Monday, October 26, 2009
Finding the best bang for your golfing buck will continue to be a theme next year as Michigan digs itself out of this economic black hole.
A membership with the Golf Association of Michigan and its swing and save program is a great way to save on greens fees. So is the site, http://www.lastminutegolfer.com/. But I’ve discovered another one. The 2010 Entertainment Guide for greater metro Detroit is out already and just waiting for golfers to take advantage of its deals and savings.
The book, available at http://www.entertainment.com/, claims more than $17,800 in savings inside, including many opportunities that golfers will love. The golf section contains coupons to more than 30 courses, the best of the bunch being Beacon Hill in Commerce Township, the Huntmore in Brighton Township, Cherry Creek in Shelby Township and Rattle Run near St. Clair. With the coupon, you can buy a green fee to get a second one free.
Several driving ranges and miniature golf courses offer a similar deal – buy something, get the second bucket or putt-putt round at no cost. But the savings go far beyond the course. Let’s say your foursome wants to head out to dinner after the round. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, notably pubs, bars and pizza joints perfect for a foursome’s night out.
You can even buy discounted equipment. Pro Golf Discount has a web coupon that takes 17 percent off your entire order. Dunham’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods each have several options, the best being $20 off $100 purchased from Dick’s or $10 off $50 purchased from Dunham’s.
Creative golfers who love to travel can use coupons for rental cars, hotels and even flights. Some even buy the entertainment book, at a cost of $25-$45 thru the web site or through fundraisers, for the destination they’re headed to and take advantage of the coupon savings there. Get more, pay less. I like that.
Monday, October 19, 2009
But considering the competition, it's not too shabby that Michigan was just voted the 11th-best golf destination in America by readers of Golf World. My personal vote would probably put it somewhere in the top eight in heated competition with places like northern California (Pebble Beach), Pinehurst, N.C.; Florida, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Kohler, Wisconsin; the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama and Bandon, Oregon.
Considering that most of those other places have a year-round golf season, it's a miracle that Michigan is even in the mix at all. It speaks volumes to the quality and depth of Michigan's product. With more than 800 public courses, Michigan is the public golf capital of the world.
I read in Golf Digest a few years back that only California had more four star courses than Michigan. Both had more than 100. Think about that. You could spend 5 or more summers trying to play the best the state had to offer and still not see them all.
Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon also made headlines during the reader survey, taking top honors for the most popular public course category. That's amazing considering how far out of the way the course is. Yet the effort to find the Tom Weiskopf course is rewarded with a stunning clubhouse and one of the most pure golf experiences in Michigan. The waste bunkers bring the best of the North Carolina sandhills to meld with the pristine woods of northern Michigan for some great golf. The management by Troon Golf ensures that every guest is well cared for.
With any readership poll, there are some quirks in the rankings. Arcadia Bluffs ranked 16th in the public course category (fair enough), but the unheard of Cedar Chase course in Cedar Springs made the list at No. 23, followed by Eagle Eye in Bath (27th), Bucks Run in Mount Pleasant (30th), Pilgrims Run in Pierson (31st) and Shepherd's Hollow (tie for 4oth). Maybe some ballot-box stuffing was done for Cedar Chase, but the others are all worthy candidates.
In the resort category, the Resorts of Tullymore checked in at No. 27, high praise for a resort still in the development stages, beating out rivals like Treetop Resort in Gaylord (32nd), the Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey (38th) and the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme (45th).
Again, like I wrote a few weeks ago, rankings are subjective and worth noting but hardly worth living by. Any Michigan course or resort that made these lists are worthy of a visit. Choosing which one you like best is part of personal preference and part of the fun of it all.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The GAM now offers members a chance to play unused tee times at private clubs throughout the state. At any time of the day or night, GAM members can look at the GAM home page to see what clubs have thrown tee times into the pool for outside play. You can book up to a week in advance.
Now you don't have to scheme about jumping the fence to bag that trophy course you've always dreamed of playing.
When I checked the site this morning, I found tee times at Wabeek Country Club; the Wyndgate; Boulder Lakes Golf Club, Davison Country Club and Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club and Western Golf & Country Club. Since I've never played at any of these courses, if the weather was a bit nicer, I'd be jumping at these opportunities.
The price quoted once you click on a tee time includes golf, cart and driving range (if available). For example, a tee time at Wabeek, a Pete Dye design, would have cost $50 per player.
