Michigan Golf Courses Put a New Spin on the Sport with FootGolf

FootGolf, a hybrid of golf and soccer, has been popping up at Michigan golf courses this summer. Today, guest blogger Janina Jacobs tells us how these Michigan courses are putting a new spin on the sport. 

Love it or hate the idea, FootGolf has arrived. What is this phenomenon that’s bringing new life to area golf courses and why is it here?

Photo courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort

Photo courtesy of Shanty Creek Resort

First, the why: There is no debate that overall, golfer numbers have declined in recent years, even in this golf rich state. Assuming the downturn comes from core golfers playing less and newer golfers slowly trickling in, new markets are needed. The Pure Michigan campaign is beginning to bring people in from all over the U.S., but it does take time for folks to pack their clubs and head over. For us long-time golfers – those growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s – soccer was not what we did; a little kickball maybe, but not the local, regional, and national traveling leagues and organizations that abound today. Almost every kid born after 1980 was introduced to soccer primarily in school, along with parents who drove them to every game and practice.  And so, enter FootGolf. Sort of a hybrid between soccer and golf, some facilities are embracing the concept and allowing footgolfers access to tee times along with regular golfers. Other than the initial shock of watching four players, likely dressed in Hogan caps, plus-fours, and argyle socks kicking soccer balls up the fairway ahead, regular golfers will experience no interference from the relatively new sport, which has actually been around since the 1980’s but is fresh to Michigan. In fact, golfers would do well to keep up considering FootGolf holes are shorter and flatter, the only club selection necessary is which foot to use, no time is spent looking for lost balls, and can take half the time to play.

Here’s how it works: Ideally, holes are mapped out along a portion of the normal course routing but using more level ground. Tees are placed in a closely mown area on the fairway, usually away from regular tee boxes. Footgolfers use their own #5 Soccer ball and the kicking commences until reaching the green which is actually a closely mown fairway, about 30-feet in diameter and often near a regulation green. So you can erase any idea of greens becoming mutilated from footgolfers stomping and kicking all over the beautiful bent grass greens so beloved to Michigan golfers…..or worry about what happens if you should accidently hit your golf ball into the 21-inch cup. If you do, take it out please! You will find it at the bottom of the ‘normal’ size cup where the flagstick is nestled within the larger hole.

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 9.25.55 AMIt is not as easy as you think. I was introduced to FootGolf at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, which has transformed the lesser-used but magnificently conditioned Summit Golf Course into a multi-use facility. Director of Golf Brian Kautz came from a very traditional club in Florida, and no one is more surprised than he at the transformation taking shape: You can 1) play regular golf using standard 4 and ½ inch cups; 2) play regular golf using the 8-inch cups cut into every green; 3) play the par-3 tees on each hole using either cup; or 4) play FootGolf using the alternate greens and oversized cups. I hadn’t kicked a soccer ball in years, so after a few holes of 6 or more kicks, where even the slightest elevation and rough will make you aware of leg and hip muscles you didn’t know existed, you’ll gain new respect for the sport. The kids will get a kick out of it…pardon the pun…because for them, it’s easy and familiar. Even better, they can walk; and in the process, they may also observe regular golf and get the urge to try that as well. Watch for the possible re-introduction of the pull cart, which in the last decade or two virtually disappeared from golf clubs. How better to solve the problem of trying to walk and play FootGolf while transporting adult beverages?

In case you think that rules are relaxed even for this seemingly tame sport, you should know that there is an international governing body, the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG), and its Rule Book is 47 pages long. Rules govern ball size, weight, hole dimensions, and many other situations that regular golf rules cover. And there are leagues and tournaments…plenty of them.

Other courses around the state are offering FootGolf, including Elmbrook Golf Course, which celebrates their 50th anniversary this year. Owner Carolyn Olson felt it was ideal considering their location: “at first we thought it was for kids or birthday parties and such. But it’s a perfect fit for Traverse City, with all the elite soccer clubs and coaches in the area.” Ironically, the median age for footgolfers is about 20-35 years old.

Photo courtesy of Fox Hills Golf Course

Photo courtesy of Fox Hills Golf Course

In the metro Detroit area, Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Salem Township opened their FootGolf course on the renowned Strategic Fox, a popular 18-hole par-3 layout, in May. They are already seeing interest. In Grand Blanc, even the stately Warwick Hills, a private club that hosted multiple PGA Tour Buick Opens, is contemplating the idea. Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers every FootGolf customer on the Rick Smith Tradition course a deal sweetener: a voucher for a free golf clinic. Prices average about $10-$20 per round at most facilities.

