Grand Hotel

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Discover The Jewel, which was once one of President Gerald Ford's favorite golf courses.

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Grand Hotel's golf heritage dates back to 1901 when Tom Bendelow created the first iteration of The Jewel.


Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, provides its guests with a stunning 18-hole golf course known today as “the Jewel.” The Jewel itself is actually comprised of two nine-hole courses: the Grand Nine and the Woods Nine. Located across from the hotel with views of the Straits of Mackinac, The Grand Nine was designed by golf course architect Tom Bendelow in 1901. It quickly became immensely popular, leading the hotel to commission architect Jerry Matthews to renovate it in 1987. In 1994, Matthews also designed the Woods Nine, located in the interior of Mackinac Island with views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula. Together, these two historic golf courses were melded together to form an even greater golf course known as “The Jewel.” The Jewel is now one of the most unique courses in Northern Michigan and the United States. As the only course in the country with horse-drawn carriage rides between nines, The Jewel is truly a “Grand” golf experience. Among the many sports champions and notable figures who have played The Jewel include 1987 U.S. Open Championship winner Scott Simpson and sports announcer Jim Nantz. President Gerald Ford himself was fond of Mackinac Island throughout his life, with his first visit taking place all the way back during his youth in the 1920s. (He specifically served as an Eagle Scout at the Mackinac Island State Park Commission’s Scout Service Camp.) President Ford thus returned frequently while on vacation, engaging in activities like sampling fresh candy at Mary’s Fudge, touring Fort Mackinac, and, of course, playing a round or two at The Jewel. Mackinac Island also offers golfers access to the nearby Wawashkamo Golf Club located in the island’s state park. There, guests can play one of the best-preserved links-style courses, designed and constructed in 1898 by Scottish golf course designer Alex Smith. Born into one of Scotland’s most prominent golfing families, Smith spent most of his career as a club professional in the United States. He quickly grew in prominence due to his skill with a club, winning the U.S. Open in both 1906 and 1910 after his brother, Willie, won it a decade earlier. Smith also gained prestige for his work on a couple American golf courses, including the brilliant holes that now define the historic Wawashkamo Golf Club.

  • About the Location +

    Located within the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island has been among the nation’s most celebrated holiday destinations since the late Victorian era. People from across the Midwest flocked to the island for its cooler weather and reclusive environment. In order to preserve this quaint, rustic charm, many of the island's permanent residents passed legislation prohibiting vehicles onto the island. This ordnance is still in effect today, which helps to preserve Mackinac Island’s historical character. But before Mackinac Island became an internationally renowned vacation retreat, it once was home to traveling bands of the Anishinaabe people. They specifically held the island as scared, believing that the Great Spirit inhabited it following the end of a cataclysmic flood. Indeed, archeologists have since located all kinds of native artifacts along the coastline, including fishhooks, arrowheads, and other items. Burial mounds for ancient chieftains have even been located around the area in recent years. While records are scant regarding the first European to arrive at Mackinac Island, some historians speculate that it was French Jean Nicolet during his journey toward modern-day Wisconsin in the early 17th century. Another French subject, priest Claude Dablon, came several decades later to establish a short-lived mission on Mackinac Island. Jacques Marquette eventually replaced him in 1671, who decided to relocate the facility to St. Ignace. Nevertheless, a small fur trading outpost emerged on Mackinac Island as the nearby Straits of Mackinac became an important nexus in French Canada.

    Mackinac Island eventually fell under British control after the Seven Years’ War. Major Patrick Sinclair specifically arrived during the American Revolutionary War and built a citadel called “Fort Mackinac” in the center of the island. Despite its imposing nature, Fort Mackinac was never attacked during the conflict. In fact, the British eventually surrendered the base to the nascent United States military at the end of the war! However, the British never lost their desire to control Fort Mackinac and attempted to seize it outright at the start of the War of 1812. Indeed, the Royal Army managed to surprise the American garrison on-site and captured it quickly. Looking to solidify their hold over the citadel, the British developed another citadel—Fort George—on the heights behind Fort Mackinac. American commanders yearned to take Mackinac Island and launched an invasion in 1814. The battle failed with the Americans’ second-in-command, Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, killed during the ensuring gunfight. Nevertheless, Mackinac Island returned to the United States via the Treaty of Ghent that concluded the War of 1812. In its wake, an influential, population of Native American and French-speaking fur-traders soon moved into the area, giving it a unique identity that was to last for decades. John Jacob Astor even located his American Fur Company on the island, which helped him amass an incredible fortune. The military presence on the island was never fully left until the end of the 1800s either, when Fort Mackinac closed down permanently in 1895. (For a time, Fort Mackinac served as a jail for Conference prisoners during the American Civil War.)

