Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

New Courses Part II

Bay Harbor

by Jack Saylor

Just wait until Bay Harbor, the magnificent golf, yachting and equestrian village near Petoskey gets some national exposure.

Since the beginning of the 27-hole project, surrounded by opulent housing and a million-dollar yacht basin, Bay Harbor has been compared to Pebble Beach and tabbed "Pebble Beach of the Midwest."

But wait.

When the rest of the golfing world gets a load of Bay Harbor, the folks may even throw pebbles at Pebble Beach.

This is not meant to demean the storied California seaside resort in any way. Certainly, Pebble Beach has history -- from its U.S. Opens to the time-honored Bing Crosby Clam bakes (aka AT&T National Pro-Am) complete with hijinks from Phil Harris to Bill Murray.

But let's get serious about the golf course. Despite the fact Jack Nicklaus says if he had only one round of golf to play, he would play it at Pebble Beach, the course really only has five or six holes that are very specials.

And remember, Jack Nicklaus hasn't played Bay Harbor yet.

Except for the lush homes surrounding it, Pebble Beach doesn't grab you until you reach the tiny par-three seventh hole, with its green tucked almost into Carmel Bay.

That is a wonderful hole where you can hit almost anything from a pitching wedge to as high as a three to five-wood, depending on how hard the wind is blowing off the bay.

OK, throw in the eighth hole, too, the rugged par-four with its heroic second shot over the gorge, perhaps the toughest par-four in creation.

Add the ninth along the water, then you wind away from the views of Carmel Bay until you head to the par-three 17th, usually into the wind and famous for Nicklaus' one-iron shot that clinched a U.S. Open. Finally, of course, you include the 18th hole, maybe the most-televised finishing hole in golf.

This is where Pebble Beach's history is written and from whence cometh its fame. Bay Harbor has no history -- yet.

It will never approach Pebble as a tournament site because of its location away from the necessary population centers -- and who would have it otherwise?

But for unadulterated beauty, hole after hole, through its breathtaking Links nine, the stunning Quarry nine and the rolling, tree-lined Preserve nine, a shotmaker's delight, Pebble Beach doesn't have this kind of variety.

Nineteen of Bay Harbor's 27 holes have views of Lake Michigan.

Additionally, even the holes that cut back into the Preserve nine are more compelling than the non-ocean holes at Pebble Beach.

Golfers can begin playing all 27 holes at Bay Harbor in late June. "I'm really excited about it," said Steve Kircher, son of Boyne Country founder Everett Kircher and the general manager of the resort's Michigan operations, which includes 162 holes of northern Michigan golf, including Bay Harbor.

Kircher also is revved up about the exposure the project is getting this year. "You can play Bay Harbor on your personal computer with Microsoft's computer software game," he said. "Imagine, millions of people playing Bay Harbor this year on their computers."

Bay Harbor is an offering for Microsoft's "Golf '98" program.

"Additionally, Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson are going to play a Shell Wonderful World of Golf match on the course Sept. 1," Kircher added. "It'll be shown on TV, Oct. 13.

"The fall colors won't quite be at peak, but the turf on the course will be in its best shape. It will show off northern Michigan in its best light.

"Having this event will be a defining moment for Michigan tourism," Kircher proclaimed.

Golf fans were immediately smitten by the striking beauty of the holes on the Links nine, first to open at Bay Harbor. The nine added last season were a mixture of the preserve and the finish of the Quarry nines.

Now, those nines are separated with the opening of the dramatic holes in the old sand and gravel pit that gave the Quarry nine its name.

"The Quarry is really cool," Kircher said. "It's very special, unique. The two par-fives -- the 12th and 14th, are fantastic."

The 12th hole skirts the rim of the quarry, with sand dunes on one side and the quarry wall on the other, then you approach to the green partway down in the quarry.

"It's a great risk-reward hole," Kircher noted, "as is the 14th, which is in the quarry with an elevated green in front of a rock wall with a waterfall forming a moat hazard in front of the green. Then, of course, you head back toward the bay and come in alongside -- a great finishing stretch."

If you're ready for Bay Harbor, get the rates and tee times by calling 1-800-GO-BOYNE. Information is also available at www.boyne.com. Save the time and bother of traveling to California.

The Crown

by Nick Edson

TRAVERSE CITY -- The name has changed.

So has the course, the layout, the golf director and even the clubhouse.

To say there have been sweeping changes at The Crown Golf Course near Traverse City is an understatement.

"You wouldn't recognize the place if you haven't played here in a few years," said new director of golf Brian Davis, who formerly owned The Hack Shack.

"We've got nine new holes of golf, re-did two of the holes on our existing course and generally gave the place a big facelift."

The new nine will open for play this spring as owner Ken Murray has pumped in a new look and new life into a course that was formerly known as Green Hills.

