By David Theoret
David recently spent several days visiting various golf resorts and courses in Michigan. Here is the first of his reports for Ohio Golf Journal.
The Chestnut Valley Golf Course & Restaurant is a semi-private facility that opened for play in 1994. The course was designed by local PGA professional Larry Mancour and is located in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Chestnut Valley plays 6,506 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 69.9 and a slope of 120. A second set of tees plays 6,007 yards (67.8/114), while ladies will have an enjoyable time from the Red Tees at 5,166 yards (68.4/116). Choose the set of tees that best match your game and you’ll have a good time. Chestnut Valley has been awarded a 4-star rating from Golf Digest.
Chestnut Valley gets its name from the American Chestnut Tree, which is very rare. The golf course is fortunate to have one of the few remaining American Chestnut Trees in the nation, located between the 10th and 11th holes. Everyone’s best guess is that this one is around 125 years old. The course sits within a beautiful log home community in Michigan’s northern hardwood forest.
You won’t find anything fancy at Chestnut Valley; what you will find is a fun, friendly and affordable golf experience that will test even the best of golfers and leave everyone who plays with some fond memories. The front nine plays over 400 yards longer than the back regardless of which tees you play. It’s also a par 37 with a 3rd par 5 thrown in. The front nine cuts its way through the Northern Michigan forest and can be a little tight in spots, while the back nine is considerably shorter and more forgiving. The course has well-groomed Bermuda fairways and mildly undulating Bentgrass greens. If you’re still tied after the round or need to recoup some losses, there’s a short par 3, 19th hole.
Before your round you can warm up Chestnut Valley’s full-length driving range and take a few putts on the practice green to get an idea what you’ll be facing once you get out on the course.
Number 5, Par 4, 370 yards. It may not be the longest par 4 on the course, but according to the scorecard, it is the most difficult. It’s a slight dogleg right with a strategically placed fairway bunker that awaits errant tee shots on the left. With trees bearing in on the fairway on the right, the landing area tends to look small. The approach shot plays uphill and will require at least one extra club. There is a lot of undulation in the green as well. A word of advice: Try and keep your approach shot below the hole.
Number 11: Par 3, 110 yards. A short par three with a difficult green. Your tee shot needs to be deadly accurate as a bunker guards the right side of the green. The green slopes left to right and should you fly the green, just head to the drop area. Short off the tee is much better than long.
Number 15. Par 4, 370 yards. This is the beginning of what may be the best four finishing holes in the area. A well-placed bunker waits for anything hit right and a large gully awaits any approach shot that is hit short, making it necessary to carry the green. The green slopes upward from front to back. Play this hole down the right side to have the best angle into the green. Mishit your tee shot and you’ll probably have to layup in front of the gully.
Number 18: Par 5, 495 yards. This double dogleg par 5 starts out to the right and then comes back left, only to go right again. You’ll need a good tee shot to make it to the crest of the hill, which will give you a good look downhill into the green. The landing area for your tee shot is narrow with fairway and grass bunkers populating the landing area of your layup shot. There’s also some heather on the right side that needs to be avoided. Two solid shots will leave a short pitch into the green and a good chance at par or better.
After your round, stop by the restaurant for some well-prepared food and your favorite post-golf libations. They offer both lunch and dinner menus and have some of the best grilled chicken sandwiches and burgers in the area. After 5pm, the dinner menu kicks in, with entrees such as an 8 oz. Center Cut Sirloin or Sautéed Walleye. All entrees are served with potatoes, vegetables and a dinner roll. On Fridays it’s all you can eat perch night and Saturday features slow roasted prime rib. There’s also a complete kids menu. No wonder many of the locals show up just for the food.
Stay and Play
Although there are no accommodations on property, Chestnut Valley has teamed up with a few local providers to offer some stay and play packages. The Crooked River Lodge is located about 10 minutes east of the golf course and offers cozy log cabin rentals. Trout Creek offers vacation condominium rentals and Land Masters offers both condos and vacation homes. Visit the Chestnut Valley website for more information (https://chestnutvalleygolf.com/stay-and-play).
Last Word: It’s not high class or over the top; what you see is pretty much what you get at Chestnut Valley. General Manager Lloyd Swadling IV has put together a friendly and knowledgeable staff who not only go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your time here, but can also offer some tips on how to best play the course. Out here you’ll find that the course can be somewhat challenging and if you start to get overwhelmed, just look around at the natural beauty and terrific views that God has created. Chestnut Valley offers good values for both golf and food and is well worth checking out if you’re in the area. Visit them online at www.chectnutvalleygolf.com or give them a call at 231-526-9100.