a fortress of northern Michigan golf greatness.

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