The GAM touts the program as a great opportunity for GAM members to play different courses and experience the benefits of private club membership. The reality is few players are looking for country club memberships these days. I look at it as an opportunity to knock off the bucket list of courses you and your friends have wanted to play but haven't had access to before.
Last year, the GAM introduced a similar program that opened private clubs to public players. The "GAM Golf Days" are competitions held every Monday all season long at private clubs around the state. For a minimal cost of $55, tournament competitors tee it up at places like the Country Club of Lansing and other prestigous clubs for a shot at prizes in net and gross divisions, depending on your handicap.
Questions about the new tee time program should be directed to the GAM membership department at (248) 478-9242 ext. 19 (Don't call the club direct). For info on Golf Days, contact coordinator Chris Mills at (248) 478-9242 ext. 30 or email@example.com.
Even if the weather continues to fizzle out this fall, consider these programs in your planning for playing next summer. The deals to experience some top-notch private clubs are priceless. Consider yourself a member for a day.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Well, as we all know, nothing is free. But these promotions for great golf in northern Michigan are as close as it gets.
The Gaylord Golf Mecca's FREE Fall Golf Weekend is set for Oct. 16-18. Visitors who book an overnight stay at one of the participating hotels will be able to play a FREE round of golf on one of the participating Gaylord Golf Mecca courses. Golfers simply call one of the participating hotels to book your room and mention you would like to participate in the FREE Golf Weekend. The hotel will then make the tee-time and present a golf certificate to golfers upon check in. The certificate is then presented to the golf course in order to get the FREE round of golf.
If you've been reading this blog you know my love for Gaylord and its mix of 21 different courses. It's a convenient destination right of of I-75 and there's a price point for everyone, from standard hotels to the more golf-centric resorts like Treetops Resort and the Otsego Club and Marsh Ridge.
Also to note, the Hawk's Eye Resort in Bellaire will hand out free golf on The Chief for the remainder of the season starting Oct. 5. All it costs is the $20 cart fee Monday thru Thursday or $30 on the weekend. I've only played The Chief once and the shortish John Robinson design ate me for lunch. I thought I could drive up north, hop out of the car after five hours and tangle with a course that measures just 6,600 yards from the tips. How wrong I was. About 8 holes into my round, I moved up a tee box. The Chief isn't the real draw here, but for that price, it's a steal. The Hawk's Eye course is one of the top 10 courses up north.
As I write this post, the weather outside -- it's pouring rain on my roof -- reminds me why golf courses up north are dying for your business. They're trying to squeeze in a couple more rounds before they close for the season. But if the weather breaks, you could be the one smiling.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Whenever I go to play golf, I meet someone from Michigan who works in the industry. It just proves how entrenched the game is in the fabric of life here.
Two weeks ago, I hopped off the airplane in Albuquerque, N.M., and headed immediately for the first tee at Isleta Eagle Golf Club, a solid resort course just 15 minutes from the airport. There I met head professional Mike Ciolek.
I found out Ciolek went to college in Michigan and had recently come home to play some golf, teeing it up at Shepherd's Hollow in Clarkston.
It was deja vu for two other trips I've taken in the past year. Last fall at The Broadmoor, the 5-star retreat in Colorado Springs, Colo., head professional Mark Kelbel proudly proclaimed he was Michigan born and raised and loved to get back home whenever he could.
At the luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort in S.C. last February, I enjoyed a round of golf with Mike Vegis, the resort's public relations director who went to Michigan State University and still loves his beloved Spartans.
Michigan might not produce PGA Tour-quality players like many other golf-crazy states -- the season is just too short -- but it produces some of the industry's best managers, golf professionals, superintendents and other key behind-the-scene positions. Give thanks to the turfgrass program at MSU and the golf management program at Ferris State University for pumping out these talented folks who are passionate about the game. Many of these people stay in Michigan to work out the 1,000 or so golf facilities here. Still, many more move to warmer climates.
Next time you're traveling to a course far away, don't just zoom in and out without talking to the golf staff. Chances are you'll meet a new friend who grew up or went to school in Michigan. You might have more fun talking about the Wolverines or Spartans or Pistons or Lions than playing the course.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The falling temperatures, shorter days and deteriorating course conditions (usually due to frost and aeration) force operators to discount their rates in the fall, a bonus for those of us who believe the season runs until the snow flies.
