Monday, March 15, 2010

Golf season in Michigan officially here

The e-mails are streaming in one by one pronouncing the wonderful news.

Golf, in the upper Midwest, is open for business. I’ve gotten e-mails from some of the best public courses in metro Detroit – Boulder Pointe in Oxford, Moose Ridge near Brighton and Shepherd’s Hollow in Clarkston to name a few – that they’re open or will be by St. Patrick’s Day. The biggest surprise opening announcement came from Hawk’s Eye Golf Resort in Bellaire. That’s four hours north of Detroit, a northern Michigan outpost where snow usually reigns supreme until late April.

This is the earliest season opening I can remember since I began covering golf in Michigan 15 years ago. There could be a snow storm sometime in the next month. So far, though, the spring has been fantastic. Here’s the irony in all this: One local course, the Jackal at Mount Brighton, hosts a snowmobile race annually this weekend. With the forecast, it’s safe to say the race will be cancelled for the second straight year.

On a whim last week, I called my local golf course to see when it might open.

The phone rang and rang. Two thoughts crossed my mind: They’re so busy with the fabulous weather that nobody is answering the phone, or no luck, nobody’s working yet. On the second try, somebody answered and said the golf course might be open by the weekend.

Unfortunately, all weekend it rained like crazy. That might sound like a real bummer. However, it actually was a great way to rid the area courses of the record snow fall we received in February. Normally courses open anywhere between April 1 and April 15, depending on the snow and rain.

Instead of sulking for another month, I can tee it up for 18 and then grab some green beer Wednesday to celebrate March Madness. Sweet!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Golfers flock to Michigan Golf Show in Novi

There are all sorts of explanations why the Michigan Golf Show at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi was a hit last weekend.

The weather was mild and sunny, giving everybody a good excuse to get out of the house after a long winter. The Detroit Free Press reported that Sunday's temperature of 58 degrees was last experienced in the area Nov. 29. That's a long three-month stretch of cold solitude.

As the largest consumer golf show in the country, the Novi show has been popular stop for the past 19 years. Working at the Michigan Golf Magazine booth on Saturday, I was amazed at how many golfers drove in from Canada and Ohio just to check out the shenanigans. Courses and resorts were giving away their usual promotional rounds of free golf. Savvy fans printed out sticker labels with their names, e-mail and address on them so they could swoop from booth to booth in seconds for their shot at the prizes.

But the No. 1 reason for the show's success? The bargains were everywhere. The package prices if you signed up early and on the spot were insanely low. I'd never seen Boyne USA Resort packages so affordable.

Everybody who stopped at the Arcadia Bluffs booth were disappointed its prices were remaining the same, but the No. 1 course in the state can get away with that tactic, even in this economy.

I've been going to the show for more than a decade and Saturday's robust crowd was the busiest I've ever seen it. I doubt that will translate into a booming year for course owners and operators, but the signs that people want to play golf are at least encouraging.

John Hover, owner of True North Golf Club in Harbor Springs, said this show didn't have the gloom-and-doom feel of the past couple Michigan Golf Shows. He said the weather was a big reason for last summer's struggles.

If only that sun will shine a little stronger in 2010, everybody would be a lot happier ... bad economy or otherwise.