by Art McCafferty
There are 12 public courses in St. Clair County with a few more in the planning stages. Generally the golf industry in the area is healthy and on the grow. The Blue Water Bridge is contributing to an emergence of a new economic vitality in the area.
There are two Belles at this course, the Belle River, a tributary of Clinton River, which comes into play on eight of the course holes and Phyllis Parris, the owner. Phyllis is a story unto herself. Featured in a Golf Digest story for acing four holes of 200+ yards, she has been involved with the game most of her life. When checking into this fine course, ask if she is around and get to know her. A very nice lady with a real story to tell.
Belle River is a solid tract that features great turf, excellent greens and affordable prices. As with most courses in the area, it is a terrific value.
12564 Belle River Road, Memphis, 810-392-2121
Formerly known as Mill Creek, Deer View is the dream of Ray Rodela. Ray, a pro who played the mini tour for 18 years, has settled down and devoted his life to bringing this course into championship caliber. Sure it will take him a number of years, but he is determined to make it. The course is off the beaten track in St. Clair, but more and more people are turning down that road to play some affordable golf and help Ray turn this nine hole project into an 18 hole dream.
15886 Speaker Road, Imlay City, 810-395-7495
Fort Gratiot is a nice 9-hole course north of Port Huron. The course plays to 2600 yards.
5741 Lake Shore Road, Port Huron, 810-385-3542
The Golden Hawk, which opened nine of its holes in 1996, fully came on board in 1997. It has been popular since its start and no doubt will continue to do so as owner Bill Chase continues to add to the course amenities. Jim Cole, formerly the assistant at Tanglewood and earlier at Western Golf and Country and now head professional, is pleased with the reception. "We had a great year last year as the course began to settle in. Golfers have enjoyed the course and like the fact that it is not a difficult course. They especially like our 15th and 17th holes, with their wooded beauty. We also have some interesting wood carvings at 6 and 15 that have caught the public's eye," said Cole.
The story for this year is the expansive new clubhouse. It will be able to accommodate 240 people on the second floor, 100 on the first and an additional 50 on the patio, more when they get their new deck done.
Designed by John Grissim, Golden Hawk plays to a little over 6000 yards. It features a mixture of wooded and open fairways, undulating greens and enough water to keep your local supplier of golf balls happy.
9861 Meisner Lane, Casco Township, 810-727-4681
Golf Country, owned by Wendy and Kevin Palmateer, is a 30-acre all-purpose teaching facility whose staff will greet you warmly in the summer and warmly heat you in the winter.
Located near Marysville, Golf Country offers a variety of amenities for both the local and traveling golfer. They have a complete pro shop. You can buy your clubs or they will make them for you. J.D. Jowettt, a master club maker, will gladly let you visit his shop to see just how he can assist you with those custom clubs you always wanted. Golf Country even features a massage therapist, Linda Wrobel. As part of the story, Linda worked on me for about a half-hour. It was just great. As I hunch over this laptop to finish this tome, it really makes me wish I lived a little closer to Golf Country and their therapist.
While they are perfectly willing to let you flail away at a bucket of balls, the Golf Country people will also work with you to improve your game. Stan Brion, their lead instructor, has been a PGA Class A member for over 30 years. He played on the tour from 1974 to 1976 and then began his career in teaching. Golf Country Golf Academy has a variety of Golf Instruction packages to fit your needs, with their basic package, a three-day event. The package includes video analysis, unlimited practice balls, a 4-1 student to teacher ratio and 27 holes of golf with cart.
Brion is especially pleased to have Peter Crocker as his instructional mentor and provider of the Golf Academy's teaching philosophy, "Path to Better Golf." Peter will be joining Stan for two sessions this summer. They will be running a Path to Better Golf Schools on June 13 and 14 and July 25th and 26th. Interested...give them a call at 810-364-9160.
4730 Smiths Road, Kimball, 810-364-9160
The front nine of Holly Meadows opened in1993 with the back joining it in 1996. Janet and John Hollenbeck are the course owners. The continued increase in traffic has certainly rewarded their judgment in building the course. Holly Meadows plays to 6183 yards and features a lot of water, narrow fairways and a normal allotment of traps and bunkers.
