Golf Course Review: Mackinac Island's Wawashkamo Golf Course takes you back in time
Nestled in the middle of Mackinac Island is a gem of Michigan’s lush golfing history. Wawashkamo Golf Course, built on the site of the 1814 Battle of Mackinac, was founded in 1898 and is the state’s oldest continually-operating golf course.
Scottish golf pro Alex Smith designed the original course and, to this day, it remains largely unchanged from his original, nine-hole design. Named by members of the Island's Anishinabe or Chippewa Indians, Wawashkamo means "Walk a Crooked Trail."
Like its Scottish cousins, Wawashkamo’s links-style layout isn’t defined by trees but by unmowed grassy areas between each of the tight fairways. Balls hit slightly off course usually result in penalty strokes. Bunkers, while few, are placed in areas designed to make a golfer think twice before choosing a club.
As you play the course, the drone of airplanes from the nearby airport is the only thing that keeps players in the 21st century. The clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies was more frequent as vacationers made their way around the island.
The course is near the highest point on the island and, as you tee off on the first hole, you are standing on the ridge where British cannons fired on Aug. 4, 1814.
To complete 18 holes, there are two sets of tees at each hole. The course is a full par 72, and some of the holes vary by more than 70 yards when you play the “back nine.”
The varying tee locations help you forget you’ve already played the hole once. Golfers aren’t likely to experience the hole the same way the second time around. More likely, you’ll simply find different trouble to get in.
Named one of America's Historic Golf Landmarks by Golf Digest in 1996, Wawashkamo is the only nine-hole course among the dozen in the United States to have been so designated.
Landmarks from golf’s days gone by dot the course. On the third hole, a grassy ridge called a “circus ring” circles the green, collecting approach shots that slip slightly off the green. A “cross bunker,” designed to punish poor tee shots, lies across the middle of the sixth fairway.
The golfer really determined to experience golf as it was originally played can rent hickory clubs for that true authentic experience. While the island’s Grand Hotel course might be the more recognizable, a golf trip to Mackinac isn’t complete without a tour of this historic tract.