For the naysayers, one cannot argue that Footgolfers bring a different energy to the course: high fives, acrobatics – including doing cartwheels down the fairway – and more yelling. All of these formerly frowned-upon outbursts certainly change the dynamics of golf courses where everyone is often afraid to cheer, shout, or even talk. Sometimes people cannot use the words ‘fun’ and ‘golf’ in the same sentence. With FootGolf, it is hard not to.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot1Janina Parrott Jacobs is a lifelong Michigan resident but her passion as a multi-media golf and business specialist and international golf and travel writer takes her all over the world.  Her website, www.janinajacobs.com, features many other entrepreneurial adventures as a motivational speaker, professional musician and performer, owning Capers Steakhouse in Detroit, and volunteer efforts with the U.S. Navy where she advocates for and mentors young people concerning health, nutrition, and fitness issues.

Ten Ways to Take On the Outdoors in Frankenmuth

You may already know Frankenmuth for its Bavarian charm. However, you may not have known that Frankenmuth is also a prime destination for some outdoor summer activities. Today, guest blogger Christie Bierlein from Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Buereau shares ten ways that you can take on the outdoors in Frankenmuth this season.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Warner at Bavarian Inn

Photo courtesy of Thomas Warner at Bavarian Inn

No doubt Frankenmuth is known for their beer, chicken and having the largest Christmas store in the world, but most visitors don’t know all of the scenic outdoor adventure it has to offer. Below are ten hidden gems off the beaten path from the regular bustle of Frankenmuth. Sure to provide days of fun and entertainment for the whole family. That is the magic of Frankenmuth.

Great Views

Fun Ships is a business that thrives on creating unique experiences along the beautiful Cass River for thousands of guests per year. They are a recipient of a “Keep Michigan Beautiful” award for their stunning patio views that are built right into the hill and wind all the way down to their docks along the shore. Fun Ships offers quaint, historical boat rides on an intimate 12 person electric Duffy boat; you can even experience a wine and chocolate pairing while you take in the scenery of the Frankenmuth countryside.

Paddleboard and Kayak

One thing you might notice as you cruise down the river is Frankenmuth Outfitters, a trendy new company to Frankenmuth offering kayak and paddleboard rentals. They also have bike trail maps available if staying on land is more your thing.

Cast a Line

Michigan is obviously a great place to fish with all of the Great Lakes but Frankenmuth is quickly becoming a popular place to drop a line. This fall, construction will begin on the fish passage project at the Cass River Dam in the heart of downtown. The fish passage project is a constructed rapids or rock ramp that will allow sport fish to pass over the dam, returning to spawning area further upstream. The project will benefit the Cass River through the increase in fish populations, with regional benefit to the award winning fishery in the Saginaw Bay.

Fly through the Trees

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau at Frankenmuth Adventure Park

If you’re looking for even more adventure, make sure to stop at the Adventure Park. This aerial forest adventure course is a fun family outing. They offer five different levels of climbing and zip lining so there’s no need for excuses to try it!

Hike through the Hills

Frankenmuth has many parks but their two most popular are Heritage and Memorial Parks. Memorial Park is surrounded by hills which make for great family fun. Look for toads in the creek or walk along one of the trails in the woods. Heritage Park is located on the Cass River and is home to the Frankenmuth Outfitters and the canoe launch. There is a one mile paved walking/running path around the park which makes is perfect for the active traveler.

Take a Riverboat Ride

The Bavarian Belle Riverboat is another great way to experience Frankenmuth by water. Feed the ducks and watch the Frankenmuth countryside float by as you get a historical narrated tour on how Frankenmuth came to be on this authentic Stern Driven Paddlewheel boat.

Get your Fitness on!

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Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Quickly becoming known as a “race town” Frankenmuth offers many different sporting activities throughout the year. Kicking off August is the Bavarian Inn Experience Triathlon continuing to the Bruckläufe (Bridge race) half marathon in October. Other races and events throughout the year include the 8K Winterläufe in February, the Zehnder’s Tour de Frankenmuth bike race in May, the Volkslaüfe 5K, 10K, 20K (on the fourth of July) and the newest event, the Frankenmüdder (an obstacle style 5K) which debuted July 19th 2014.

