Michigan's Hot with New Courses
Michigan continues to be one of the nation's fastest growing golf markets. Here are a few more options for you to try:
Bob Doerr, co-owner of St. Ives in Stanwood, was getting ready to leave for a well-deserved vacation in Las Vegas last fall, but still took time to offer a tour of his gem, Tullymore. Tullymore is located approximately five miles from the St. Ives course, and an hour from Grand Rapids.
Doerr's excitement was contagious as he wheeled his SUV around the course, stopping here and there to make a point. As each new hole opened up before us he described how it came to be. Doerr was a great guide, as it was his labor and supervision that brought this Jim Engh course to life. Engh, based in Colorado, is another architect who will leave his mark in Michigan this year. Engh has designed courses on five continents and his vision for the land captured the attention of the folks from Stanwood. Engh has built the Sanctuary in Sedalia, Colorado; Columbia Point Golf Course in Richland, Washington; Dragon Hill Country Club in Ratchaburi, Thailand; and Dongguan Hillview Golf Club in Guangdong, China.
While it is sometimes difficult to determine a signature ingredient of an architect, golfers will no doubt leave Tullymore with an appreciation of being caught in a fingerlike Jim Engh bunker. Doerr indicated that Engh gives greenscapes an entirely different look. (You can view Bob Doerr and a look at Tullymore on our website michigangolfer.tv under the golf shorts section. You might also want to view http://www.stivesgolf.com to find out more about Tullymore. They have a great course map.)
The course is scheduled to open in early summer, but the rounds will be limited, Doerr does not want to rush the course. The next few years Tullymore will host its share of golf writers to have them determine the greatness of the course and then and only then will it be able to be compared with the pedigree of St. Ives.
Tullymore will indeed have a formidable task reaching the level of acclaim that St. Ives has, but Kevin O'Brien, the director of golf, feels it has a great shot. "Tullymore is an exciting course. It does not have quite the amount of dramatic land that St. Ives has, but it is still a spectacular course."
Keith Gornick, owner of the Otsego Club, has walked, hiked and hunted the massive land holdings of the club since he was a kid. The treasures he found in the Sturgeon River Valley as a youth will now be enjoyed by others, since he opened it up to build the newest Otsego course, The Tribute.
The Tribute will join the other Otsego courses, The Classic, by Bill Diddle; The Loon, by Mike Husby; and the Lake course by Jerry Matthews. Gornick chose the designing team of Rick Robbins and Gary Koch to work with him and share his vision of the type of course he wanted. Gornick made it known that he is but a custodian of the land and that he wanted any changes under his tenure to be positive in nature and thoughtful in their execution. These were the marching orders for Robbins and Koch, ones they were more than happy to carry out. Seldom do architects get such a wonderful piece of ground on which to ply their craft.
Robbins has designed Millcreek GC in Mebane, NC; Kedaton GC in Tangerrang, Indonesia; Palm Garden GC in Kajang Selangor, Malaysia; Waterways's Edge GC in Worth, Ill.; and Horseshoe Bay farms in Wisconsin. He is a serious golf architect and provided much of the technical background of the team. In addition, he also was the person who created the community land plan that set aside over 100 spectacular home sites in and around the course. Koch, who was a tour regular before he started doing golf commentary for NBC, added shot making knowledge to the layout. Scott Chesley, of Otsego, gave high marks to both architects saying that they came often and stayed on the site for long stretches to make sure that everything was done to their specifications.
The course, scheduled to open August 1, was warmly received by the media on a preview walk through last fall. While the course was still rough in many areas, you could tell that this was going to be a course destined for greatness. Robbins and Koch have blended some of the existing high ground of Otsego's ski hills layout, with the lowlands of Sturgeon Valley. They were also able to weave the course through a number of Sturgeon River tributaries. Golfers will enjoy the elevation of both the third and fourth holes and the serenity of the seventh and eighth that are riverside. The point-to-point course stretches out to 7,002 yards, but has a variety of well placed tees to challenge all golfers.
The Gaylord Golf Mecca now has 23 courses to market to the golfing public. There are the multi-course resorts of Treetops, Otsego, Garland and Wilderness Valley along with the single courses of Michaywe, Marsh Ridge, Gaylord CC, The Natural and Lakes of the North among others.
For tee time information, go to http://www.otsegoclub.com You can also go to http://www.michigangolfer.tv to watch a couple of video clips of Robbins and Koch.
It looks like Keith Aldridge has done it again. The young architect who stunned the Michigan golf world with his unique Gailes design in 1992 is rolling out another show stopper -- the new Blackshire course at Lakewood Shores Resort.