The best way to find out about all the fall specials going on around you is to go to a course’s or resort’s website and sign up for its e-mail club. You’ll get every promotion conveniently e-mailed to you, including the new fall rates. Sometimes, the course owner or operator will even e-mail out a special price for those loyal enough to sign up for the list. Here are some e-mail deals that have caught my eye in the past two weeks:
· Play Fox Run Country Club in Grayling this fall and get a free green fee voucher for next spring.
· Yarrow Golf Club in Augusta runs just $25 on weekdays and $35 on weekends beginning Oct. 1.
· Grand Haven Golf Club boasts $35 Tuesdays.
· Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville has fall escape and spa packages for $139 a night per person.
· College Fields in Okemos is $29 weekdays anytime and after 1 p.m. weekends and $35 on weekend mornings.
· Mystic Creek in Milford has cheap-skate Mondays for $21 and tee times ranging from $29-$35 on weekdays depending on the day and time.
· Stonebridge, an Art Hills course in Ann Arbor, runs $33 before 3 p.m. and $25 afterward on weekdays. Weekends are $42 descending to rates as low as $25 as the day goes on.
· Marsh Ridge Resort in Gaylord has a $189 fall retreat package that includes golf, an overnight stay and a gourmet meal and breakfast for two.
· Northville Hills, a fun Arnold Palmer layout, has all-you-can-play for $35 during this week.
· The Loon in Gaylord has all-you-can-play specials for $25 during the week and $36 during weekends through September.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I enjoy them. Who doesn't? The courses and resorts love them for their marketing materials. The customers love them. Golfers like to brag to friends that 'I played one of the top 50 courses in Michigan' or something along those lines.
But I don't take stock in the actual ranking. I use them more as a general guide. The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme recently was honored by Golf Digest as having the 48th best golf resort in the country. It's the first time the resort has been so honored, and in my opinion, long overdue.
But I don't take stock in the resort's actual ranking (No. 48). I look at the honor as more of a validation that the resort is "among" the top resorts in the country. Whether it's No. 48 or 38 or 68 doesn't really matter.
The fact is the resort belongs among the best because of its amenities and the experience it delivers for golfers. The three courses are superb and all nearby. Shooting a number at The Bear remains a status symbol for any player, like saying you dated a supermodel.
Everything else at the resort is top notch. The accomodations are nice. The restaurants are great. The surrounding attractions -- with the new Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel down the road and the vibrant downtown and beaches of Traverse City in the other direction -- can only be rivaled among Michigan's golf resorts by The Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey.
Even the little things, like the policy that allows dogs at Grand Traverse and the new water toys at the indoor pool, add up to help boost the resort's image in the eyes of the people doing the rankings. The honor just makes me want to get back to the resort sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The kids are back in school and for some, the clubs might have moved from the trunk of the car to the garage for the season.
Not me. Fall is my favorite time of year to play. The weather is still beautiful. The courses are less crowded and they're still in great shape.
But whether you plan to play more golf or not, fall is a great time to take stock in your game and your equipment. It's a great time to head to your local golf superstore for great deals on equipment and clothing to stock up for next season.
Carl's Golfland, with locations in Bloomfield Township and Plymouth, has advertised some drivers as low as $70. I'm visiting Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti Township this week to get my clubs regripped and do some shopping myself.
Now's the time to stock up on new wedges, because with the new groove rule taking into effect in 2010, this is the last year that manufacturers can sell irons with the old grooves that help the ball spin easier on the greens and hop out of the rough better.
You should also consider getting a lesson plan ready for winter. If you're planning on improving in 2010, the work should be done this winter, whether it's a grip change (that's my plan) or a thorough swing makeover. You can't do it alone, so make room in your budget for at least a visit or two every month to the swing gurus at the Dave Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf or the crew at Carl's Golfland. Your game will thank you next spring.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The amazing thing is I still haven't seen all the courses. It seems every time I visit there's something new to discover and explore. That's what's so cool about a golf destination stocked with 21 golf courses and 20 lodging options.
Last week, I teed it up at two Gaylord stalwarts I'd never seen before, Black Forest at Wilderness Valley and the Fazio course at Treetops Resort. Funny I've never played them before, because they are two of the best.