The Crown doubles as a residential spot, with 300 home sites surrounding the course.

"We're trying to appeal to everyone," said Murray. "We've got golf at modest prices and a spot for people to live that's not only close to our course, but also to the Grand Traverse Mall and other attractions in the Traverse City area."

The Crown's new nine holes feature changes in elevation, more trees and a greater emphasis on club selection than the original nine holes.

"Our original nine was pretty wide open," said Davis. "So we wanted to do something different with the new nine, give it a distinctive look."

The back nine features The Crown's version of Amen Corner, three holes that have been dubbed The Royal Revenge because of the toll it could take on unsuspecting high handicappers.

The 14th hole, the start of Royal Revenge, is a par 5 that plays to 530 yards from the championship tees.

It features a dogleg right around a treacherous ravine to a narrow three-tiered green. The green is protected by bunkers.

Then comes the par four 15th hole, a 317 yarder. Don't let the distance fool you. There are two forced carried over wetlands, with a narrow opening to a large, undulating green. Getting on the green will be only half the battle to securing par.

The 16th hole is a 178-yard par three that is downhill. The secret here is club selection.

By the time golfers head for the home hole, they'll be ready to visit the new clubhouse, which is scheduled to be completed by June. Plans are also in the works for a new clubhouse and restaurant next year.

Another addition this year: New greens superintendent Joe Colangelo, formerly of The Natural and Treetops.

"One of our big selling points is affordable golf," said Davis. "We've upgraded this course, along with all the amenities, and can offer some challenging golf without it costing people an arm and a leg.

"We're very excited about the changes."

Still, it boils down to golf.

And The Crown offers more than just a new look and moderate prices.

One of the keys to playing well on most Traverse City area courses is an ability to battle the wind.

It's no different at The Crown.

"There's no question wind is a real factor here," said Davis. "These holes don't run parallel to each other, so you're always facing a different direction. That means the wind will come into play quite a bit here."

The Crown, which is located on the southwest edge of Traverse City, two miles from the Grand Traverse Mall, will play to 6,676 yards from the back tees. The white tees will feature yardage of 6,131 and the front tees, 5,007.

The rates for the summer season will be $28 to walk 18 holes or $40 for 18 with a cart. The nine hole rates are $22 and $14. The twilight rate is $30.

For more information on The Crown, call Davis at (616) 946-2975.

Nick Edson is sports editor at the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The Hawk at Partridge Creek

by Art McCafferty

The good news: Jerry Matthews continues to contribute to his legacy with the opening of The Hawk at Partridge Creek. Matthews had the assignment of creating an upscale championship course and a state of the art practice facility by utilizing the land that was being used by three of Partridge Creek's existing six nine hole courses. Result . . . he has done it!

The bad news: The Hawk, which opened late last year, has already gained a reputation in the Macomb area as an excellent test of golf. It is a bruising 7024 yards from the tips, then drops down to 5366 at the forward tees. The Hawk's slope comes in at 132 and its course rating is 73.6. Had enough bad news? Want more? The Hawk has 70 bunkers and 11 holes with water hazards.

Some more good news: The Hawk has the greens to catch those incoming shots with all of them averaging 8,000 square feet. They have Superintendent Doug Mozal, who will make sure that the course is always in excellent shape. They have a new teaching and practice area that will prepare golfers for their round. Their full service facility contains a split level 25,000 square foot bent grass driving range with target greens, a 15,000 square foot bent grass putting green, a 2,000 square foot practice bunker and a 3,700 square foot practice chipping /pitching practice green.

The Hawk, 43843 Romeo Plank Road, Clinton Township, 810-228-3030

Inkster Valley

by Art McCafferty

Inkster Valley is a masterpiece of land reclamation that serves both man and the environment. Built on the flood plain of the Lower Rouge River, the land had become part of the massive 4,000 acre River Rouge area clean up initiative started by Wayne County. Greenscape Design, represented on the golf side by Harry Bowers, has been working on the project for the past two or three years. Bowers who designed The Rock, Marion Oaks and the Captain's Club to name a few, felt this to be one of the more challenging courses due to the terrain. " I worked closely with JJR. Inc, who are land planning and environmental consultants, and they were extremely helpful," said Bowers. Bowers had to work hand in hand with both the federal and state governments as he pulled together the design for Inkster Valley. "The site was initially a mess. People for years had been using the area as a dump. We found abandoned automobiles, appliances, tires you name it, they were all there." The basic problem for Bowers was to design a golf course in a flood plain on land that was high enough to escape most of the flooding that happens every spring. And on the other side of the equation, the site had to be also designed to retain water, to minimize flooding problems down river by trapping and detaining as much water as was possible during the flooding.

