Monday, September 28, 2009

Michigan produces top head pros, superintendents

It never ceases to amaze me.

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

Take advantage of Michigan's great fall golf rates

Fall means cheap golf.

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

Grand Traverse Resort honored by Golf Digest

I've always looked at rankings of courses and resorts with a curious eye.

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

Fall's the time to take stock of your equipment, game

Fall golf is upon us.

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.