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Gaylord Golf Mecca
Mission Impossible: Play more than five 18-hole rounds in one day! Each round must be on a world-class championship course. Thats what I set out for myself. Why? No particular reason. After all lots of people think golfers are crazy anyway. So why spend time on explanations. Where on earth could this possibly be accomplished? In Gaylord Michigan, the Midwests Summer Golf Mecca.
Five resort destinations and 22 of the finest golf courses in Michigan (or possibly anywhere else) are all located within minutes of each other in and around this Northern Michigan resort community.
According to Golf Digest, Northern Michigan is the 12th-best place in the world to play golf and the Gaylord Golf Mecca is the central reason why. Golf is the number one tourism draw here and June is the best time to try this Mission Impossible feat since the longest days of the year occur toward the end of the month. But the late summer months and Fall season is gorgeous with color and the crowds have receded. You dont have to do the golf marathon I intended, but stay long enough to play them all.
My day started with the first tee time on the Rick Smith Course at the world famous Treetops Resort. Smith is one of the finest teaching pros in the world and works with many PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA pros. His teaching academy is also located right here at the resort. The Smith Course is one of four championship courses located here by world-renowned architects that also includes a Robert Trent Jones Sr. Course called the Masterpiece. Both courses are carved out of beautiful deep-forested valleys with tees that offer 30-mile panoramic views.
Smith also designed the Threetops Course. Golf Week Magazine calls this the Best par 3 course in America and I cant argue. Each summer Threetops plays hosts to ESPNs televised $$$million skins game, with this years event held July 30 and 31, where Lee Travino pocketed a cool $1 million for his ace.
My second round of the day was at the Treetops Tom Fazio Premiere Course. A fabulous design through forested canyons with some of Americas best short par fours and greens that give you really amazing slopes to maneuver. For you nostalgia buffs, Treetops Resort has The Tradition a classic style walking course designed by Smith with an extensive caddie program that allows golfers to return to the traditions of the game.
Next, I drove a few miles back to Gaylord to play my third course, Marsh Ridge. Marsh Ridge is an intimate golf resort whose early days as a romantic getaway is still evident in the theme suites and its Scandinavian-style lodge, which complements the regular hotel. The course has two levels - an upper forested plateau and a lower marsh area where streams and ponds wind through natural wildlife habitats.
My fourth round started late in the afternoon and I must have been crazy! I picked the 7,000-yard Black Forest course designed by Tom Doak at the Wilderness Valley Golf Club. If you want a secluded round of golf this is the place. The first tee is a 1/2 mile cart ride away through the forest. Its a very long course from the tips with some very SMALL undulating greens and some very LARGE undulating greens. However, if youre looking for a very peaceful, quiet, tranquil round, try this one late in the day. Wilderness Valleys second course is the Valley Course designed by former Senior PGA National Champion Al Watrous. Wilderness Valley was Gaylords first signature course, built in 1969 and is a true shot makers course and one of my favorites.
By now, it was finally time to eat dinner, and there is no place in the world that serves a better pork chop than Schlangs Bavarian Inn. Im really looking forward to my return trip there! Only a local restaurant in Pinehurst comes close.
After dinner (yes, I said after dinner) I was off to my fifth and last course of the day - The Natural at Beaver Creek. Renowned for designing courses that reflect the environments natural beauty, architect Jerry Matthews carved The Natural out of a magnificent forest of birch and pines. When I say carved, I mean carved! Its not a long course but it is very tight. What a course to play in September when the fall colors are at their peak! Definitely worth a trip in September, especially if you stay in one of the resorts quaint, rustic, Northwood cabins.
Next day, I was up and at the old grindstone again. (I can hear the groans of sympathy) I was off to the Northwoods most celebrated AAA Four Diamond resort, the sprawling, massive golden log, stone and glass Garland Resort, set amid a 3,500-acre park of scenic forests, lakes and streams. Romantic, luxurious rooms and scrumptious meals in the elegant Hermans restaurant compete for attention with four 18-hole championship courses, all of which wind around a beautiful wooded, Northwoods valley setting. For those captains of industry, Garland Resort also has a 5,000-foot paved jet landing strip.
One of the best kept secrets in the Gaylord Golf Mecca is the semi-private Michaywe Pines Golf Course - a true championship layout. It recently played host to the prestigious Michigan Amateur Golf Tournament. The alpine design features superb greens and strategic bunkers, which meander through pretty strands of white birch, pines and hardwoods along the AuSable River.
Another award winning environmental design by Jerry Matthews is the Elk Ridge Golf Club on the eastern edge of the Gaylord Golf Mecca. This is a strong, rolling course with big elevation changes, magnificent stands of red and white pines, wetland streams and tough undulating greens.
Fox Run Golf Club in Grayling is the perfect stop on your way to or from the Gaylord area. Built on 225 acres of hardwoods, Fox Run offers a beautiful challenge with tree-lined fairways, marshland and wildlife.
The Otsego Club is the senior member of the Gaylord Golf Mecca. This affordable retreat offers three courses, with the brand new, highly anticipated Tribute Course, set to open in August 2001. The Tribute is the 22nd course in the Gaylord Golf Mecca and was designed by former PGA Tour player and current NBC golf commentator Gary Koch. Its destined to become a classic. The Loon, the most formidable of Otsegos three other championship courses, features tall hardwood trees, small lakes, strategic bunkering and rolling greens, making The Loon a fun course for players of every level. Otsegos The Lake Course, designed by Jerry Matthews, and the Classic Course compliment the popular Loon.
Another must play is the newest course in the Gaylord area, Black Lake Golf Club. Golf Digest has ranked this new course second in the nation on the list of the Best New Upscale Public Courses. Black Lake Golf Course is a Reese Jones design located on a whopping 1,000 acres in Onaway, MI, not far from the Mackinaw Bridge, at the very tip of Michigans Lower Peninsula.
Other Gaylord Golf Mecca gems are the semi-private Gaylord Country Club, which lays claim to the best greens in the area. Deer Run, designed by William Newcomb, which rolls through native pines and hardwoods, and The Black Bear Resort, which combines Scottish rolling hills, open fairways and large undulating greens.
Good news!! I found most green fees to be on average 30-50% lower than courses of the same quality around Chicago. So youll have a lot more cash left over for some great meals.
I suggest you also check out the Gaylord Golf Mecca website, its loaded with more information on additional places to stay, play and dine. Enjoy
Gaylord Vacation & Tourism
1001 W. Main Street
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Last Updated: 9/17/01