Will Ryan's review convince you to golf The Bear - or scare you away?
"You might want to lay up here", I was told by an old hand as we were on the course.
"I'm sorry, I can't do that. I didn't come to The Bear to play safe" I replied.
Based on my results, I should have listened.
Based on the challenge, I'm glad I didn't.
On June 7, 1985, a very special venue was opened at Grand Traverse Resort to golfers living in, or traveling to, Traverse City, Michigan. That was the day The Bear opened. And like the course architect, Mr. Jack Nicklaus himself, the course has aged very, very well.
Ranked by Golf Digest as one of America's toughest courses (16th) as well as one of its top public courses (72nd), the course layout is a real treat (and challenge!) to play. While the straight hitter won’t always find it too difficult to hit the fairway, if you miss off the tee, even just a little bit, you get yourself in real, pro level trouble. This is the way that golf should be played.
With tiered tracts, decision making comes into play along the course, especially as you prepare yourself to hit into the greens. There are well placed hazards on your way to putting, including water carries, large mounds, and rather deep bunkers that surround the greens.
Nicklaus’ in his design, created not only a stiff challenge, has also built a course that takes advantage of the surrounding nature. Holes here are scenic, and it is easy to take your eyes off your next shot to admire the landscape.
Practical tips for golfing The Bear
There is service on the course for those that don’t want to wait to get into the beautiful clubhouse after your round, including a small café between holes 9 and 10, as well as some of the friendliest beer cart people that I've met on a course.
The Bear is not for the faint of heart, but it will offer plenty of opportunity for pros and duffers alike to have a fun round with their friends. But remember when you’re playing this course not to expect the best round you've ever shot. Add an expected 10 strokes to what you normally score in a round and I promise you won’t leave this course disappointed.
Searching for more golf inspiration? You'll enjoy these other reviews:
Golfing Ireland's Adare Manor
Death Valley's Furnace Creek Ranch - A Golf Course Like No Other
Heading to Traverse City? Here are some of our favourite places and spaces:
Hotel Review: Grand Traverse Resort
Life's a Bowl of Cherries in Traverse City
Visiting the Greatest Theatre in the World
Exploring Traverse City's Food Trucks