Traverse City Golf Continues to Get Better
by Mike Terrell
Traverse City, well known for its white sandy beaches and blue water, is also becoming just as well known for its smorgasbord of fine golf courses.
There's something to accommodate every palate, from the new championship-calibre 7,000-yard Gary Player Wolverine course opening at the Grand Traverse Resort this summer to the very playable, family oriented Bay Meadows with its stunning views and 2,200-yard layout.
Golf in this region got a kick start well over a decade ago when Jack Nicklaus and Paul Nine, then owner of the GT Resort, built The Bear and brought golf in this region to a whole other level. Right on its heels came Arnold Palmer and The Legend at Shanty Creek, and "signature" golf came of age as more and more player/designers and well known golf course architects came to northern Michigan.
The Traverse City region has fared well in the "greening" of northern Michigan. In addition to the "designer" names they have several golf "gems" that would also a rate a look on any golfer's score card. Maybe that's why Golf Magazine rated it "among the six top golf spots in the nation" last season.
In addition to the opening of the new Wolverine course, which is slated for mid-May, the much anticipated opening of the new Tom Weiskopf course at Shanty Creek will also take place this summer.
Also scheduled to open later this summer is the centerpiece of the new Cedar River Golf Club development, the Lodge at Cedar River. For information on any of Shanty Creek's four golf courses or lodging information on all three villages, call 800-678-4111.
About the same time Grand Traverse Resort (800-748-0303) will unveil its new clubhouse. Located within a stone's throw the Tower, it will be the hub for all three of their courses. In addition to housing a large new pro shop and a men and women's locker room on the main floor, the 8600-square-foot building will also feature a new restaurant and lounge.
Each nine of the new Wolverine course is distinctive. It weaves through water and wetlands on the front nine, and highland terrain with hardwoods and gorgeous views of Grand Traverse Bay on the backside. A long course, Player designed it to play over 7000 yards from the back tees and just over 5000 yards from the front set.
Another local course joining this select group later this summer will be the much-awaited Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms. Located about three miles south of Suttons Bay in the highlands west of M-22, the new course will offer unsurpassed views of the village of Suttons Bay and Lake Michigan's West Bay. This will be a big enhancement for the Leelanau County golf scene.
Featuring a lot of elevation changes, 14 tee shots will play downhill, according to course architect Gary Pulsipher, a partner in the venture along with PGA Professional Chuck Olson and greens superintendent Steve White. "Golfers love holes with spectacular views, and they'll find a lot here. Small greens, tree-lined fairways, and strategically placed bunkers will put a premium on shot making rather than brute strength."
Four sets of tees-ranging from nearly 6800 yards to a little under 4900 yards will allow the course to be competitive for a wide range of golfers, according to Olson. It's scheduled to open mid-summer. For more information, call 231-271-2020.
In addition to the 18-hole course openings, Bay Meadows, a family golf facility located just west of Traverse City on Barney Road, will be adding a second nine holes later this season. The new nine, being billed as a family-length course, is a traditional par three, which will offer holes ranging in yardage from 85 to 175 yards. They also offer a more traditional length nine-hole, par 32 course and Pinecroft owner Lee Stone has announced his group, Narrow Gauge Farms, is constructing a new course "just a few miles down the road, but on an even more spectacular piece of property. It's on the highest point of land around the area, and the views are spectacular. You can see not only Crystal Lake, but Lake Michigan, Platte Lake and Sleeping Bear Dunes in the distance."
The new course, which will be called Champion Hill, is slated to open next summer. Pinecroft, which opened earlier this decade, is nestled in the hills above Beulah overlooking Crystal Lake. To book a tee time, call 231-882-9100.
High Pointe has expanded their driving range, added a fourth set of tee boxes lengthening the course to nearly 6900 yards and taken out some of the blind spots on hole number 10, according to Ben Costfchick, pro shop manager.
To book a tee time, call 800-753-7888.
The nearby Waterfront Inn, located on East Bay just about five miles from the golf course, offers special packages to groups of golfers. Call 800-551-9283 for complete details.
Crystal Mountain's new Mountain Ridge golf course has been selected as Northern Michigan's only qualifying site for the Michigan Open in 1999. The one-round qualifying event is slated for May 25. For reservations call 800-968-7686.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Course on Torch Lake will be making its first change in a decade. Hole 16, which used to be a par four with a blind drive landing area, and the par three 17 hole have traded pars. The new holes, designed by Jerry Matthews, should be ready for play early this summer. Matthews is reportedly working on the design of a second 18-hole course for owners Mike Brown and Larry Laverly. No construction schedule has been announced. For tee times and lodging information call 800-678-0122.
Another new area signature course, Palmer's King's Challenge, is entering its second full season of operation. This season the acquisition of Sugar Loaf's golf course, which is now called the North Course, will allow golfers an extra choice and more scheduling flexibility. The Palmer course opened to rave reviews last season. To reserve a tee time, call 888-228-0121.
A couple of courses nestled in the hills surrounding Traverse City that you won't want to miss are Elmbrook (231-946-9180), the area's oldest course, and Crown Golf Course (231-946-2975), one of the area's newer 18-hole courses. Both offer rolling topography and scenic vistas. Elmbrook offers panoramic views of Grand Traverse Bay as well.
Mistwood, located west of TC near Lake Ann, and Matheson Greens (800-443-6883), located near Northport in Leelanau County, also fall into that "don't miss" category. Mistwood with its 27-hole layout is a local favorite, and Matheson Greens is a favorite of Tim Allen, who has a summer home in the area. Both offer spectacular golf layouts and plenty of challenge.
This summer the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting Golf-A-Round '99, which is a season long promotion. Golf at any six of the TCCVB's 16 member courses, and you automatically qualify to attend the Grand Golf Getwaway scheduled for September 24-26.
"We think it's a great way to get people to experience golfing around Traverse City," said Pete Bachelor, newly appointed golf coordinator for the TCCVB. "The idea is to get people to experience the many diverse courses we have to offer in this area. It's as unique a collection of golf courses as you'll find in the state."
The cost of the Grand Golf Getaway is $199 per person, which includes golf and lodging for two nights (dbl occ) at participating properties. It also includes one entry into the Blind Scramble and BBQ and a $40 Playtime Passport redeemable at either of the Traverse Bay Casino Resorts. Over $15,000 in prizes will be given away in merchandise and golf packages. The grand prize will be a round of golf at all 16 participating golf courses during the 2000 season.
For complete details on the contest or to receive information on all the attractions and lodging available around the Traverse City area, call 800-940-1220 or check out the TCCVB web site at www.tcvisitor.com.
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