By: Claudio DeMarchi
The party started early last spring in Gaylord as it celebrated its 25th year in 2012. During that time over 3,600,000 golfers had been hosted by the collection of magnificent courses located in the heart of Northern Michigan right off of I-75.
Later into the season a group of us golf and travel writers converged on to the Gaylord Golf Mecca to see what the hoop la was all about.
If there was one State in America that could be labeled a summer Golf Capital, Michigan, with its 800 or so courses, may just be it! Some of the greatest names in golf have carved out spectacular courses through the dense woodlands, farm lands, over hills and into valleys and even some along the Great Lakes. That is what golf in Michigan is all about!
Nowhere in Michigan is Stay & Play golf showcased any better than in the Gaylord area with its 17 courses and 20 lodging properties!
So impressive right out of the box! Out first stop on this visit was to what might just be my now #1 ranked course in the State, Forest Dunes Golf Club – I will bet that I am not the only one giving it such a ranking. Forest Dunes is about an hour south of Gaylord. The name pretty much says it all. Forest is what you will find a lot of on the front nine and dunes on the back plenty of them. Throw in a few lakes and streams, native waste lands and of course what are dunes without wild grasses and you have a masterful mix that Golf Digest rank #20 on its list of 100 Greatest Public Courses. The Tom Wesikoff design has drawn comparisons to a couple of America’s rather well know courses Pine Valley and Augusta National. A superb test of golf on a meticulously maintained property! Need I say more?
From spectacular to diabolical might be the way to describe our transition to our second round of golf. Black Forest might just have been the toughest of the course to score on for the week. A Tom Doak design another beautiful setting, featuring rolling terrain on pretty much every hole, some of the nastiest bunkering and oh yes the diabolical greens. A few 4 putts were had on this day by more than one!
The Treetops Resort is where we called home for a portion of our visit. This property might just rank as one of the top golf resorts in the country. There are 5 courses on property including a Rick Smith designed Par 3 Course that is consistently ranked as #1 in the world. I personally started off birdie, so yeah, I liked it a lot!
The other 4 courses have all been ranked by Golf Digest as 4 ½ stars. Two courses, the Signature Course and Tradition, are also Rick Smith designs with the Tradition being a throwback to days gone by allowing golfers to walk and featuring wooden pins and pennant flags. The Signature Course is a modern design with large forgiving fairways and undulating greens. The Premier Course at Treetops is the only Tom Fazio designed course in the State. When asked to name a signature hole, Fazio replied “All of them.”
Anyone who knows the Rick Smith name will automatically think of him as one of the greatest golf instructors in the country. So, yes you can improve you game at Treetops. Lessons and golf school opportunities are available too!
Of course it is not only about golf at Treetops, relax and unwind at the Treetops Spa. But since we are pretty much all about the golf why not combine your next corporate outing or a reason to celebrate with some golf? Check out the many Stay and Play options they have available.
There are no bad lies at the UAW owned Black Lake Golf Club. The impeccably maintained Rees Jones design spares no expense when it comes to taking care of the property. Even the cart boys, sorry the cart gentlemen are for the most part retired auto workers still making a unionized $18.00 per hour helping us golfers with our bags from our cars to the carts!
It was worth the trek up from Gaylord, just over an hour to Onaway. In May of 2012 Golf Digest ranked Black Lake #44 on the list of 100 Greatest Public Courses and #9 in the “Best Value” category. And what a deal it is, for a course of this stature the highest rate you will pay is $70.00 and that is weekend during the peak summer season. Impressive right from the first hole on and you will see some of the most impressive bunkering ever. Hopefully only from the fairway!
One of my favorite memories of playing with long time friend Doug McPherson was at the Otsego Club a number of years ago just after the Tribute Course opened. After a few attempts at hitting his ball out of the fescue on the side of a hill Doug attempted to get airborne twirling his club overhead before launching towards the fairway. To this day that visual makes me chuckle.
There are 2 courses at the Otsego Club. The Classic was the founding course of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, a traditional parkland style course with a straightforward approach to the game. This style of course offers a change of pace from the new 7,000 yard plus muscular tracks.
The Otsego Club & Resort has an ump papa feel to it a European flare suitable for an all season property with hill top lodging called just that – Hill Top Lodge with 117 richly appointed guestrooms, chalets and suites. We were lucky enough to spend a couple of evening floating in some of the most comfortable beds in the state.
You need to have a good night sleep before you get set to tackle the Tribute course at Otsego currently ranked #8 Best Public Golf Course in the state by Golf Magazine. Just ask Doug! Elevations changes prevail with hole after hole providing spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The course winds its way through the Sturgeon River Valley so you know that you will have some water to contend with. On the shy side when it comes to bunkers or at least I stayed out of them. The large undulating greens more than make up for that!
A golf trip to Gaylord would not be complete without a round at Marsh Ridge Resort. There are two courses on the property, one by the same name as the property and the other The Natural. Both are 4.5 rated by Golf Digest and showcase the rolling terrain and famed marshes that are found in the headwaters of the Ausable River. A highlight of the property is definitely JAC’s Place offering up one of the finest dining experiences in the area. Make sure you stop and say hi to GM Larry Bowen one of the most welcoming people you will ever meet in the State. If you are having a nice meal at JAC’s let him pick the wine for you!
For more information on Golf and Stay and Play available in the Gaylord Golf Mecca www.gaylordgolfmecca.com