Autumn Golf: Falling Leaves and Prices
By Terry Jacoby
Michigan golfers are nuts. But they aren't stupid.
With golf courses around the state being built as quickly as they can grow grass, golfers can be even more selective when making tee times. And the options are quite impressive, from Treetops to Bay Harbor to The Meadows to A-Ga-Ming to The Bear to Elk Ridge to Garland to Pheasant Run to ... well, you get the point. With all of these great destinations to choose from, golfers are looking for that par-fect deal before heading to the first tee. Competition is fierce. Resorts are offering everything from cocktails to bacon and eggs to free trips.
Tee up a great deal and Michigan golfers will hit it hard - and often. Get on the Internet, pick up the phone, talk to a friend, read a newspaper -- there are a lot of ways to find the deal you are looking for. Here are a few we uncovered.
Want a place to start when looking for an ideal package? You can't go wrong with Gaylord - the golf Mecca of the Midwest. There is plenty to choose from. Want quantity? Gaylord tees up 22 golf courses, all scenic, challenging and diverse. "We have more golf courses for our size in both size and quality than any other region," said Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Gaylord Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "Having so many courses allows us to pool our resources and put one marketing effort together. Treetops shouldn't be competing against Garland. We need to be competing against places like Myrtle Beach."
What's even more amazing about the quantity of courses is the quality. Treetops and Garland (see Big Three) are among the best resort facilities in the Midwest. But Gaylord offers other splendid courses. Black Forest Wilderness Valley is 36 holes of challenging beauty. Golf Digest rated it the fourth best new public golf course in America. Even if you play poorly, the walk through the woods will be well worth the price.
And then there is Elk Ridge, which is among the top five courses in the state on many people's list. The Atlanta course, designed by Jerry Mathews, will test even the best golfer's game. Any phone call to one of Gaylord's courses will get you going. Marsh Ridge (517-732-6794) has a first-rate facility, complete with lodging, pool and a wonderful golf course. And the folks there love to show off the other courses in the area through a variety of packages.
Hidden Valley (517-732-4653) also offers outstanding packages. The 54-hole blowout special, which includes two nights lodging, rounds of golf at The Loon, The Lake and The Classic and one dinner, can be yours for $165 until Sept. 17.
For a Gaylord golf planner, call (800) 345-8621.
One of Michigan's best summer hot spots is Traverse City. And you don't earn that title without putting plenty of outstanding golf courses on your scorecard.
The Traverse City region boosts some of Michigan's best golf courses, including the Grand Traverse Resort's The Bear. Located along Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay in one of the most picturesque parts of Michigan, the resort features two existing and two future golf courses, featuring The Bear, designed by Jack Nicklaus.
And need a place to stay? How about a room in the 17-story glass tower at Grand Traverse Resort, complete with breathtaking views of the Grand Traverse region. Call (800) 236-1577 for golf-package deals through Grand Traverse Resort.
There also are plenty of excellent golf courses within a pitching wedge of Traverse City. For starters, make A-Ga-Ming Golf Course a must stop. With views of Torch Lake, A-Ga-Ming has earned the label as one of Michigan's most scenic courses. But you better bring you're A game to A-Ga-Ming ... or a lot of golf balls. Located nine miles north of Elk Rapids, A-Ga-Ming features golf packages starting at $60, which includes 18 holes with cart and overnight lodging in Maple Wood Ridge condominiums.
For more information, call (800) 678-0122.
Other outstanding courses in the area include: Sugar Loaf (north of Cedar), Cedar Hills (west of Traverse City), Interlochen Golf Club, High Pointe GC (Williamsburg), and Antrim Dells Golf Club (Atwood).
A little further north, but certainly worth the drive, is The Shanty Creek Resort, voted best golf resort in Northern Michigan by readers of The Detroit News. Golf packages at Shanty Creek are nothing less than birdie-like. Through September, pay $375 for the Three Days of Golf package. The deal includes 18 holes per day on any of the three courses, including The Legend, an Arnold Palmer design which stretches 600 acres through prime Michigan forest. The package also includes two nights lodging, two breakfasts, one dinner and unlimited range balls.
For different packages and late fall rates, call 1-800-678-4111.
Grand Rapids is rapidly becoming an outstanding golf destination. The best place to start if you plan on heading to the corner of I-96 and US131 is with the local hotels. Most of the larger ones, including Courtyard by Marriott, Comfort Inn, Crowne Plaza, Days Inn and the Grand Rapids Hilton, offer golf packages to the local courses. And the local courses include some Grand layouts. The Meadows Golf Club, St. Ives Golf Club, Boulder Creek, Thornapple Pointe and Thoroughbred Golf Club are among those you can choose from - and all five can play with any course in the state.
One phone call can set you up. As the brochure says, "With our West Michigan golf getaway packages, the challenge is on the course, not in planning the trip." All you need to do is call one of the local hotels and ask for the golf-package coordinator.
Or call (800) 678-9859.
When considering golf packages, don't forget about The Big Three. Forgetting about Treetops, Garland and Boyne would be like a defense overlooking Barry Sanders.
You can play 81 holes of golf without leaving the premises. And what an awesome 81 they are. From the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Masterpiece (ranked 27th best resort course in the country by Golf Digest) to the Tom Fazio Premier (ranked 3rd best new resort course by Golf Digest) to the newest Rick Smith Tradition (a walking-only course), Treetops delivers. They also deliver some excellent packages. The Players Package is an outstanding deal: From Sept. 13 to Oct. 10, you can play all four championship courses plus the fun "Threetops" par-three course and stay two nights for $324. The deal also includes a 10-percent discount coupon for the pro shop. After Oct. 10, the price falls to $241. The Championship Package includes two nights lodging, breakfast and dinner each day and three rounds of golf for $346 from Sept. 13 to Oct. 10. After Oct. 10, it's $315.
For more information, call 1-888-TREETOPS.
For more information, call 1-800-968-0042.
Then there is Crooked Tree Golf Club, with its spectacular views of Little Traverse Bay. And then the pinnacle: Bay Harbor Golf Club, not only one of the most breathtaking courses in Michigan but the country as well. Here is the Boyne special when it comes to packages: Five nights lodging at Boyne Mountain, unlimited golf at all of the Boyne courses except the Heather and Bay Harbor, five breakfasts and dinners, unlimited instruction, preferred tee times, and preferred pricing at Bay Harbor and the Heather course. The cost for the package is $695 per person through Oct. 2.
For more information, call 1-800-GO-BOYNE.
Crystal Mountain became a legitimate golf-package destination in May, with the opening of nine more holes, giving the Thompsonville resort two 18-hole courses.The choices: The Betsie Valley course, highlighted by plenty of water, and the Mountain Ridge course, more than 7,000 yards from the back tees. Throw in a 10-acre practice facility and the resort's first-class amenities, and you have yourself a super package.
Crystal Mountain goes another step with the "True Grit" Unlimited Golf plan, which includes lodging, breakfast, dinner and all the golf you can play. Prices range from $133 to $155 for a room in the resort hotel. After Oct. 10, the price drops to $107.
For more information, call 1-800-968-7686.
Set up a package to play a couple courses on your way Up-North. And if you have any balls left, play one on your way home, too. Call Golf Central Michigan at 1-888-436-0001.
Call (800) 882-2493 and ask about the 36-hole package and the free Wee Links course, ideal for children and adults.
Please note: Prices and packages are subject to change. Again, please call ahead.
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