Safe to golf 18 during COVID-19? It is with these precautions taken in Traverse City

Safe to golf 18 during COVID-19? It is with these precautions taken in Traverse City

Traverse City Tourism by Matt Vande Bunte

Six feet? That’s almost a gimme in the vast expanse of a golf course. On the verdant links of the Traverse City area, space is measured in yards – hundreds and thousands of yards. Six feet of social distancing isn’t a problem.

That’s why golf is emerging as one of the more popular ways to get outside and enjoy summer amid the ongoing precautions of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many summer festivals and events cancelled to mitigate spread of the coronavirus, golf’s open spaces make it one travel activity that’s a natural, safe match for social distancing guidelines.

“The resort grounds cover nearly 5,000 acres and the four golf courses alone stretch over 27,000 yards,” said Chris Hale, vice president of sales and marketing at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, home to four championship golf courses including The Legend, designed by Arnold Palmer, and Cedar River, which ranked 7th on Golf Advisor’s recent list of the 25 best designed courses in the country.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa's The Bear golf course

The Bear is one of three championship golf courses at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa alongside The Wolverine and Spruce Run. The courses are taking special safety measures this year to protect golfers and staff from COVID-19.

“Whether on cart or walking, playing a round of golf provides fresh air, camaraderie and time in some of the most beautiful landscapes in Michigan.”

Just as Traverse City is home to incredible natural beauty from the rolling hills of Old Mission Peninsula to the sloping sand of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the area is also home to more than two dozen of Michigan’s finest golf courses including several that bear the stamp of the game’s greatest legends.

With Michigan’s stay-at-home order lifted and the weather downstate getting hot and humid, teeing it up in the coastal hills around Grand Traverse Bay can be a cool, refreshing and safe experience. So, if you’ve never played The Legend at Shanty Creek or the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, this summer is a great time to get out and cross those fabled courses off your golfing bucket list.

And those are just two of the championship golf courses in the Traverse City area. Here are six of the others…


While the golf courses of the Traverse City area are still the same beautiful places to spend a few hours, part of the experience this summer will be different. Many courses are taking additional precautions to minimize any health risks for golfers and staff.

The Legend golf course at Shanty Creek

The Legend is one of four championship golf courses at Shanty Creek Resort including Cedar River, Schuss Mountain and the Summit. Among the COVID-19 precautions being taken at Shanty Creek’s courses are modified cups that allow golfers to retrieve their ball without reaching their hand down into the hole. The courses also have removed rakes from sand bunkers and are asking golfers to smooth the sand after playing out of it.

For example, in many cases indoor spaces such as pro shops now have limited capacity and dining areas have appropriate spacing between tables. Practice areas also have additional spacing between hitting stations to maintain proper social distancing. On the course, rakes have been removed from sand traps and a variety of modified cups and mechanisms are being used so players don’t have to touch the flagsticks or reach their hand into the holes.

Hand sanitizer is being made available before and after play and golf carts are being completely sanitized before and after use. In some cases, courses that previously required use of a golf cart now are allowing players to walk.

Here’s a list of the Play Safe measures at Shanty Creek, for example. If you have questions about precautions being taken at a particular course, please contact the course directly.

Extra safety measures Grand Traverse Resort golf courses

The maintenance crew at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa created a device that lets golfers retrieve their ball from the cup by lifting a metal lever with their putter head. That way there’s no need to touch the flagstick or put your hand into the hole.

“Golf in the U.S. is typically played in foursomes, so it is a very small group and very easy to keep a proper distance away from others throughout the round,” said Tom McGee, director of golf operations at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. “Golfers are able to experience some exercise, fresh air and enjoy the camaraderie and great golf conditions we have.

“It’s a great spot to be up here in Traverse City where we have things opening up.”