GAM BLOG: UP Golf is Second to None

Grall: UP Golf is Second to None

By Susan Smiley


When it comes to golf, Dennis Grall was a bit of a late bloomer. He didn’t start playing until he was 25 years old. As a kid growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula he would watch folks out on the links and think that golf was probably the biggest waste of time he could imagine.


“I was into playing baseball and watching the Green Bay Packers,” says Grall. “Plus, I didn’t really know anyone who played golf. Back when I was a kid in the 1950s and ‘60s, golf was considered something snobbish and elitist and we were a blue collar family.”


Not only has the golf culture changed so that more folks have access to the game, but Grall’s attitude has changed as well. When he was working as a newspaper reporter in the UP, there was a golf outing for print media folks in the area. One of Grall’s co-workers took him to Pinegrove Country Club and showed him a few fundamentals. He figured he would learn just enough to get him through the golf outing and that would be the end of it.


“I played my first round of golf at that outing and did not kill anyone so I figured maybe it was not a waste of time after all,” says Grall.


Grall got a job at the Green Bay Press Gazette where he joined a golf league with his co-workers. He found that he really enjoyed playing different golf courses and that he also enjoyed spending time outside with his friends.


“The camaraderie is what I enjoy,” says Grall, who has not only played every golf course in the UP but has played at least one golf course in each of our 50 states.  “I love having fun, trying to beat myself and I love the competition and the challenge.”


Although people might not expect that golf would be popular in the northern most parts of Michigan, Grall insists that the golf culture in the UP runs deep.


“People up here are avid golfers and I think part of that is the weather,” says Grall. “We play golf on days when most sane people would not even think of it.”


While the “official” golf season is from April through October, Grall says he once went on a roll where he played golf somewhere in the UP for 22 consecutive months. He played last week when it was 48 degrees and raining and has often teed off in his home town of Escanaba in January.


“We do notice after Labor Day that a lot of people go to bowling, fishing, hunting, darts and things like that,” says Grall. “But that is when I like to get out because you can play all you want all day long up here in the fall and sometimes not run into anyone else on the course.”


While California, Florida and Arizona are known for having great golf courses, Grall would put courses in Michigan’s UP right up there with the best of them.  Of the 300 courses he has played across the nation, Timberstone in Iron Mountain is his favorite.


“It is just so beautiful,” says Grall. “I would pay just to drive around the course in a golf cart and look at it; it is that beautiful.  It has been ranked as a 5-star course by Golf Digest several times and it is playable but challenging.”



Grall also likes the newest 9 holes at Sweetgrass (“It is just so gorgeous! With the elevation you can see forever!”); Greywalls; Wild Bluff; Indian Lake Golf & Country Club; Wawonowin Country Club; Michigan Tech/Portage Lake GC; and George Young GC.


“I shot a 78 at George Young at an outing and that course has improved a lot; it is really nice,” says Grall.


There are also some hidden gems Grall would recommend for golfers planning to travel to the UP. St. Ignace Golf & Country Club is a 9-hole course that he says is much nicer than what you would expect. Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club, a semi-private course, is another of his favorites as is Lac Vieux Desert GC.

“The courses are beautiful and the prices are so great!” says Grall. “I just wish the season was a little longer.”

Grall, who became a board member for the Golf Association of Michigan last year, is helping to get more UP golf courses involved with GAM and also to lure more golfers below the bridge to come and experience the great golf the UP has to offer.


“I’m honestly not that good of a golfer,” says Grall. “But I play a lot and I’m always meeting and making new friends for 4 or 5 hours while I’m out on the links. You get paired with someone and you start talking and find out you know people that they know. Or you find out that you’re both Packers fans. You can have fun with all kinds of people! “


Although he has discovered the joys of golf, Grall has not let go of his passion for baseball either. He announces the high school ball games in Escanaba and still follows the game. But he knows he is never going to have the chance to play ball at a major league ballpark because he didn’t have major league talent. But with golf, he can play the same courses the greatest players in history have played even though he is not on the PGA Tour.


I love baseball but I’m not going to get to play at Comerica or Yankee Stadium,” says Grall. “But you can play great golf courses no matter what your ability. You can play the same golf courses that the best golfers play.”