I've always been told the Rick Smith Signature course is lauded as superior by the critics and The Masterpiece by Robert Trent Jones is the toughest course at Treetops but surprisingly I've never heard much about the only Fazio in Michigan. It might be the most fun track at the resort. There are some shocking features -- mammoth ridges in several greens and greens that require elevators to reach in regulation.
Black Forest, an early Tom Doak design, is a bit too penal to be a regular stop for most Gaylord golfers. Yet it's a visual stunner, rich with forest and bunkers.
After golf, I got my first taste of the improvements Osprey Golf has made to the Otsego Club & Resort. I stayed in the new Hilltop Lodge, which features all the advancements of modern technology like flat screen TVs and wireless internet. Yet it still melds seamlessly with the other log Alpine lodges that give the resort its charm.
Even if you have seen every course, the Gaylord Golf Mecca, the self-proclaimed "America's summer golf capital," never gets old. I've played the Pines at Michaywe more than any other course in Gaylord and it's always a treat to tee it up on a course easy enough to enjoy but tough enough to pique your interest.
I didn't get to play at Marsh Ridge Resort this time around, but owner Larry Bowden, a mover and shaker in the Gaylord golf scene for more than a decade, hosted a fabulous meal at Jac's Place, showing off the resort's talented chef and varied menu.
Even if you've seen Gaylord, it's time to go back. There's always something more in store. Even if your budget is tight, consider the free golf weekend Oct. 16-18. That's a deal almost too good to be true.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Dan Pohl, a Mount Pleasant native who is probably most famous for losing in a playoff to Craig Stadler at the 1982 Masters, has been a regular at The Huntmore Golf Club in Brighton Township, giving lessons and playing golf with friends. He’d love to be back on the Champions Tour, where he won $786,093 the past four years before injuries halted his career. Pohl, 54, is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour in 1986, earning roughly $3 million in his career.
But he’s endured 11 surgeries, including elbow, knee, neck and back operations. Pohl, who played in five Champions Tour events in 2008, said doctors told him he might need another back surgery if he didn't quit the grind of professional golf.
"Golf is demanding on the body," he said. "If you play professionally, you can't play halfway."
The July day I met Pohl for the first time, he was in rare form, jovial and friendly in recalling his playing days. He took me out to the range at The Huntmore and demonstrated his shot-making by working with a young golfer who had never even picked up a club before. Pohl told his pupil to swing hard – “We can teach control later, but you can’t teach distance” – and demonstrated a drill or two about balance. Pohl even hit shots standing on one leg, then on the other, to showcase his balance and rhythm in the swing.
"It's been exciting to have Dan," said Ron Cortese, the club's general manager. "To have a PGA Tour pro of Dan's caliber in Brighton is unheard of. Everybody loves him. His personality makes people drawn to him."
Pohl has experience in all areas of golf. He’s been popular at corporate outings in the Phoenix area where he lives and he’s even designed a few courses, notably the Pohlcat in his hometown. He’s having to reinvent himself in this down economy, but if anything, he’s shown he’s resilient.
He might beat himself up once in a while about that Masters loss – he admits wondering how different his life would have been had he won – but he’s content with a solid career that was longer than most players could ever dream. For information on lessons with Pohl, contact the club at 810-225-2498 or visit thehuntmoregolfclub.com.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
In its feature about best municipal golf courses in the country, the magazine ranked the top 100 public courses by price, from least expensive to most. Amazingly, Michigan had four entries among the top 11 least expensive top-ranked courses. They were:
· No. 2 (tie), Shepherd’s Hollow in Clarkston at $60. The Arthur Hills designed 27-hole course is ranked 42nd among public courses in the country.
· No. 4, the Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort at $65. The links-style course is ranked No. 69 among public courses.
· No. 9 Blake Lake in Onaway at $80. The Rees Jones layout is ranked No. 34 in the country among public courses.
· No. 11 (tie) Eagle Eye in Bath at $89. The course with an island green is ranked No. 47 among the country’s best public courses.
Four other Michigan courses are also among the top 52:
· No. 35 (tie), Tullymoore in Stanwood at $140. The Jim Engh design ranks No. 15.
· No. 37 (tie), Forest Dunes in Roscommon at $150. The Tom Weiskopf design ranks 18th.
· No. 46, Arcadia Bluffs at $180. The scenic gem ranks No. 10.
· No. 52 (tie), Bay Harbor in Petoskey at $199. The combo of the Links-Quarry nines ranks No. 62.