    Mackinac Island first started to become a popular tourist destination after the federal government made the area a national park in the 1870s. Word quickly spread of the island’s bucolic tranquility, inspiring many from across the Midwest to come and experience its charm. Soon enough, charters were ferrying guests out to Mackinac Island every year, making the site one of the most active places in the Great Lakes. A few transportation companies built a variety of hotels—including the Grand Hotel—throughout the remainder of the 19th century, too. But Mackinac Island was also gradually dotted with many quaint seasonal cottages that wealthy industrialists had constructed to serve as their private retreats. However, once the island reverted to the status of a state park in the 1890s, the newly empowered Mackinac Island State Park Commission took great pains to limit any future real estate developments. (Interestingly, Mackinac Island State Park was Michigan’s very first state park.) Thanks to the legislation, the commission’s actions have since guaranteed that Mackinac Island’s iconic serenity has remained largely untouched well into the present. The island has since preserved its status as one of America’s top vacation destinations, hosting thousands of people every year. Indeed, the island has hosted all kinds of illustrious guests, from Hollywood celebrities to sitting U.S. Presidents. Cultural heritage travelers in particular have enjoyed visiting the island regularly due to the many unique historical landmarks located in the vicinity. The attraction that those guests have found to be the most fascinating is the retired Fort Mackinac, which exists today as a museum open to public exploration.

  • About the Architect +

    Tom Bendelow: The renowned golf course architect of some 600 courses, Bendelow was born in Scotland during the late 1860s. He originally trained to become a typesetter during his youth, ultimately securing a job with the Aberdeen Free Press. Bendelow had also developed affinity for golf, a game that his father had taught him at a young age. Bendelow thus continued to practice the game whenever he was not working. H eventually brought his passion for golf over to the United States upon immigrating to northern New Jersey in 1892. Bendelow strictly treated the sport as a hobby though, as professional jobs in golf were incredibly rare at the time. But he had a chance encounter with oil tycoon Charles Pratt, which changed the trajectory of his life forever. Bendelow had begun granting private lessons to Pratt after the latter had advertised the position in a local newspaper. The classes specifically took place on Pratt’s estate on Long Island, with Bendelow functioning as his personal tutor. He subsequently decided to construct a small, six-hole practice course on the grounds as a way to better teach Pratt.

    The experience proved fruitful as it attracted the attention of sporting goods manufacturer A.G. Spaulding. Impressed with Bendelow’s work, Spaulding hired him to exclusively promote golf across New York and New Jersey. As such, Bendelow began working with golf clubs throughout those two states to construct more courses. Unlike other active golf course architects at the time, Bendelow focused on creating fairways that were friendly to novices. Despite their level of difficulty, Bendelow nonetheless ensured that each course he designed in this manner were just as beautiful. He specifically adopted a naturalist approach toward designing his courses, taking great inspiration from the landscaping undertaken by the Olmsted family. The result were picturesque fairways that appeared as if they had come right out of an impressionist painting. Bendelow’s very first course as part of Spaulding’s team was the Van Cortlandt Golf Course, designed at the behest of the New York City Park District in 1899. From there, Bendelow created The Apawmis Club in Rye, New York.

    Harry Vardon—who had become Bendelow’s friend—declared the course to be one of the top three in the whole country at the time. With Vardon’s ringing endorsement, a wealth of golf club’s quickly sought out Bendelow’s expertise. The support also influenced Spaulding to promote Bendelow to Director of Golf Course Development of his sporting goods company. Bendelow subsequently built hundreds of golf courses and built a considerable name for himself in the sport. Among the new courses that Bendelow developed included the Atlanta Athletic Club’s 18-hole course at the East Lake Golf Club—the same exact place where Bobby Jones would learn the game. But after working for Spaulding for years, Bendelow decided to take a new posting at Ashland Sporting Goods. He subsequently moved around jobs for a bit until finally settling down as the Chief Golf Course Designer for the American Park Builders Company. His new responsivities at the American Park Builders Company saw Bendelow create a variety of municipal plans for specialized golfing communities.

    Nevertheless, Bendelow still managed to find time to construct state-of-the-art golf courses during his down time. But the designs had become far more intricate and challenging, as epitomized by his work at the Medinah Country Club during the mid-1920s. When Bendelow died in 1936, he left behind a legacy as one of America’s most prolific golf course architects. Many hailed him as “The Johnny Appleseed of American Golf” and “The Dean of American Golf” due to his profound influence on the game in the United States. Most of his courses are still regarded today as masterpieces, including the work he achieved while developing The Jewel outside of the Grand Hotel earlier in his career. Perhaps his most beloved course today is Medinah Course 3, which has hosted several major championships over the years, including three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships. Six of Bendelow’s surviving golf courses have even been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

  • Famous Historic Golfers +

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977)

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