Treetops Resort is 81 Holes of Gorgeous Views and Golfing Challenges

Treetops Resort was one of the earliest golf resorts to draw national attention to Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula and helped grow the broader region as a premier, national golf destination. It’s a trend that hasn’t slowed down.

A golf course surrounded by a forest
The Jones Masterpiece at Treetops Resort | Photo Courtesy of Treetops Resort

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Tom Fazio’s Premier course at the North location at Treetops Resort in Gaylord is one of the core staples.

“The reasons people give for loving the Premier are all over the board,” said Treetops General Manager Barry Owens. “There are some people who I call ‘big game hunters for architects,’ and this is the only Fazio course in the state of Michigan. So, for the people who want to check that off their list, they come here.”

Golfers also come for three Rick Smith-designed layouts at Treetops North—starting with the Smith Signature course, and the 9-hole Threetops—one of the nation’s first-ever, all par 3 courses developed. Threetops remains arguably one of the best short courses in the country which others try to emulate. But the rugged up and down land of the region makes it extra special.

The Smith Signature has always been one of my favorites and was the site for filming the extremely popular and award-winning “14 Clubs” television commercial by Pure Michigan to inspire golfing and travel in the state.

There is also the drastically changed Smith Tradition course, which most golfers won’t recognize due to tree removal.

A golf course with a water feature surrounded by trees.
The Jones Masterpiece | Photo Courtesy of Treetops Resort

Owens said there is always a debate about which is the best course at Treetops. While that is a tough call but up for discussion, golfers appear to answer that question every year—the Fazio Premier gets the most play at Treetops’ North location. Yet the draw of the Jones Masterpiece—located at the original Treetops ski hill, and hotel and convention center location about six miles to the south—is also massive for golfers. The Jones Masterpiece is responsible for the name Treetops Resort, after course designer Roberts Trent Jones, Sr. suggested it when looking out across the landscape of the Sturgeon River Valley.

The 18-hole Premier, traversing up and down the region’s heavily sloping land, is scheduled for some updates and improvements from a master plan developed by course designer Paul Albanese, a Michigan transplant from Harvard.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the Fazio design because it’s so special and means so much to us,” Owens said. “But as it’s aged, there are things like drainage that have the biggest issues that impact bunkers, it impacts low areas.”

A golf course with sand traps surrounded by a forest.
Fazio Premier | Photo Courtesy of Treetops

The Smith Tradition, which turned 25 years old in 2022, was the focus of tree removal for its Silver Anniversary. Smith originally designed it as a links course, in part being located on the most level land in an otherwise region of drastic elevation changes. The Tradition always had wider fairways than most tree-lined courses, but now the entire view is opened across the property.

“The goal is that beautiful look across the course with the green grass fairways and greens, and the light gold of the fescue wisping in the wind,” Owens said.

Those visual changes provide something unique at Treetops that counteracts the resort’s other courses—which total 81 holes in all.

NBC’s Golf Pass’ annual Golfers’ Choice Awards listed the Signature course No. 19 in Michigan, and the Fazio Premier No. 22 and both are ranked nationally.

When not golfing, the Treetops Spa provides guests with a special treat to soothe body and soul. Treetops also has a large selection of daily eating locations on site, and offers special dinners with wine tasting tours across various dates and times all summer long.

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About the Author: Tom Lang is a 30-year veteran sports contributor to the Detroit Free Press, during which he has covered the golf scene and more in Michigan. Since 2018, Lang has produced the monthly MI Golf Journal, Michigan's No. 1 voted golf media outlet and is free online at