It services quite a few leagues and has more than its share of traffic on the weekends. Make sure you call for a tee time. Gary Thompson, golf course manager, indicated that the course continues to grow in popularity. " I pushed through 250 rounds yesterday and a couple of years ago, we would be happy to get any kind of play at this time of the year," he said.
4855 Capac Road, Capac, 810-395-4653
The Nolan's bet the farm on building Leaning Tree golf course. The farm was in the Nolan family since 1875. It was converted into a golf course by Morley and Irene Nolan 25 years ago. This past year, Jim and Lynne Nolan bought out other family members and are taking it to the next level. They have improved the course over the past couple of years, but the real cash has been put into their new clubhouse. "We need to pay this off," said Jim, "and then we will begin to lengthen some of the holes."
The course has a putting range and across the road there is a driving range.
7890 Smith Creek, Wales, 810-367-3528
Marysville is a nice city owned course that features a great view of the St.Clair River. Golfers get the opportunity to see some of the long boats as they make their way back and forth into either Lake St. Clair or Lake Huron.
Besides boat watching, golfers will enjoy a tight course that has some meat on it with its 6542 yards. The course gets a ton of summer play, so manager Dan Tobiczyk and assistant Kristopher Jackson, ask that you call ahead for tee times this summer.
2080 River Road, Marysville, 810-364-4653
Pine is yet another nine holer in St. Clair. Jack Berry, in his Jack Berry's Guide to Michigan Golf, says this "is a nice little course and is a hop, skip and a jump from the big freighters."
709 Fred W. Moore Highway, St. Clair, 810-329-4294
For those of you that have golfed Traverse City's Elmbrook and visited that trap in the shape of the state of Michigan, you can now wander over to Michigan Meadows and putt on their 16th green. The 16th green is in the shape of Michigan surrounded by a huge sand trap in the shape of the Great Lakes.
Jerry Echenbury bought the place 8 years ago, added nine holes and built a fine clubhouse. It is a nice little tract in Casco. If you want to loft an approach shot on your hometown, you now have the opportunity to do so.
4575 County Line Road, Casco, 810-727-7029
Last year the Michigan Golfer did an article on Island Golf. Essentially, this was a way to pull in both Mackinac Island's, The Jewel and Drummond Island's, The Rock. However, we were remiss in not bringing in Harsens Island's Mid-Channel course.
Harsens Island is located south of Algonac and can be reached there by a seven-minute ferry ride. Mid-Channel was originally started as a nine-hole resort course in 1923.
They had active play for six to seven years, but closed during the depression. The only birdies and eagles that the course saw for 15 years were those on the island. In 1945, Mike Manos, who at the time worked at a course called Glen Oaks, saw the course was for sale and decided to buy it.
The labor of love for Mike and then his sons Jon, Richard and Jim came to fruition in 1963 when the course opened up its second nine. Jon, now one of the owners, and course superintendent, has been there for 53 years.
They have a short season on the island, but manage to do their share of rounds if the water table does not get too high. Last year, they did not open until late May because of the water on the course. Most of their trade is local, but they do have a number of boating clubs that boat in and play the course during the summer.
The course plays to 6100 yards and possesses some challenging holes. However, Jon wants to remind people that this is a course out of the 20's and therefore, was designed as a resort course.
The brothers do not have anyone to pass the course onto and feel they have had just about as much fun as they could have there. They are looking to sell the course in a year or two. Fifty-three years for a family to own a golf course is a long time.
2306 Golf Course Road, Harsens Island, 810-748-9922
Rattle Run, along with Holly Meadows and Golden Hawk, have provided the spark for a resurgence of golf in the St.Clair area. Rattle Run promoting itself as a" Northern Michigan Golf Setting.Only Minutes From Metro Detroit," has the credentials. . They picked up some award hardware from Golf Digest and have leveraged their 73.6 slope, as one of their draws. Carl Metzner is the new director of golf.
7163 St. Clair Highway St. Clair 810-329-2070
Willow Ridge, a little northwest of Port Huron, is a course where your golf only costs about a dollar a hole. Hey, a nice summer day, some travel clubs in the trunk, a hot dog at the course, and you could probably plan a quick nine during a long lunch. Lord take me now.
3311 N. River Road, Port Huron, 810-982-7010
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