When planning a trip in the United States, you'll encounter an infinite variety of possible itineraries. After all, you could be traveling for any number of reasons. Perhaps you long to experience the Grand Canyon  for the first time. Perhaps you hope to peruse Washington, D.C.'s historic monuments and Smithsonian museums . Perhaps you even yearn to taste authentic delicacies like Kansas City barbecue  or Vermont cheddar . But, while sightseeing historic landmarks, experiencing famous museums, and sampling regional cuisine are major aspects of traveling across America, many people also explore domestic destinations in order to pursue their favorite cultural interests or outdoor activities.
In my own experience, I've shaped travel plans from a desire to tour wineries in Napa Valley , hike within Yosemite National Park , hunt for treasure on South Padre Island , snorkel in the Florida Keys , and so forth. Luckily, I've been able to share all of these memorable experiences with Dan, my husband and favorite traveling companion. It helps that we share a slew of common interests. Until recently, though, golf wasn't one of them.
While I've visited my share of golf courses over the years (for travel-writing purposes), I've never played an actual round of golf – and no, according to Dan, miniature golf doesn't count. Given that several family members, including my dad, my husband, and my parents-in-law, are lifelong golfers, I finally decided that it was high time I join them. So, this summer, I began taking private golf lessons, with the goal of someday being adequate enough to play with my family. As a travel writer, I'm also eager to see more of the country's best golf courses, many of which are some of the most beautiful locales that America has to offer, and given that taking golf lessons has already given me a new appreciation for Tin Cup  (1996), one of my favorite movies, I figure that a deeper knowledge of the sport will also help me better appreciate the myriad golf courses that I encounter on my travels.
In particular, I'm anxious to experience the golf courses that are spread throughout the Great Lakes State , many of which I describe in my Moon Michigan  guidebook. From spring through fall, Michigan is in fact one of the world's finest golfing destinations. Known as “America's summer golf mecca,” the Gaylord area alone has over 20 courses, and the Upper Peninsula features a number of seasonal choices, too. While the state has several private clubs – such as the Oakland Hills Country Club , which hosted the 2008 PGA Championship – there's also a wide array of public courses. Here are 10 of the best public golf resorts in the northern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula:
Tullymore Golf Resort: 
9900 St. Ives Drive, Stanwood, 800/972-4837
On the road from Grand Rapids to Cadillac, you'll find this popular locale, celebrated for its pair of spectacular, award-winning 18-hole courses, Tullymore and St. Ives. Surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary, this scenic property also includes two clubhouses, each of which has its own golf shop and restaurant, and a variety of luxurious lodging options.
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club: 
14710 Northwood Highway, Arcadia, 800/494-8666
Located along a gorgeous stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, this resort's world-class 18-hole golf course has long been considered the best public course in the state, by golfers and golfing magazines alike. In addition, you can stay overnight in the lovely, Nantucket-style clubhouse, which features a dining room on the lower level and 15 well-appointed guestrooms on the upper floor.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa: 
100 Grand Traverse Village Boulevard, Acme, 800/236-1577
With luxurious accommodations, excellent dining, a top-notch spa, an indoor water park, a 24-hour dog care facility, and three signature golf courses (The Bear, The Wolverine, and Spruce Run), this 900-acre resort has easily become one of Michigan's finest golfing destinations. From here, you can also take advantage of a complimentary, 24-hour shuttle to the resort's sister property, Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort: 
627 A-Ga-Ming Drive, Kewadin, 800/678-0122
Overlooking lovely Torch Lake, not far north of Traverse City, this long-standing resort presents three 18-hole courses: Torch, Sundance, and The Dells, A-Ga-Ming's newest addition. Besides the courses, this lovely property also boasts a fully stocked pro shop, practice facilities, and various dining and lodging options.
Shanty Creek Resorts: 
5780 Shanty Creek Road, Bellaire, 800/678-4111
Divided into three villages – Cedar River, Schuss, and Summit – this enormous resort features several dining, lodging, and spa options, numerous downhill skiing runs, and four championship golf courses (Cedar River, Schuss Mountain, Summit, and The Legend, which was designed by golfing great Arnold Palmer).
Boyne Highlands Resort: 
600 Highland Drive, Harbor Springs, 231/526-3000
Just north of Petoskey, this year-round resort offers superb accommodations, assorted dining options, four spectacular golf courses (The Heather, Arthur Hills, Donald Ross Memorial, and The Moor), a lighted par-3 course, and access to a wealth of seasonal activities, from fishing to dog-sledding.
Hidden River Golf & Casting Club: 
7688 Maple River Road, Brutus, 800/325-4653
Between Petoskey and Mackinaw City, you'll find this handsome resort, which, as the name indicates, appeals to golfers as well as fly-fishing enthusiasts. That's because, in addition to the award-winning golf course, this property encompasses a secluded, wooded habitat ideal for catching and releasing brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Here, you'll also find a golf shop, cabin rentals, and the Rainbow Room restaurant; in addition, you can opt for golf instruction and/or fly-fishing lessons.
Black Lake Golf Club: 
2800 Maxon Road, Onaway, 989/733-4653
In a state known for its connection to the American car industry, it only makes sense that one of its finest public courses would be operated by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. In fact, this magnificent, award-winning golf course is part of the UAW's 1,000-acre Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center, which sits astride picturesque Black Lake and is named for a former UAW president and his wife. Beyond the championship-caliber course, designed by acclaimed architect Rees Jones, this welcoming golf club also features overnight accommodations and the Black Lake Grill.
Garland Lodge & Resort: 
4700 North Red Oak Road, Lewiston, 877/442-7526
Considered one of the state's most beautiful resorts, this family-owned destination presents four championship golf courses (Fountains, Swampfire, Reflections, and Monarch) amid the woods of northeastern Michigan. Golfers can also take advantage of the resort's dining and lodging options, spa treatments, and numerous other amenities, from horseback riding to lighted tennis courts.
Treetops Resort: 
3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord, 866/348-5249
This year-round resort keeps visitors busy with downhill and cross-country skiing in winter, activities like tennis, biking, and extreme tubing in summer, and, of course, four stunning championship golf courses (Masterpiece, Premier, Signature, and Tradition), plus a par-3 course. In addition, visitors can enjoy a full-service spa, an on-site restaurant, and a wide selection of hotel rooms and condominiums.
While golf rates vary among these courses, playing on the weekdays (Mon.-Thurs.) is often cheaper than on the weekends (Fri.-Sun.), and twilight tee times are typically even more affordable. For more golf course suggestions in the Great Lakes State, refer to my Moon Michigan guidebook or Paul Vachon's Moon Michigan's Upper Peninsula . You can also consult this helpful website , which allows you to book tee times, search for deals, and explore the state's golf courses by region.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Garland Lodge & Resort  / Text © 2012 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Michigan , Moon Florida Keys , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans , which will be published in September 2012.