Aldridge used New Jersey's Pine Valley for his inspiration. Pine Valley, one of America's, and yes, the world's most revered courses, was designed by non-professional golf architect George Crump. Crump, a Philadelphia businessman was struck one day by the harshness of marsh and pine tree-laden land he was hunting on in western New Jersey. He began to visualize how such land would make a great golf course location. It was his dream to build a course that would stand up to the flat bellies of that era that were humbling the existing courses by shooting scores in the 60s.
Crump hired H.S. Colt to design the course and then spent the next eight years in a bungalow he built near the course. In those eight years, 14 holes were built. Unfortunately, Crump was not to see his masterpiece finished as he died with four holes left to create. However, friends of Crump raised the money to keep his dream alive. They hired Hugh Wilson (Merion) to finish the last four holes. To Crump's credit, the Pine Valley layout was one of the toughest courses in the world for a number of decades. It was an "examination in golf," according to Bernard Darwin, a correspondent from The Times of London and a great player of that era.
George C. Thomas, Jr. in his seminal work, Golf Architecture in America, originally published in 1927 and reprinted in 1997, presented a number of photographs of the early Pine Valley. The photos show a very rugged and imaginative course. The key to Pine Valley and thus the new Blackshire course is the intricate weaving of waste areas and vegetation throughout the course. I toured this course with Craig Peters, the director of golf for Lakewood Shores Resort. The soggy weather limited our access somewhat, but I saw enough to pique my interest. I was struck by the waste areas and the impact that they will have on the course. I caught a couple of new holes on video and you can see Peters describe them on michigangolfer.tv under the "golf shorts" heading.
Peters feels that golfers will really have an opportunity to golf three different styles of golf course at the Lakeshore Resort. They can play the Serendella, the original course by legendary Michigan golf architect W. Bruce Matthews. Or they can play Aldridge's award winning Gailes and now, the new Blackshire. Oh yes, there is also the "Wee Links" course, a par-3 course that serves as a practice area or an area for evening putting or short-game matches for golfers who are kicking back after 18 or 36 at the resort.
Much like the Gailes course, golfers will need to visit the new Blackshire to really appreciate what Aldridge has accomplished.
The Kingsley Club, located near a small town of the same name in northern Michigan, was built with a little different philosophy from most of the "Up North" golf courses.
"We wanted to build a pure golf course; a traditional-type private course with minimal impact on the landscape. Making money wasn't our driving force," said Ed Walker, a Traverse City businessman who is one of the partners behind The Kingsley Club. "There won't be a housing development surrounding the course. It's designed for people who love the game of golf, and exists solely for the enjoyment of its members and guests."
The club's founders are Walker and his partner Art Preston, a long-time friend and business associate of Walker's who owns property in Michigan, Kentucky and Texas; and Fred Muller, the PGA professional at Crystal Downs Country Club, who has served as a consultant on the project.
Muller, who introduced the other two several years ago at Crystal Downs, is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Alister MacKenzie's traditional golf course architectural philosophy. "The more we talked, the more the idea became intriguing, and then I found this 400-acre piece of property near Kingsley surrounded on three sides by state land," Walker said. "With high rolling grassland and sparsely vegetated soil, it was perfect for the type course we wanted to build. The topography was already there," Walker said, describing the property. "We didn't have to create tee boxes and bunker areas. The natural formations were already there, and, with no wetlands involved, we had no environmental issues."
The club is committed to preserving the environment and worked closely with the Audubon Society in the development of the course, according to Muller. Mike DeVries, a relatively new golf course architect who has worked with Tom Doak and Tom Fazio, was selected for his expertise in working with such a setting.
"Fred knew Mike well, and felt like he was the best person for us to work with even though he hasn't built many courses in Michigan," said Walker. "He has a minimalist architectural philosophy, and that was what we were looking for."
Nestled among mature hardwoods and white pines, the Kingsley Club is located about 12 miles south of Traverse City. Its high rolling pastures offer beautiful vistas from several points around the 18-hole course, according to director of golf Bob Pillard. "The par-71 course is designed with a wide variety of tees ranging up to 6,911 yards. Each hole is designed to offer options on routing and types of shots.
"It's a classic design that follows the lay of the land," said the PGA Professional. "The course has a Scottish feel to it; like a golf course built in the 1920s." You won't find any water on the course, but, if you like bunkers, you're in luck. There are 129 of them scattered around the course. And, if you like to walk, again you are in luck. The course, according to Walker, was designed to walk, which is encouraged by a caddie program. Power carts will be available as an option.
"It's a course that you'll want to walk," he explained, "and, that's the way we wanted it designed. I like to be able to see other holes when I play golf. I don't like the isolation you feel on many courses with individual holes. Old-style, traditional courses were designed to walk, and that's what we've achieved at Kingsley Club."