As challenging as it was, Bowers did have some taste of being between a rock and a hard place when he designed The Rock on Drummond Island. His problem there was to find enough dirt to grow the grass on a golf course as the site at The Rock was, well . . . rock. Lest we figure that all of Harry Bowers course sites are masochistic in nature, he has had some easier pieces of ground to work on, such masterpieces as Chelsea's Pierce Lake, Petoskey's Crooked Tree, Flint's Captain's Club and Caberfae Peaks.

I was struck by the enormity of the flood plain problem in a conversation with John Santina of Torre & Bruglio, the course maintenance contractor. Standing on a cart path with pen in hand, John indicated that only a week prior to my visit the place where I was standing would have had water that was over my head. Now that is some flood plain.

"We figure that the course will have to shut down four or five times a year to allow the water to move through. They have a similar problem with Warren Valley," another Wayne County course. Santina is the assistant superintendent and Jim Blauvelt is the superintendent of the course. Also representing management is Ray Glenn who oversees the Warren Valley courses along with Tall Oaks, a par three course out by the airport. Ken Whitmore will move over from Warren Valley to direct the golf program at Inkster Valley.

Lower River Rouge meets both the Middle Rouge and then Upper River Rouge near the Fairway Estates in Dearborn to become the River Rouge of Ford Motor Company fame. The Upper Rouge provides water and nourishment for Glenhurst and Rouge Park; the Middle hosts New Hawthorne Valley; and the famed Donald Ross courses of Warren Valley and now Dearborn Hills are now joined by Inkster Valley on the Lower Rouge. The River Rouge of course, provides some of the visual excitement for the TPC in Dearborn.

Inkster Valley makes a great first impression. It has a modernistic clubhouse, built by Bedzyk Bros., INC, that allows a panoramic view of the 18th hole and practice green. There is a substantial patio that will allow golfers to enjoy those great Michigan summers. It will be a great meeting area for leagues and a special place for daily players to utilize.

The course is almost a mile and a half long. It is bordered by Inkster Road on the east and Merriman Road on the west (and in between it crosses both Middlebelt and Henry Ruff Road). As might be expected, the Lower Rouge is everywhere on the course. Bowers has done a superb job in utilizing the high ground in the valley as well the wetlands that seem to be everywhere.

Golfers will note the excitement of the first two holes and then thoroughly enjoy the visual treat of the fourth through the sixth holes that wander around a large pond. The back nine offers some interesting and challenging carries with the 12th and 13th holes, with the 18th being a very strong finishing hole.

Course opens on May 22. (313) 722-8020.

Timber Trace Golf Club

by Susan Bairley

It's going to be challenging, but it's going to be fun -- big fun.

Timber Trace Golf Club, Total Golf Inc.'s newest endeavor, represents grand golf at its best. In an era when many new courses seem to be squashed into every inch of available space, Timber Trace provides golf on a broad and lavish scale. Wide, wide fairways, tall trees and a mile-long ride lakeview ride through mature woods are among its hallmarks.

Designed by Pat Conroy and PGA Master Professional/Total Golf President Jim Dewling, Timber Trace rests on 160 acres of a 650-acre residential development, which also includes an equestrian center. Located about three miles west of downtown Pinckney, off M-36, the course is scheduled to open in June.

"Our goal is to provide enjoyable and challenging golf on a daily basis," said Pat Damer, PGA head professional at the club. "Our fairways are wide, requiring double and even triple rows of irrigation, and we have wall-to-wall bentgrass. If golfers play from the right tees (appropriate to their ability), they're going to have fun out here and still be challenged.

Timber Trace measures 6,908 yards from the championship tees and 5,193 yards from its forward most tees. Golfers are offered three other sets of tees between the two.

With its towering red pines lining many of the fairways, Timber Trace has a mature, northern feel about it. Unique about its design is the one-mile ride to a loop where holes 13 through 16 are situated. To complete the round requires a return ride on the same scenic path, back to 17 and 18.

Also, on the front nine, holes 7 and 8 are isolated from the others by a road which you cross beneath, using short constructed tunnels. Open and Scottish in their appearance and play, the two holes are very different than the others.

With these diverting features on both nines, golfers may feel like they've taken a couple of short side trips while playing the course. Its different looks should be popular with patrons.

The 142-yard, par 3, 17th hole is considered the club's signature hole. Carved into the forest, its 10,000 square-foot green is protected by a front bunker that's nearly the same size. The hole's a beauty, but it will be a tough one to birdie.

When fully completed, club amenities will include a full-service clubhouse with golfer's pub; tented patio area for large group outings; 30-station practice range with four target greens; short game area, putting green and full service pro shop.

Weekday greens fees, including mandatory cart, are $30 for 18 holes and $20 for nine. Weekend (Friday through Sunday) and holiday rates are $40 and $25, respectively and include cart. Twilight and senior/junior rates, as well as five- and seven-day, seasonal memberships also are available.

For reservations or more information, call (734) 878-1800.

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