Northern Michigan is not just a picturesque destination; it’s also steeped in golfing heritage. From the region’s early days, it has been a haven for golf enthusiasts, home to some of the nation’s oldest and most storied courses.

Wawashkamo Golf Course – British Landing Road

Northern Michigan’s golfing legacy dates back to the late 1800s, with five courses leading the charge. In Northwest Michigan, Harbor Point and Wequetonsing in Harbor Springs, along with Charlevoix Golf Club in Charlevoix. In the Upper Peninsula, there’s Les Cheneaux Club in Cedarville, part of the archipelago of 36 small islands in Lake Huron, and on Mackinac Island, the Wawashkamo Golf Club, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

Who was first?

Both Wawashkamo Golf Club and Les Cheneaux Club claim to be the oldest continuously operating course in Michigan. Both say they opened in 1898. There are 3 other Northern Michigan courses that show the founding years of 1896, 2 years earlier. I am guessing that although they may have been founded earlier, they were not “open for business” until after the other 2 courses. Regardless, when these course opened, golf was still in its infancy in the United States and 5 Northern Michigan golf courses were some of the first courses in the state to open. Northern Michigan does love its golf!

There are a couple of courses downstate that opened around the same time as the 5 courses in Northern Michigan. Kent Country Club in Grand Rapids says it opened in 1896 and is the oldest Country Club in the Midwest. The Washtenaw Golf Club opened in 1899 in SW Michigan.

The claim to America’s oldest continuously operating golf course is a point of contention. While Foxburg Country Club in Pennsylvania opened in 1887 and still operates today, The Saint Andrews Golf Club in New York, which opened in 1888, argues it holds the title. Interestingly, Northern Michigan was not far behind, with its first course opening just nine years later.

Harbor Point Golf Club – Harbor Springs – (1896)

Semi-Private – open to the public in spring and fall seasons.

David Foulis

David Foulis

Founded by several Episcopalian businessmen from Lansing in 1878, Harbor Point Association was established with a modest capital stock of $2,500. Each shareholder had to own at least four shares at $25 each, and in return, they received the use of a lot for a tent or cottage or could opt to board at the hotel.

Harbor Point Golf Course is one of the oldest courses in Northern Michigan. Local history indicates a rough golf course was in play at the location of the Harbor Point Golf Course in 1896. In 1899 Alexander F. Stevenson of Chicago who, along with others from the Midwest, formed a stock company to purchase the land and develop the course.

It was (and remains) an 18-hole course and was designed by David Foulis, who was from a famous St. Andrews family of golfers. David Gill added three new holes and redesigned the other 13 in 1972.

In 1941 the course was taken over by the Harbor Point Association, which continues to manage the course today.

Wequetonsing Golf Club – Harbor Springs – (1896)

Private Club

wequetonsing LogoThe citizens of Harbor Springs donated 80 acres of land to the Presbyterians. Lots were sold and boarding house was built and became known as the Presbyterian Resort. It was renamed Wequeton and in August 1880 the Wequetonsing Association was organized.

There is mention of using the Weque grounds for sports in the original minute books of the Wequetonsing Association. It is suggested that some form of golf was played during the years of 1894-1896, becoming more formalized with the formation of a Golf Committee in 1896.

They rented the Blackbird Farm for the links. In 1901 the committee requested a lease for additional grounds to use as golf links. It was approved to clear the land between the present golf grounds and the Brower Property. They were given permission by the Association to build a clubhouse. In 1907 Harbor Point Clubhouse was completed.

The Brower property was bought in 1920 and Robert Foulis was hired to rearrange the entire golf course. Major changes were made to the layout between 1927 and present. The course has remained basically unchanged other than new tee boxes on some holes.

A private course, Wequetonsing, also is not particularly long, given today’s standards. Wequetonsing usually plays 5,201 yards from the front and 6,150 yards for the average club member.

Charlevoix Golf Club – Charlevoix – 1896


Willie Watson Golf Designer AdThe Charlevoix Golf club was founded in 1896 by 2 businessmen from Chicago. John P. Wilson and Edward C. Waller were members of the Chicago Club. Herbert James Tweedie founder of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and Scottish Architect Willie Watson co-designed the course. The Charlevoix Golf Club course is identified as one of the earliest regulation golf courses in the U.S.

In 1903 became 18 holes when the members of the Chicago Club purchased over 100 additional acres. In 1908 a water system was added and the course was considered one of the finest and most beautiful courses in this part of the country.

The Chicago Club turned the course over the to the City of Charlevoix in 1937 for only one dollar. The city has operated it as a nine-hole course since. I could not find any information as to what happened to the other 9 holes. If anyone knows, I would love to hear about it. Email me at

Country Club conditions at municipal pricing! The Course is conveniently located on the north side of Charlevoix, close to public beaches on Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. Golf carts are not available.

Les Cheneaux Club & Golf Links – Cedarville – (1898)


Les Cheneaux Golf ClubThe nine hole Les Cheneaux Golf Club was laid out and chartered by the early members of the Les Cheneaux Club and was ready for play in May of 1898. The members used the land to naturally form the design of the holes rather than forcing a course in the landscape. The courses website states it is Michigan’s oldest continuously played golf course.

Though there have been some changes since the very early years, such as lengthening some holes, the essential character of the links has changed little.

Many of the hazards are overgrown piles of the fieldstone cleared from the original fairways. The perpetual hazards of the forest and rock outcrops remain challenging.

Wawashkamo Golf Club (1898)


Wawashkamo Golf Club Historical MarkerWawashkamo Golf Club on Mackinac Island was designed by Alex Smith in 1898. The course was built on the site of the War of 1812 battlefield. Signs of the 1814 Battle of Mackinac Island is seen throughout the course. At the first tee you will find a cannon. There is also a large mound in the middle of the course that is mentioned in a description of the battle. One of the bunkers on the course was actually dug by soldiers on the Island during the times when the Island was under attack.

This nine-hole gem has been pretty much untouched in its lifespan. Wawashkamo may be the most authentic 19th century play in the state. The unique features of the course’s design include elements imported from the Scottish links pattern, such as snuffbox-sized tees and exquisite, hard-to-hit greens, which were easier to maintain with the twelve-inch push mowers of the 1890s.

The course’s layout reflects the traditional features of a nineteenth-century golf links. The course is a relatively treeless layout, comparatively short holes, and very long rough. It provides a homage to the early days of the game. Additionally, the club’s design encourages golfers to pull every club out of the bag. The course emphasizes the use of rolling terrain and hidden and non-hidden roughs to challenge players and showcase the specialization of golf irons.

The land is leased from the Mackinac State Historic Parks and is minimally maintained. Wawashkamo Golf Club has taken steps to ensure that the course layout and design respect the historical significance of the land. This careful balance allows both recreation and remembrance to coexist.

Northern Michigan, a Golfer’s Paradise

Northern Michigan is undeniably a golfer’s wonderland, not just for its stunning landscapes but also for its rich history deeply interwoven with the sport. These early courses stand as a testament to the enduring appeal of golf in the region and the dedication of local communities to preserve and cherish their golfing heritage. Whether you are a history buff, a golf enthusiast, or both, a visit to these historic courses offers a unique and unforgettable experience, blending the thrill of the game with a journey through time.

Watch for a future article where we explore Northern Michigan golf courses that are over a century old!

Looking for your next Northern Michigan Golf Course? Visit Golf Up North, your complete directory of all golf courses in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.