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Mackinaw and Sault Area

by Art McCafferty

An early spring helped turn away the memories of a poor winter for the tourist-dependent North Country. Snowmobiles have yielded to golf carts and boats to those that crave leisure action close to the bridges of Mackinaw and the Sault. These areas are getting very serious about their golf and have started breaking out the advertising dollars to tell their story.

With the addition of the new Sheplers Mackinaw Crossing, Mackinaw City has jumped into the big leagues as a destination area. In years past, it has been primarily a parking lot for those going to Mackinac Island.

Of late, two new golf courses -- Mackinaw Club and Hidden River Golf and Casting Club -- have joined the two Mackinac Island courses, Grand Hotel's Woods/Jewel and century old Wawashkamo, and two nearby courses of Pine Hill and Wilderness Golf Course to give the area some real golf fire power.

Wilderness Golf Course is a nine hole course right down the road from the Mackinaw Club. It is a nine hole course run by the Nye family. Pine Hill, owned by Barb and Larry Hallbert, offers both an 18 hole course and a 18 hole executive course for the golfing public. Superintendent Shannon Williamson keeps the place looking tip top. According to owner Mary Carter, Mackinaw Club is ahead of schedule on their rounds. "We had an early opening this year our rounds are way up," said Carter.

Roger Wilson, owner of the new Hidden River Golf and Casting Club, says his rounds are right on projection. "Students are getting out of school a little later this year, and the real rush has not started yet," said Wilson. However, he is more excited about the comments he has been getting. "I had one group come through about a week ago, that said Hidden River 'is the best course up north.' We really were fortunate in getting Bruce Matthews (III) to design the course. We are thrilled with what he has done, " said Wilson.

Brad Jones, of the Mackinaw Area CVB, could not be happier at this turn of events. There are 3200 rooms in Mackinaw City an increase of 40% in four years, and many of them are starting to fill up with golfers. Golfers are starting to bring their clubs when they come to Mackinaw now. The awareness factor is going up all the time. Plus, there are a variety of things to do after your round is over, besides eating fudge. The new Center Stage Theatre opened this year with Stagestruck. Stagestruck is an award winning fast paced Broadway-style musical featuring lots and lots of show tunes.

Dan Donarski, director of the Sault Travel Bureau, keeps hitting on his theme of Fairways and Rivers for his developing Upper Peninsula golf mecca. Sault Ste.Marie CC, Tanglewood GC, Kincheloe Memorial GC, The Rock at Woodmoor, Munoscong GC, Hessel Ridge GC and the new Wild Bluff at Brimley give him plenty of ammunition to back up his claim as the "Golf Mecca of the Upper Peninsula."

The Mackinaw and Sault areas have featured three of their courses -- Hessel Ridge, The Rock at Woodmoor Resort and the Mackinaw Club -- on this year's Golfing the Great Lakes television series. Next year, both Hidden River and Mike Husby's new Wild Bluff course at Bay Mills Casino course will be featured.

For golf package information, contact the Mackinaw Area Tourist Bureau at 1-800-666-0160 and Sault Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-647-2858, or catch them on the web. (see MG Internet directory)

Kalkaska's Timber Wolf

With two of the worst spring and summer growing seasons behind him, Tim Caverly of the Timber Wolf Golf Course in Kalkaska is finally realizing the fruits of his labor. The Timber Wolf, which opened late last year, is settling into the course envisioned by both Tim and architect Bruce Matthews III. Matthews is creating a name for himself in the north country with the openings of three of his designs: Timber Wolf, Manton's Emerald Vale and Brutus's Hidden River Golf and Casting Club.

Joining the team this year is Jim Mrosinski. Jim, a graduate of the Ferris State PGA program has worked 10 years with private clubs and is now in his 4th year of public golf. Jim wants to develop programs for area youth. He has started a "Sticks for Kids" program. He is starting to offer some short game clinics at Timber Wolf. A driving range is scheduled for the course in another couple of years.

The clubhouse, a 100 year old beauty, is slowly taking form. They are also offering golfers a healthy, (pun intended), selection of foods. The foods are all cooked with hot air, thus reducing the fats involved with normal cooking.

Nearby, All Seasons Resort run by Charles Harp, is working with Timber Wolf, Twin Birch and Grand View to offer golf packages. What has been a trickle is now becoming more of a flow. " Next year, we will be getting all the properties together to begin to market ourselves a little more aggressively to the golfing market." Mroskinski indicated that they are working with Traverse City and Grayling hotels as well. "We get quite a bit of traffic from Traverse City, we are only 20-25 minutes away."

As described in an earlier review in Michigan Golfer, Timber Wolf is a course that has a mixture of open and wooded fairways. The course has a variety of interesting sand and waste bunkers. Of particular note is the Timber Wolf hole where a collection of sand traps provide the outline of a wolf paw print. Clay Montgomery is the course superintendent. 616-258-5685, timberwolf@coslink.net, 5646 M-72, Kalkaska

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