by Greg Johnson
BELLAIRE, MI_Rodger Jabara can't wait to play it, build a house near it and let resort guests take a crack, too.
It is the new Tom Weiskopf-designed course at Shanty Creek Resort, targeted for a summer opening that will put it in the loop with The Legend, Schuss Mountain Golf Club and the Summit Golf Club to offer 72 holes at the popular northern Michigan resort.
"It's stunning," said Jabara, the popular director of golf at the resort who has purchased a lot near the middle of the front nine.
"It will be one of the best, if not the best resort course in Michigan one day. I really believe that. It's that good.
"Every time I go out on the site I see something else I really like. It's hard to pick a favorite hole. There are so many great ones."
Weiskopf couldn't pick one. He said he tried to make every hole a signature hole. The 55-year-old golf legend is certain golfers will go away talking about the dramatic 13th and 14th holes, however.
No. 13 is a very short par 4, measuring just under 300 yards from the back tee position. It appears to offer a huge fairway from the tee, but it is actually a double fairway. The lower left of the fairway is wide, but the golfer will not be able to see the surface of the green from that side. The right side is at a higher elevation, but will require a long and straight tee shot.
"It's a risk-reward hole, very unusual," Weiskopf said. "You have a chance to drive the green if you run the ball through a very narrow opening, but good luck."
Did we mention the Cedar River runs to left of No. 13, and to the left of No. 14? It is stunning, and it runs behind the green at the par 3 No. 14 hole.
No. 14 features a downhill adventure, complete with the most stunning vista on the course from the tee, as well as a small green protected by bunkers that depending on your tee position, may or may not stay hidden.
"It is a very dramatic hole, a very memorable hole," Weiskopf said.
Jabara said even casual visitors and investors who have walked the property come in talking about 13 and 14.
"And then they talk about the fourth hole, the fifth hole, No. 9, and on and on," he said. "It's just a wonderful golf course, classic, big, pretty, everything."
Weiskopf was a hands-on designer who made numerous visits during construction. He said he always works that way, and with great attention to detail.
"The more changes you have to determine what is right and what is wrong, the greater chance you have to correct something during construction," he said. "The worst thing a designer can have happen is to show up for an opening and someone asks 'How many bunkers are there on the course?' and you don't have an answer because you don't know.
"I can remember every hole of any course I've ever designed, every bunker and every green size and every contour on the greens, all because I've been there many, many times."
He had a specific goal in mind at Shanty Creek.
"What I'm trying to do is make this course look as though it was built at the turn of the century, not at the end of the century," he said. "This is traditional golf in a beautiful setting on a tremendous site, what I call an "A" site. The bunkering here is traditional. The entries into the green are traditional, and so is the presentation from the tee."
Weiskopf has been involved in course design since 1983. He completed 23 courses with designer Jay Moorish before starting his own firm in 1994. He has won awards, and he hopes the new layout at Shanty Creek adds to the list.
Mostly, however, the 26-time winner on the PGA Tour and Senior Tour and 1973 British Open champion, realizes the golf courses he create will outlast him.
"I traveled so much, and I played some of the great golf courses in the world," he said. "My design thoughts are reflected in all those things I've seen in the past. No one has re-invented the wheel in golf design.
"I had enough controversy as a player, so I stay away from design controversy.
"This golf course will be here a long time after I'm gone. I want golfers to like it, and I'm sure they will like this one. I feel it's something special."
For more information, call 1-800-678-4111.
by Don VanderVeen
Following in the footsteps of his famous father_and carrying a bag full of new honors himself_Rees Jones has finally arrived in Michigan.
Nearly 50 years after Robert Trent Jones turned Oakland Hills Country Club into what has become known as "The Monster" for the 1951 U.S. Open, Rees Jones has made his mark in Michigan with Thousand Oaks Golf Club.
Rees Jones, the highly acclaimed son of the legendary golf course architect, is renowned for his work at both designing and restoring some of the finest upscale courses in the country.
Thousand Oaks, located on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, is an 18-hole, upscale championship golf course that fully utilizes the layout of the land and brings all surrounding visuals into play. The sprawling layout is situated on 420 acres of hardwood forests with steep elevation changes.
"It will be like nothing else in this area," Thousand Oaks head professional Gary Smithson said. "The change in elevation is something you don't see on typical Grand Rapids golf courses. It sets everything up for golfers at every level."
When it opens for public play this summer, Thousand Oaks will become the area's first Rees Jones-designed golf course," Smithson said. "Anybody who knows anything about golf course architecture knows Rees Jones. Just his presence in Michigan is creating a lot of interest."
Although Thousand Oaks will be much more tame than "The Monster" at Oakland Hills, it promises to be every bit as eye opening.
"Thousand Oaks possesses a spectacular, natural site we were able to optimize for the game of golf," Jones said. "I guess you might say that there are a thousand reasons why you should play this course over and over again."
Wide, sweeping fairways are lined with trees in a non-imposing way. The steep elevation changes set up well for ensuing shots.
"His style of architecture is going to be user-friendly," Smithson said. "He can fit a golf course to all golfers of any level.
"He tries to give you every opportunity to not hit the ball in an ugly spot."
On a golf course of this magnitude, it might be difficult to find an "ugly spot," even in the face of adversity.
"It affords itself to some awesome views," Smithson said. "That piece of property was always there for a golf course. It is as natural of a setting for a golf course as there has ever been."
