Mi Great Places: Wawashkamo Golf Course

Mackinac Island is a place that celebrates history, you truly almost feel like you’re going back in time when you get off the ferry.

But there’s certainly one place where you’re happy to be living in the present day, the Wawashkamo, a golf course with a very violent past.

“The golf course was built in 1898 by Alex Smith. He was a U.S. Open champ twice. 1906 and 1910. He was from Scotland and had been in the country less than a year when he built this golf course for some folks in Chicago who owned bluff houses,” says Wawashkamo Golf Pro Chuck Olsen.

Near the center of Mackinac Island lies the Wawashkamo Golf Course. Originally built for people who lived in Chicago who summered on the island.

These links have the distinction of being one of Michigan’s oldest running golf courses.

“The golf course has been unchanged for 115 years or so. It’s very link style and Scottish in it’s look and feel. The T-boxes are small the greens are small it just has a very old Scottish look and feel to it.”

But it’s what happened here 84 years earlier on August 4th 1814 that would be written about in history books.

“The battle of Michigan was fought right on the property.”

Now to explain the Battle of 1814 we need to go back to the beginning of the War of 1812.

A flotilla of British soldiers came from St. Joseph Island in Canada and snuck around to the back side of Mackinac Island.

They landed on what is now called British Landing and marched through the island sight unseen.

When they got to the Fort they fired one shot from a cannon, the Americans surrendered with no gunfire and no lives lost.

“When the British came the Americans weren’t even sure that the war had started so they weren’t ready for any kind of a skirmish.”

Two years later the Americans wanted the Fort back. “When the Americans came back 2 years later the British were ready.”

The Americans made a mistake in thinking they could copy what the British did to them two years earlier. “They came up the same road here called British Landing Road. They came to the same bay and the came up the exact same route.”

It was a slaughter. “And what happened was the British knew they were coming and they were here with the Native Americans and they had a much larger force and they had the high ground which is where the golf shop is here and they basically ran the Americans off the island.”

Most of the battle was fought here at Holmes Hill. This is where around 10 American soldiers and their commander Major Andrew Holmes died.

Chuck explains, “There is a grave site. The colonel that was operating the battle for the Americans was killed at a place called Holmes Hill which is down next to the 6th green and there was a mass grave there for some for the American soldiers. They think about 10 American Soldiers were buried in a mass grave and we do have a marker there for where we think that was.”

On August 4th, this summer there will be a reenactment of the battle of Mackinac Island. And if you golf, or even if you don’t, make sure you stop and see Chuck.

“I was a history major for a couple years in college and its really enjoyable because when they go out to play I do try to give them a quick history lesson on what they’re going to see out there and what has happened before.”