Most Michigan courses were already great buys, a byproduct of the competition of 800 public courses, the most in the country. But prices in the state have gone down dramatically the last three years, following the tumble of the auto industry. To keep customers coming in, courses have had to discount their rates. Some more than 15 to 20 percent at off-peak times.
Dave Richards, a golf marketing specialist, says that the golf packages Boyne USA Resorts has been advertising this summer for Boyne Highlands or Boyne Mountain are among the most value laden in the country for resorts of their caliber.
There are many ways to find a discount. The best one is to join a course’s e-mail marketing system. Owners and operators usually dole out impressive specials to the inboxes of loyal customers. Whether owners like it or not, discounted golf is here to stay in Michigan. It’s the best way to combat the rising unemployment and sour economy in this state.
Friday, August 7, 2009
But it's still worth blogging about.
Two things that were sure gimmees happened -- Allison Fouch won the Michigan Women's Open and the Buick Open announced it was leaving Michigan for good.
Fouch, an LPGA Tour player from Grand Rapids who is ranked among the top 80 players in the world, birdied the last hole, the par-5 18th on Mountain Ridge, to win the $5,700 first prize at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville. She finished at 8-under-par, one shot better than Whitehall's Laura Kueny, who led the tournament the whole way.
“That’s the way I prefer to win. I did what I had to do. The adrenaline was flowing pretty good but I tried to stay calm and handle my emotions. Whew! What a nice way to win,” said Fouch, who lost the championship in a playoff in 2003. “Competition like this helps. I haven’t been in game face mode in a while. I never lost my confidence. I stayed patient.”
Even though Fouch was clearly the favorite, she still performed when she had to and is to be commended for her first Michigan Open win in her eighth try. Fouch has earned just over $79,000 on the LPGA Tour this year, including a T-12 finish at the Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo in July. She's arguably the most successful pro golfer from Michigan on any Tour. Former PGA Tour golfers like Tom Gillis, a Lake Orion native who won his first Nationwide Tour event in July, and Doug LaBelle, a Mount Pleasant native with just two top 25s on the Nationwide this year, have never been able to achieve Fouch's lofty world ranking.
As for the Buick Open, its impact on Michigan is profound, financially and psycologically. It is just another blow to Michigan's image. Now we're lumped with golf's ugly stepchildren -- states like Indiana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc. -- that don't host the Tour.
Its also a another blow to the Flint area economy, from the non-profits to the local hotels and restaurants that counted on the tournament for cash flow. The Tour has indicated it hasn't given up on Michigan yet, and would like to return, but without the deep pockets of the Big Three, it's highly unlikely. Maybe somebody can convince Compuware or Little Caesars want to switch their corporate dollars from hockey to golf.
The Little Caesars Open has a nice ring to it.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
What a heartbreak.
Earlier this decade, Michigan hosted a full docket of professional events, two from the Champions Tour, one from the LPGA, one from the PGA Tour, and one apiece from the minor-league Canadian and Duramed Futures tours. It has even lost the second-best amateur tournament in the country, with the Western Am. leaving Benton Harbor for the Chicago area last summer after a 30-year run at Point O' Woods.
Just two smaller events are left standing: the Michigan Open and the Michigan Women's Open, both run by the Michigan section of the PGA. The Women's Open, in its seventh year at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa in Thompsonville, tees off this week with play Aug. 3-5 on the resort's scenic Mountain Ridge course.
With the Buick Open's pending demise, this is now the only tournament in Michigan to entice top pros to visit the Wolverine state. The $40,000 purse has attracted the LPGA Tour’s Cindy Figg-Currier, Cindy Rarick, Sue Ertl, Anne Marie Palli and Allison Fouch, as will a handful of former champions with LPGA Tour experience on their resumes, players like Elaine Crosby and Suzanne Green-Roebuck.
Fouch, a standout from Michigan State, is currently 82nd in the Rolex World Rankings. Between 1985 and 2000 Cindy Rarick recorded four LPGA Tour victories and collected earnings totaling over $2.5 million. A tournament-record 111 players will tee it up, marking the third time in five years the event has broke its own high standards.
The Michigan Open attracts some solid pro talent as well, but its top players -- like past winners Ryan Brehm, who won at Orchard Lake Country Club earlier this year, and 6-time champ Scott Hebert, who won the 2008 national club pro championship -- couldn't even make the cut at this year's Buick Open.Michigan has too many good courses, players and fans to see such a shortage of high-caliber tournament golf. Unfortunately, the state of the game greatly reflects the state of our economy. Both are on life-support.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Before Woods officially committed Thursday, did anybody even know that next week (July 27-Aug. 2) was the only time all year the PGA Tour will stop in Michigan at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc?
