ESCANABA, Michigan – Island Resort & Casino’s original course, Sweetgrass, has been named the 2022 Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association. The announcement was made recently at the NGCOA Golf Business Conference 2022 in Orlando.
The NGCOA selected its winner based on four criteria: quality of golf course, quality of ownership and management, outstanding contributions to the local community and significant contributions to the game of golf.
“When we received the Michigan Golf Course of the Year award back in October, we were very excited,” said Tony Mancilla, general manager of Island Resort & Casino. “Michigan has a lot of great courses, so just winning our state was huge. Now to earn the national award and recognition is the cherry on top.
“I recently talked with other courses owners about how this is a big deal, because it’s more than just about having a great golf course. You have to do more things for the game and help promote golf, and we’re doing that on a lot of different levels.”
Island Resort & Casino, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s largest resort destination, sits 13 miles west of Escanaba in Harris, and is owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community, a federally recognized Potawatomi Indian Tribe.
The casino first opened as a bingo hall in 1981, then in 1991 expanded with the Chip-In Casino on its present site. The late 1990’s saw the expansion of the casino, a showroom and convention center. The next decade brought further major expansion with the Palm Tower rooms, more restaurants and more golf.
One of the resort’s two courses, Sweetgrass opened in 2008 to rave reviews. Designed by Paul Albanese, Sweetgrass features an open layout with some of golf’s most fun greens to putt (Redan, Biarritz, Island and Double-Green), as well as some wonderful strategic holes — including the famous island green No. 15 and a finishing par-five hole on each side.
Throughout the course, golfers will also come across a rich history of the Hannahville Indian Community, with holes named after traditional Potawatomi clans, villages, allies, medicines and symbols. The dedication to nature and the area’s heritage makes for a unique golf experience.
The course also plays host to the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass.
One of the areas that Sweetgrass was selected for, and the resort management takes pride in, is its contribution to the community through the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, which debuted in 2011 and has become the premier community event in the region.
The Strong Kids Campaign – YMCA is the event’s official charity and guarantees that all kids, regardless of income, have an opportunity to receive free YMCA memberships. Other local charities and nonprofits have also received more than $250,000 raised from the tournament’s ticket sales.
“The Symetra Tour event raises about $100,000 each year, and that’s about one-quarter of the entire YMCA annual funding in membership scholarships,” explained Mancilla. “It gives under-privileged kids of economically struggling families a chance to enjoy time at the YMCA.”
The YMCA golf program is also supported by this effort, providing clubs for kids to use and youth golf clinics for them to participate in during the tournament.
“I think the biggest thing is having the pros play and the kids watch them,” said Mancilla. “It’s exciting when they’re here playing. They are young golfers trying to make their way and accomplish a huge goal. And we’re right in the middle of it, watching. Hopefully the little kids will think they can do it, too.”
The growing popularity of golf and gaming at Island Resort has driven the demand for yet another major expansion of $30 million, making it one of the Midwest’s largest golf, casino, and entertainment resort destinations.
Opened in January 2022, the new hotel tower is connected to the south end of the current Palm Tower and features 138 guest rooms, including golf and spa suites, the top-floor Horizons Steakhouse fine dining offering the region’s best views and the new Splash Island family water park.
For more information, visit www.islandresortgolf.com