The course, which is slated to open in early June, will be available only to club members and their guests, and club membership will be limited to the first 250 who join. "Over 30 members have already joined, and the course isn't even open yet," said Walker. "We wanted to create a place with few rules and no starting times; where kindred spirits gather to have fun, make friends and play golf. If we took in more members we would have to have rules and starting times."
An extensive practice facility with a short-game area, putting green, driving range and pro shop will be located across from the clubhouse. The clubhouse sits atop a high ridge overlooking the 10th fairway and offers spectacular views of the course. A few "club cottages" will be built in the same style as the clubhouse -- to provide lodging for national members and guests. Guide services, utilizing local hunters and fishermen, will also be available for members to enjoy trout fishing on area rivers and upland game hunting on adjoining state land.
The name Lochenheath is a combination of "loch," the Scottish word for lake, and "heath," which identifies the native grasses surrounding the course, according to part-owner Marc Krakow.
When you stand on the wind-swept bluff-that used to be a family cherry orchard, above the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay looking out at Lake Michigan's deep sky-blue waters, it's easy to see how they came up with the name for the Traverse City area's newest golf course development. The cherry orchard had been in the Maitland family for nearly 75 years.
"When we decided to get out of the cherry business a few years ago, we decided to develop the land into a golf course community at the suggestion of our sons, all avid golfers," said Barb Maitland, who with her husband Jim and Krakow have formed a partnership. "We had talked about it before, but when the time came, it really seemed like the best use of the land. It makes a beautiful golf course setting."
Well-known golf course architect, Floridian Steve Smyers, who designed the par-71 course, said when he first looked at the land, "All the ingredients to create a fantastic golf course are present: gorgeous views, wonderful rolling topography and good soil conditions."
"We wanted someone schooled in classic design philosophy like that of Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross, and Smyers was the perfect fit for what we were looking to develop," said Krakow. "He's designed over 30 championship-caliber courses around the world and at least four of those are considered among the top 100 courses in the world."
Dramatic views of East Bay will come into play on 16 of the holes, and coupled with boldly sculptured bunkers and an abundance of native grasses, each hole will be visually distinctive, promised Krakow. "It would be hard to pick out one hole as a signature hole. It may be a clichˇ, but I like to say all 18 are signature holes."
Four sets of tees-ranging from around 5,000 yards to just over 7,000 will allow all caliber players to enjoy a round of golf on Lochenheath. Bent grass will be used on the fairways, greens and tees, and native grasses in the rough.
All of the bunkers are lined with limestone sand known for its consistency and drainage. "Smyers is known for his meticulous attention to detail, and it shows with the little extras - like the sand and grasses - that he's added to the course," added Krakow.
The course, although long from the tips, was designed with walking in mind, and a caddie program will be available. The unique practice area facility includes a special area for fairway shots, with tees on each end, several targeted greens, and an elaborate area to work on one's short game. A 14,000 square-foot clubhouse will feature a dining room, lounge, and golf shop and men's and women's lockers and baths.
Scheduled to open in May, Lochenheath will allow a limited amount of daily-fee play initially. Eventually it is slated to become a private golf and residential community open only to members and guests. "The development consists of 84 half-acre luxury home sites situated around the golf course directly fronting the bay with a shared commons area and access to two beaches," elaborated Krakow. "There's close to 1,500 feet of bay frontage in the "
Memberships in Lochenheath Golf Club are by invitation only. For more information call (231) 938-9800 or click on http://www.lochenheath.com. Troon Golf, a world leader in marketing of upscale golf properties, has been hired to manage the golf club operations and will be in place when the club opens this season.
In an upcoming Michigan Golfer TV show, our host, Bill Shelton, interviews Ray Hearn about some of his new projects. One that Hearn could not stop talking about was his new Strategic Fox course at the Fox Hills golf complex in Plymouth. It was a tremendous challenge for him to design the facility and he was delighted in the way it turned out.
Hearn has built a 2,554-yard, par-3, 18-hole championship course that allows any caliber of golfer to use each club in his or her bag. He has taken the entrance to the Fox Hills complex and put an inventive practice range to the right hand side and placed the new Strategic Fox course on the left side. The practice area features a driving range on either end, a superb chipping area and a wonderful putting green. The 18-hole course features holes ranging from 91-195 yards from the gold tees and 50-135 from the red tees. The course is beautifully framed by a 15-foot waterfall between the ninth and 18th holes. In addition, course officials have done a terrific job of landscaping and turf management.
Congratulations go to sisters Kathy Aznavorian and Sandy Mily for envisioning their new course. The duet also garnered some nice ink in the March issue of Golf Business magazine. The article, entitled Sister Act was a member profile that highlighted the new teaching center. Strategic Fox is scheduled for a July opening.
For more information check out http://www.foxhills.com
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