Greywalls in Marquette, Michigan: Nothing like you’ve ever seen

Lake Superior is so large and deep that it could contain all of the other Great Lakes plus three more the size of Lake Eerie. As immortalized in the classic Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Lake Superior can be unforgiving, with 100-foot walls of icy gray water pounding ships and shore during winter storms.

On the shores of Lake Superior lies Greywalls, a golf course that matches the natural splendor – and some of the dread – of the lake itself. This 6,828-yard Mike DeVries masterpiece traverses the craggiest, roughest terrain you will find on any golf course east of The Rockies. Just driving a golf cart on some of sections of the paved path feels like an extreme sport. The only flat lie I can remember from my round was my third shot on the par-5 18th hole – and I remember every shot at Greywalls because it is one of the most memorable courses I’ve ever experienced.

The sun sets behind the 9th green at Greywalls, and beyond the waters of Lake Superior (courtesy Brian Walters)

Playing Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club

Greywalls is the second course at the Marquette Golf Club in Marquette, on the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or UP). The original “Heritage” course at Marquette Golf Club dates back to 1926. This Langford and Gill classic was so popular amongst the golf-crazed and summer-starved denizens of the UP and throngs of summer visitors that the club enlisted DeVries to lay out a course on an adjacent 153-acre plot in 2002 – a course that could never have even been imagined in 1926, when oxen and a solitary steam shovel were the earth-moving tools.

In 2005, the new 18 holes opened to the public under the moniker of Greywalls, so-named because of the many sheer limestone walls that the course weaves through, vaults over, and tumbles down.

From the clubhouse, it’s quite a drive ever-upward to the first tee, which overlooks Lake Superior. On a clear day, you can see over 50 miles away to the Pictured Rocks in Munising. The course is laid out in two loops, with 1st and 10th tees and 9th and 18th greens at the highest point of the property, along with a well-stocked half-way house. The elevation here is such that you might not realize that the crystalline lake water is not just a continuation of the equally blue sky.

There’s an old golf cliché about the first hole of a course being “a gentle handshake.” At Greywalls, the 579-yard, par-5 1st is the number-one handicap hole – it’s a powerful slap right in the chops. It requires a long carry off the tee to a rollercoaster of a fairway. I found the short grass with my drive, but between two eight-foot “waves” in the fairway where I was unable to see beyond five feet in front of me. It was like a turfgrass version of “the perfect storm.”  

At the 425-yard, par-4 2nd – the number-three handicap hole – you get another sharp smack in the face. The fairway slopes left to right, and disappears altogether on the right as you approach the green. Basically anything right from tee to green is dead. After these first two holes, you’re wide awake, no matter how early your tee time.

Greywalls, Hole 1 — Those wave in the fairway are at least 7 feet high
Greywalls, Hole 2 — the right rough is NOT the place to try to come into the green from.

At the 312-yard, par-4 5th, the name “Greywalls” is really driven home, as the green is surrounded by exposed rock cliffs. And the 188-yard 6th hole looks more like 288 yards from the tees; there should be a photo of it in the dictionary under the word “daunting.”

Tee shot at the short par-4 5th of Greywalls (aim at that lone tall tree in the middle)
Navigate the tee shot on the 5th, and this is your approach. As you exit past the grey wall on the right, ring the bell to let the group behind know you’ve cleared the green.
Greywalls, Hole 6 — one of the most daunting par 3 tee shots in recent memory (looks a lot longer than 188 yards!)

The back nine is no less exhilarating. The 336-yard, par-4 10th presents players with a decision to go left or right – or so you think. I blasted a good drive up the right side to the top of a steep hill. When I arrived at where I thought my ball was, I discovered that it had rolled some 85 yards down and backwards to the left edge of the fairway. The 491-yard 12th is a real big-boy par 4 whose downhill routing is counteracted by the prevailing cold wind off Lake Superior, and the fairway is full of bunkers to boot. (Speaking of which, you’ll much rather be in the sand than in the fescue “eyelashes” encircling all the bunkers.)

The 533-yard, par-5 18th is simply a bonkers closer, with a blind landing area in a mogul-riddled ravine. Your second shot is to a landing area as wide as a football field and as flat – again, this is literally the first level lie I found on the entire course.

Greywalls, Hole 12
Greaywalls, Hole 18 — the end of a wild, wild ride

The Verdict

According to Marc Gilmore, Head Golf Professional at Greywalls, there are about 600 members at Greywalls, and most are local. If I lived in Marquette, I would be one, and I would play here daily – and I guarantee I would never have the same shot twice. “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you” is the Michigan state motto. The Greywalls motto should be, “If you seek a flat lie, good luck with that.”

Despite the stout challenge, Greywalls is an unmitigated pleasure to play – and a thrilling pleasure at that. Peak season green fees are $180, which comes out to $10 a hole. There is not one single hole on the course that is not worth $10, as there is not a single hole here like any you have played before.

Logistics, Victuals, and Libations

Marquette has its own airport, so if you’re thinking about staying local, it’s an obvious choice. There are numerous restaurants and other attractions in the UP’s largest city to keep you busy. The Vierling is perhaps the city’s most popular restaurant and watering hole, so make a reservation. For a sampling of local brews, check out Ore Dock Brewing Co., which is just a couple blocks from The Vierling. Ore Dock doesn’t serve food, but there will likely be a food truck nearby, so you can order grub while sipping a beer or two outside or inside.

If you’re thinking of expanding your range, though, consider exploring the UP from the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, which is only about a 1.5 hour drive from Greywalls. The resort’s “Perfect Foursome” stay-and-play package includes rounds at Greywalls, both Island Resort Courses (Sweetgrass and Sage Run), and TimberStone Golf Course in Iron Mountain .

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