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Michigan- An Overlooked Golfing Wonderland

 

Itís been referred to as the "Mecca of the Midwest" and after heading there as a skeptic, I returned as true believer. The title does justice to the many great daily fee and resort courses scattered around the glacier-carved valleys and hills between Traverse City and Mackinaw City.

It is a state that is relatively unknown on this side of the pond and so are some facts. It is only a few hours from touching the arctic circle, itís major city is Detroit, itís capital is Lansing.

Another thing that goes unnoticed is that

amongst itís sprawling countryside and many lakes are over 800 public golf courses, more than any other state in the US. The playing season that runs from April to October is really taken advantage of it seems, and I was quite happy to get a fair slab of the leisure pie. Especially as the summer nights extend past 10pm.

All main flights land in Detroit and a domestic flight to Traverse City takes you into the centre of the golf. After that, you will only need a 20-minute drive to get to the Grande Traverse complex which has a course called The Bear. Surprisingly, Jack Nicklaus designed this track over ten years ago and it travels over much uneven terrain with great flair where most holes are a pleasure to play. In true USA style, water is a constant factor and rears itís ugly head just when a test is needed in the round.

To the south of Traverse City lies Crystal Mountain, another one of north Michiganís top resorts. This pristine place offers 27 holes, with the three 9-holers named Mountain Ridge, Mountain Ridge and Mountain Meadows. All three are very playable and of course with titles like that, have a certain amount of fall and rise about them. The Creek course is regarded as the toughest because it boast the most water (6 holes).

Leave Traverse City, and you hit true Michigan country. Namely, a rolling, leafy landscape with plenty of wildlife from racoons to black bears. Home-made fudge is the main delicacy and this explains why all the locals refer to tourists as "fudgies", which was something you really cannot figure out on your own.

The next port of call is at The Legends, which overlooks the serenity of Lake Michigan. I have moved from Jack to Arnie, because Mr Palmer designed this course and the nearby Shanty Creek. Both courses are on similar lines, sending


The Bear
the golfer into uncharted country where the clubhouse could be anywhere but out towards the lake. The relaxation out here definitely goes up a notch as you intertwine with all the little lakes off Lake Michigan (there are over 300). The views that meet you on the approach to the clubhouse are why a place like this is growing so fast in popularity.

A scenic alpine course can be found at Boyne Mountain, while a highlands feel is fulfilled at The Moors, arguably the most difficult course in the area. Another great layout nearby is Bay Harbour, which hugs the coastline and is currently bidding for the Ryder Cup. The views here look across to Beaver Island, which is currently building the most exclusive club in Michigan.

Once you hit the bays and beaches of Lake Michigan, all sorts of golfing surprises present themselves. It seems all the top designers and investors have seen the potential that this place has, and the arrival of many great courses in the past five years is the result. Crooked Tree, Black Bear and Garland are gems that have fulfilled the demand this place has had and all enjoy the summer breezes that swirl off Lake Michigan.


Treetops
After great enjoyment gazing at inlets, streams, islands and boats, I finally head inland to Gaylord. It is a modest city that also has plenty of golf to offer. I pick Treetops, which sounds as if it would balance out the waterworld adventure so far, but it turns out to be a fallacy. Like many courses, it is misleading (I played a course called Sand Ridge in Florida which had no bunkers) and doesnít exactly fill itself with
many treetops. Anyway, it was a brilliant course designed by Americaís top dog Tom Fazio with rivers, streams, lakes and some fairway. The course passes a place called "The Sanctuary" where the flora and fauna get priority and a gentle whisper to your playing partner seems dreadfully out of place, such is the atmosphere.

The state of Michigan is like many in the US, where winter sports are as big as the summer activities and it shows. Many courses are paired with ski resorts where fairways act as slopes in the winter and ski lifts are dotted on the landscape. Once the snow melts though, the golfers come and come in great numbers, but with all these great places to play, who could blame them?

Information:

Grande Traverse Resort- 001 616 2679900

Crystal Mountain- 001 616 3782911

Shanty Creek- 001 616 5338621

Boyne Mountain- 001 616 5496000

Tree-Tops- 001 517 7326711