The Jewel is the only golf course in the world requiring a horse-drawn carriage ride from the front nine to the back. Toss in the fact it must be accessed by ferry, and it's a perfect example of a course off the beaten cart path.
I stumbled across The Jewel while attending a writers conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The front nine (or Grand Nine) was built in 1901, three years after island residents lobbied state legislators to ban automobiles. That ban remains today, though golf carts are used on the course.
The front nine is short ... seriously short. It measures 2,405 yards from the blue tees with a half-dozen par-4s and three par-3s. However the setting is exquisite, like the landscaped grounds behind a millionaire's mansion. Lake Huron views are special, too, so you don't mind short holes, especially when you drive par-4s like I did No. 5.
There's some length on No. 7, a 245-yard par-3 from an elevated tee to a green hugged by water on all sides but the front. My buddy, former NFL placekicker Charlie Baumann, nuked a 3-wood onto the green the day before, but pulled one into the water when we played. I also pulled my tee shot, though it was a 3-iron and settled into heavy rough short of the green. Speaking of rough, there's Burmese jungle out there, so beware.
The ninth is a nice finisher before hopping a carriage for the 1.5-mile ride to the back. The street to the Grand Hotel borders the fairway and you hear the clip-claping of horses as you play up.
The back nine (or Woods Nine) was built in 1994 by architect Jerry Matthews and sits in stark contrast to the front. It is regulation length -- 3,040 yards -- though seemingly longer after the front. Matthews did good work building a rolling, thoughtful layout.
The three par-3s are very good, with conditions even more lush on this side, probably due to its newness and remote location. The 16th is a darn good par-4 of 413 yards, with a fairway that slopes down to the right, before moving uphill to finish. Charlie fired a 4-iron shot from about 190 yards to four feet to make birdie.
I loved the 18th, another par-4 ... slight dogleg right and long. Approach shots carry a pond. Like others on the island, the pond is clear. So clear you see many balls that never made it home.
The Jewel is not just for hotel guests; non-guests may play at a higher rate. Either way, carriage rides are free!