Rees Jones has carried on family tradition in spectacular fashion. His renovation works include redesigns at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Congressional in Bethesda, Maryland. Both courses hosted U.S. Opens. In addition, Pinehurst#2 in North Carolina and the Black Course at New York's Bethpage State Park, both Rees Jones restoration projects, will host U.S. Opens during the next four years.
Over the past 20 years, Rees Jones has designed golf courses in 20 states, Africa, England and Canada. His original designs include noteworthy courses such as Atlantic Golf Club in New York and Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia.
Thousand Oaks adds yet another chapter to his illustrious reputation of turning outstanding venues into must-play golf destination spots.
"This could very well be the No. 1 public golf course in Michigan. Period," Smithson said. "It could be one of the top two or three public courses in the country when we're rated. It's just that good. People don't realize what we have yet.
"Rees says he expects us to be nationally rated, and he kind of knows what he's talking about when it comes to those things."
Jones was recently bestowed with a couple major awards from Golf Digest. The publication named the Jones-designed Nantucket Golf Club in Sisaconset, Massachusetts, as the Best New Private Course.
For more information 616-458-1588.
Ubly Heights Country Club
by Art McCafferty
Ubly Heights CC is yet another Bruce Matthews III course in the thumb area of Michigan. It is a course much like that of Eagle Glen and Emerald Vale, in that the local citizenry, 225 of them, own it. Ubly Heights is a farming community located south of Bad Axe on M-19.
While the course opened in late 1997, the building that houses the country club has been there for some time. An electrician, who hoped someday to have a lighted golf course, originally built it. However, his dream did not come true. It was not until the collective wallets of the townspeople were opened that work began on the course.
Ubly Heights is located on the highest ground in Huron County. It features bent grass fairways, a two-tiered practice range, fours sets of tees and a full service clubhouse and pro shop. The signature hole is the par 5 16th, a double dogleg near its largest pond. The course resembles Emerald Vale to a degree. It has an open and expansive look, with a few trees and a lot of undulation. The trees come into play on the northwest section of the course, holes 5 and 6 and then on the backside, 14-16. It stretches out to 7000 yards, but mhe busiest I've ever been."
Hearn's design work has added some elements of uniqueness to the Quail Ridge project. The No. 9 and No. 18 holes share one double green. No. 9 is a long par-3 and No. 18 is a par-5. The fairways are separated by trees. The double green is 140 yards across.
Hearn also incorporated a waterfall that cascades down rocks behind the No. 7 green.
"Ray Hearn brought a lot to the project," Erskine said. "I told him that he was the architect and this was all his baby."
Erskine, howt year on this new course and Jim is looking for more this year.
2409 E. Atwater, 517-658-2374
by Art McCafferty
Wild Bluff is the new 18-hole championship course that is part of the Bay Mills Resort & Casinos complex located in Brimley. The course located in the Upper Peninsula and just west of Sault Ste. marie, sits on a bluff that overlooks Waishkey Bay in Lake Superior. It is the first 18-golf course owned by an Indian reservation in Michigan. And it is a great source of pride for the Bay Mills Tribal Chairman Jeff Parker. Jeff Parker and Bay Mills have been a force in Michigan gaming, a subject we will visit in our Gaming and Golf issue in July.
Wild Bluff is the latest of a number of courses in Michigan and Wisconsin that are utilizing the backdrop of the Great Lakes for aesthetic values. Of late, Bay Harbor and Arcadia Bluffs have sprung up on the west coast or Lake Michigan while the new Pete Dye Course, Whistling Straits, is setting up shop on the Wisconsin side. Now we have Wild Bluff, where you can see the waters of Waishkey Bay and St. Mary's River from holes 1, 3, 5, 9, 11, 15 and 18. It conjures up that former Michigan tag line of the "Water Wonderland." Of particular delight is 15, the signature hole. This par-3 jewel lets you take a look at Lake Superior and Canada as your shot drops 100 feet to a downhill green. It is truly a postcard hole. You can take a look at 15, 17 and 18 at their website www.4baymills.com
Golfers will find a course that meanders through mature woods that are broken up by winding revines, rolling streams and shifting elevations. It is an exciting course with a lot of visual pleasure, wide-open fairways and wonderful playability. In other words, they don't want you to have to gamble on too many shots on the course; they want you to save it for the casino.
Bay Mills offers gaming at two locations in Brimley, the Bay Mills Casino and the Kings Club Casino. In addition to the gaming, the Bay Mills Casino offers 67 rooms at their hotel with full amenities. The Casino is located on the water and the dining area takes full advantage of the views.
For Mike Husby, the course designer, Wild Bluff is a dream come true. Mike has worked hard the past 10 years establishing his credentials as a golf designer. Mike first got interested in being a golf architect, when he witnessed and sometimes assisted Jerry Matthews with The Lake course at Michaywe. He got his first real baptism of fire with Marsh Ridge, the highly acclaimed Gaylord course, owned by Jack and Ellie Bott. Mike next became involved with The Loon, another Gaylord course and one that has become a mecca favorite. Recently, Mike added new nines to Newberry Country Club and Indian Lakes Golf and Country Club, both in the U.P.
With the addition fo Wild Bluff in the east and Timberstone in the west, the Upper Peninsula is becoming more of a golf destination. They join The Rock, Hessel Ridge, Kincheloe, Red Fox and the venerable Sault Ste. Marie, as evidence of a great inventory of golf. The ride across the Mackinac Bridge will have a little more sense of urgency as golfers head to these new destinations. Call Wild Bluff at 1-888-4-Bay-Mills.
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