I hate to feel self-important, but this fact is true: Without a media day and a lack of advertising -- two problems no doubt due to the bankruptcy of Buick's parent company, General Motors Co. -- the buildup to the Buick Open has been lacking its usual punch. There's nobody trumpeting the tournament's message: This is your only chance to see U.S. Open champ Lucas Glover, Woods and John Daly up close and personal.
There are other issues that aren't helping Michigan's only major golf event. With a third new date in the past three years, fans can't plan for it on a consistent basis.
Getting a quality field has gotten tougher as well. Woods, now that he's not in the Buick family, probably won't be a regular visitor anymore and Phil Mickelson will likely never tee it up here again. This year, defending champion Kenny Perry won't tee it up, either, missing to be with his family.
Don't get me wrong. The Buick Open is good for Michigan. If it went away -- which is still a possibility without Buick's ability to commit long-term -- it would be just another blow to a state reeling with bigger problems.
The tournament is a perfect place for die-hard golf fans to get close to elite players. The tournament setting is intimate and fan-friendly. For tickets or information, visit http://www.buick.com/ or call 1-800-878-OPEN.
Another bonus: the lovable Rocco Mediate, the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, will host a free clinic 7 p.m. Tuesday at Carl's Golfland at 1976 South Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township. The 5-time PGA Tour winner will no doubt win over more fans with his chatty style and witty sense of humor. For more, visit http://www.carlsgolfland.com/
Monday, July 20, 2009
When I visited the resort in May, the course, purchased by a group led by Homestead president Bob Kuras, was just starting to awaken from a long winter of neglect, both from the wicked weather and the previous owners. New superintendent Brad Stowe was working overtime to hack down all those dandelions and try to breathe life back into the greens with the ultimate goal to be on track to apply for Cooperative Sanctuary status from Audubon International..
I've still never played King's Challenge, but a drive around the Arnold Palmer layout with new director of golf Logan Price got my juices going to give it a go. It has all the wonders of northern Michigan in place: the elevated tees, the scenery, the tree-lined corridors void of houses. It looks tight and challenging in some spots, so I can't wait to see how my nerves will hold up with a driver in hand.
The clubhouse was in even worse shape during my visit, torn up and being completely renovated, but the pictures circulated by the resort shows that the effort has paid off. The building, which will pursue LEED certification for its new environmental-friendly features, now offers a nice outdoor patio overlooking the pond surrounding the 18th hole. The flow has improved with a little library just inside the door. The pro shop, on the right, and the bar, on the left, are big enough to be roomy, yet small enough to be intimate.
Bigger plans are in the works for the course. Palmer's architects are committed to helping King's Challenge retool any tees that might need to be repositioned or brought back to life.
A grand opening, with a brand new name, could happen as soon as next June. In the meantime, if you're interested in a tee time, visit kingschallenge.com or call 231-334-5900. I recommend you play it now, then come back next summer to marvel at its ongoing transformation. Only then will players realize how committed Kuras is to great golf at his resort.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I'd trade a good round of golf for a great spa treatment any time.
Now you can have both at Crystal Mountain Resort (crystalmountain.com) in Thompsonville. The resort's latest amenity, the Crystal Spa, opened last winter, blending the green philosophy of the resort's owners with a serene, relaxing atmosphere. The northern-Michigan-themed spa features 12 treatment rooms, private locker rooms for men and women, a manicure and pedicure area, and an outdoor meditation garden with a hot tub.
The spa is the Midwest's only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified spa that fully incorporated green building practices. It cost $4 million to build the 13,000 square-foot expansion to an existing indoor pool and fitness area, but guests will find the experience priceless.
An array of spa services, extensive fitness programming and healthy cuisine from Crystal’s Peak Performance menu emphasize health and wellness. I chose to unwind with a relaxing Aromafusion, a treatment that begins with a massage on a specific area of the body followed up with steaming hot towell wraps. It awakens your senses and puts you at ease, all at the same time.
