Golf a Plenty in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
by John Block
Sometimes strange things happen to golfers heading for highly publicized destinations in northern Michigan.
They get caught up in the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek triangle. Unlike the more famous Bermuda Triangle, the golfers caught up in this portion of southwestern Michigan are not lost forever.
They just happen to find an abundance of outstanding golf courses at an equally outstanding value.
The Gull Lake View golf operation has long been known and recognized as a destination for golf nomads, and they don't go wrong there. But there are many more courses available within a short drive tempt and challenge the talents and skill levels of all players.
Here's a look at what the area has to offer:
Even though it's familiar to many, this operation bears another look because the Darl Scott family continues to upgrade its facilities for the benefit of its customers.
There's a brand new spacious clubhouse servicing the two original Gull Lake View courses, West and East. Both are challenging layouts, not overly long, that wind up and down hills, through and around wetlands with a nice dash of hardwoods to spice play.
Both courses offer a wide variety of challenges and require a player to use every club in his or her bag. The West Course measures 6,506 from the championship tees and the East is shorter, and requires more finesse at 6,152 yards.
Gull Lake View also has villas to rent for golf packages of days or weeks.
Players staying at the villas aren't limited to the Gull Lake View East and West courses. The operation includes Stonehedge and Stonehedge North and Bedford Valley.
The two Stonehedge courses are just three miles from Gull Lake View, and are unique in themselves. The original Stonehedge course, designed by Charlie Scott, one of the best kept secrets in his trade, is an exciting test, even without any water hazards. Stonehedge stretches out to 6,656 yards.
Right across M-89 is the North course, which is a shade longer at 6,673 yards. Charlie Scott and his son Jon combined on the design of this layout. It's a unique layout with six par fives, six par fours and six par threes.
Bedford Valley wasn't designed by the Scotts, but they've brought it back to prominence. For years Bedford, which is located just north of Battle Creek, was the site of the Michigan Open.
It's an imposing course, stretching to 7,020 yards from its championship tees. It requires not only length, but also precision iron play as well as solid putting to negotiate the large greens.
It's best to make reservations early. The Gull Lake View courses do a booming business and the villas are extremely popular. For more information, call 616-731-4149.
While in the area, check out some of Battle Creek's other exciting offerings. Formerly a private club, Marywood has tried to maintain that aura while opening up for daily fee play. It is esthetically pleasing as well as challenging. Located just a few miles from Bedford Valley, Marywood measures 6,822 yards over rolling terrain. The par four and par three holes make this course. Players can make up shots on the par fives, three of which are on the front side.
The first two holes are the most inviting par fives, measuring 520 and 515 yards. Failure to take advantage there can make for an arduous round.
For more information call 616-968-1168.
South and east of Battle Creek players can test their skills at Binder Park, Cedar Creek and Cedar Farms.
Binder is a municipal layout measuring 6,352 yards. It's a fun place to play and is currently being renovated and another nine is being added. The original fourth and 13th holes are being eliminated and two new holes constructed. A new clubhouse and practice facility along with three practice holes are also being constructed. The new course, being designed by Jerry Matthews, and the clubhouse are scheduled to open in the spring of 2000.
For more information call, 616-966-3459.
Cris and Kriste Vocke have made Cedar Creek an inviting place to play, and the addition of Cedar Farms is an appealing addition to the area's offering. Cedar Farms, which opened last summer, is an executive golf course. The longest hole is 297 yards, but this is no pushover. It's a thinking player's course, and with its different tee markers poses a challenge for all players. Cedar Farms plays to a par of 61 over its 3,370 yards.
For more information call 616-965-6423.
Kalamazoo's signature course is Milham Park, the city-owned layout that is one of the finest municipal courses in the state. Milham is not only a bargain buy, it is a real challenge at over 6,574 yards.
For more information call 616-344-7639.
The city of Kalamazoo also owns Eastern Hills and Red Arrow, which is an executive course just minutes from downtown.
Eastern Hills continues to grow in popularity. Under management of the Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Association, this 27-hole layout, is being given a complete facelift. Bill Newcomb is the architect in charge of the work, which is major, but it is being done at the end of the regular season so as not to interfere with normal play.
Eastern's original 18 measures 6,599 yards while the third nine is a shorter test of just 2,698 yards playing to a par 35.
For more information call 616-385-8175.
Par Five Golf Group, which owns and operates the challenging Lake Doster Golf Club in Plainwell, is in charge of The Prairies, located on the west side of Kalamazoo, just off US-131. Formerly known as Elks Country Club, The Prairies has its new name as well as its new management team. Neither one has hurt play. In fact, the course is now open to all players and is busier than ever.
Par Five has made some changes, one of them being the starting hole. Come prepared to play now. The first is a challenging 425-yard par four. It was a stiff test at No. 7, but now it even plays tougher. Come prepared to hit it right out of the chute.
For more information call 616-343-3906.
A few minutes away from The Prairies is one of the more challenging courses in all of southwest Michigan. It's a bit out of the way, but well worth the search.
Thornapple Creek stretches out to 6,905 yards and has large, undulating greens that put a premium on approach shots. Get it close or three-putt. Thornapple's signature hole is the 593-yard 13th, which goes around a small lake and requires a third shot to cross the lake to a severely slated green.
For more information call 616-344-0040.
Indian Run, operated by Jan Matthews (wife of the late Greg Matthews who passed away in December) and her son Tim, former Michigan Open champion, poses as big a challenge as any in the area from its championship tees, where it stretches to 7,003 yards.
Indian Run's par threes are the hallmark of the course and the 426-yard 18th hole that requires a long, accurate drive and a second shot over a pond that stretches across the front of the green provides for an exciting finish.
For more information call 616-327-1327.
Other courses to choose from in the area include Ridgeview, just west of Kalamazoo; Oakland Hills, a nine-hole layout in neighboring Portage; Maple Hills, another testy nine-hole course not far from the Gull Lake View courses; and Hickory Ridge, located between Comstock and Galesburg, with 27 sporty holes. Grand Prairie is a nine-hole executive course on the west side of Kalamazoo that is popular for those seeking a quick round.
Heritage Glen, located in Almena Township between Kalamazoo and Paw Paw, is one of the finest courses in the area. Heritage gets a player into the action gradually, starting out with some short par fours, but the degree of difficulty increases as play continues.
The front nine par fives are especially challenging as are the varied par threes, and there are some intriguing par four holes, especially on the back nine. It's a course you'll want to visit more than once.
For more information call 616-657-2552.
Within easy driving distance from Kalamazoo are several other outstanding courses. Lake Doster, located between Plainwell and Richland, takes a back seat to none. Otsego offers Prairiewood, which presents a variety of settings.
One of the area's newest courses is The Lynx, located on M-89 between Otsego and Allegan. This course was designed by Jon and Charlie Scott and it's easy to read their signature. The 10th hole is the best, offering a beautiful scenic vista as well as a challenge. It's a 411-yard par four that is all downhill with trouble right and left. A large sand trap guards the approach to a large green that elevates considerably from front to back.
For more information call 616-694-5969.
Other area courses available to visiting golfers include Eagle Creek, the sister course to The Lynx just a few miles away on M-89, Cheshire Hills and Shamrock Hills, both near Gobles, Olde Mill, Schoolcraft, Pine View, near Three Rivers, Lake Cora Hills in Paw Paw and Lawton Golf Course.