I made sure to arrive early and stay late. The men's lockerroom is one of the bigger, more comfortable facilities for men I've seen in a spa. Kudes to resort president Jim MacInnes for going to bat for men not ashamed to spend a day at the spa. Lounging in the steam and sauna rooms was a perfect escape from reality.
I'm not one who has the patience to relax, but the meditation room, with its stone fireplace, cozy chairs and cold towels for your neck or head, worked its magic. The cucumber-mint water and trail mix served there were light and refreshing to snack on.
I didn't have the energy to try the fitness center after all that down time. A quick walk-through, though, showed me that, with four flat-screen TVs and all new equipment, it's a state-of-the-art gym. The indoor and outdoor exercise rooms are spacious enough for intimate classes. I bet the indoor pool and hottub are hopping on rainy or cold days for families with young children.
Crystal Mountain has always been a great vacation spot. These additions really ups the ante. It's grown into one of the Midwest's premier resorts. Doesn't matter your tastes or your age. It has something for everyone.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
After a stay-and-play June 28, cross Hawkshead in South Haven off that list.
Who knew an asparagus farm could look so good as a golf course?
Hawkshead, a member of the Art Hills Golf Trail in Michigan, looks and plays more like a beach that was capped with fairways and greens than a former farm. Bunkers filled with bright, almost-orange sand are splashed throughout the 7,003-yard layout. It's quite an amazing setting considering Hawkshead is surrounded by cornfields and just steps from the highway.
Regulars say the course, opened in 1996 by area restaurateur Al Ruppert, is in the best shape they've seen it in years, another great reason to visit.
The front nine eases into the action. There are wide driving corridors and no forced carries.
The par-4 10th immediately steps up the challenge. A good drive up the left side of this slight dog-leg right sets up a 150-yard shot over a hazard to the green. The 330-yard 11th might be the most exciting drivable par-4 in the state. It's just 230 yards to the green because the dog-leg of the hole over wetlands and bunkers is so severe.
From there the course just gets longer with two par 4s over 430 yards and two par fives more than 525 yards from the blue tees. The 18th might be the toughest of the bunch, a 393-yard dogleg left over another sand pit crossing the fairway.
I love how simple it is to get cozy at the resort after the round. Next to the pro shop is a nice covered porch for a post-round cocktail. The inn, just steps away, features nine themed rooms. I stayed in Room #2, the comfortable Hogan Tradition. I didn't get the chance to sample the restaurant, but its menu came highly recommended from my playing partners. Filet Mignon, salmon, New York Strip, Rack of Lamb, crab legs, duck, lobster and prime rib are just a few of the highlights.
My mouth is watering just writing that last sentence. To get a taste of what Hawkshead has to offer, on and off the course, visit http://www.hawksheadlinks.com/.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A site visit by Jack Nicklaus to his Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor on June 29 created a sense of reality to the Harbor Shores Development, a $450-million, 530-acre real estate, recreation and redevelopment project that has been more than five years in the planning and more than 20 years in the making.
The 6,981-yard par-71 Nicklaus course, one of just three in Michigan, will open nine holes for preview play on July 15, with a complimentary 10th hole, for greens fees of $75. The course winds through a former superfund sight where more than 117,000 tons of toxic debris and soil have been removed. At a press conference, Nicklaus marveled that defunct factories and dilapidated buildings have been replaced by the beauty of green fairways and white-splashed bunkers. The Paw Paw River flows through several holes.
"I saw the property (several years ago) and thought, 'Where will you put a golf course?' All I see are buildings and roads," he said. "... That will be one heck of a golf course. It's beautiful. It plays nice, flows nice."
Jeff Fettig, the Chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp., which owned much of the land, said the site looks better every time he sees it.
"If you didn't see what was there before, you never realize how spectacular this is," he said.
Nicklaus made the trip to give his final blessings on the layout, paying special attention to holes No. 6-9 that are still in the early stages of construction, delayed by several lawsuits that oppose their proximity to the beach and Jean Klock Park. The seventh tees sit as islands among a large wetland with the green atop a sand dune. Nicklaus took out three bunkers and reduced the size of another to make the par-4 eighth more player friendly.
Nicklaus even made the brave prediction that his layout will rival nearby Point 'O Woods, a venerable private layout considered one of the top 20 courses in Michigan.
"I don't want to say what is better, but I have my opinion," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd of media and local VIPs gathered at the M-TEC building that will serve as the course's temporary clubhouse.
For a tee time, visit harborshoresgolf.com.