Have a Beverage… Outside!

Frankenmuth offers a variety of beautiful outdoor beer gardens. Try out the Fischer Platz under the “glockenspiel” at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, offering German music and entertainment daily. The Frankenmuth Brewery is another do not miss in terms of outdoor dining and drinking, their patio overlooks the Cass and Heritage Park. Tiffany’s is a local favorite in Frankenmuth, especially known for their pizza and laid back style night life; their outdoor patio has a great view of the downtown area. Prost is the newest addition to Frankenmuth, opening in August they boast a rustic chic atmosphere both inside and their outdoor beer garden. What sets Prost’s patio apart is its gazebo (equipped with a chandelier), fire bar all the wine, craft beer and unique cocktails you want with charming downtown views.

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth Convention and Visitors Bureau

Smell the Flowers

Boasting over 380 hanging flower baskets, 40 annuals and 50 perennials Frankenmuth is a plant lover’s dream. Along with the 90 plants and flowers planted each year they plant 15 varieties of tropical plants, one of which is a prized “Bird of Paradise.” July and August are great months for a walk downtown to enjoy the color, perhaps even while you enjoy a beer at one of our beer gardens.

Give Disc Golf a Whirl

Rounding out our top ten is another Frankenmuth local favorite; disc golf! Played in Memorial Park and rated as one of the top 20 disc golf courses in Michigan, the course offers 18 holes of hilly and wooded fun that will challenge beginners to the most advanced players.

Planning on visiting Frankenmuth this summer? Join the conversation and share your photos using #muthfun on Twitter and Instagram or share your photos on Facebook.

Take a Staycation, Explore Culinary Hidden Gems in Northern Michigan

You won’t find salt water beaches, palm trees, or coral reefs in northern Michigan – and that’s just the way we like it. Traverse City and its surrounding areas are some of the most scenic and beautiful destinations in the world, and they just might be in the comfort of your own back yard. If you’re a northern Michigander, here’s a roundup of some of the off-the-beaten-path food and culture gems to check out when you want to get away without going far.

First things first- the beer.

Traverse City is home to many breweries, taprooms, and pubs that you can only find when visiting.  You can’t truly call yourself a craft beer connoisseur until you try some of the many, many delicious brews that have made the breweries famous.  Some of the most popular destinations to grab a cold one:

  • Brewery Terra Firma fall-color-tour
    • Brewery Terra Firma is unique in its approach as a brewery and as an agricultural destination. Through the integration of sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management and innovative water recycling/reclamation techniques, they hope to become a model for breweries and agricultural destinations throughout the nation.
  • The Workshop Brewing Company
    • The Workshop Brewing Company exists to preserve Northern Michigan’s spectacular natural environment, to reinforce Traverse City’s warm and vital community, and to honor traditional craft. They do not consider their business to be a success unless they are demonstrably and sustainably doing all three. They express this commitment by using the Trifidelity symbol, which stands for their motto: Nature. Community. Craft.
  • The Filling Station Microbrewery ???????????????????????????????
    • Established in the spring of 2012, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a family owned and operated business, dedicated to providing friendly and knowledgeable service and the highest quality of hand crafted brews and edibles.  Located just off the TART Trail in the historic railroad district, the Filling Station Microbrewery features a rotating list of at least 10 craft beers, which pair perfectly with our wood-fired flatbreads and fresh salads.  Whether on your own, meeting friends or with your family, patrons of all ages feel welcomed in our casual pub-style setting.   You’ll enjoy views of Boardman Lake from inside the pub or out on the patio, live music and the occasional train passing by.
  • Right Brain Brewery
    • Right Brain Brewing is committed to using the best available local ingredients in every small batch of  craft brew. Featuring a rotating right brained beer menu & artwork!
  • Short’s Brewing Company
    • Today Short’s Brewing Company continues its efforts to make the best beer on earth in Northern Michigan. Although Shorts has quickly grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, they still take pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach and the energy they put into the quality of our beer, food, staff, customers and facilities.
  • Stafford’s Noggin Room Pub
    • The Noggin Room Pub’s casual and comfortable atmosphere provides a great place to break from shopping the near-by Gaslight District, meet with friends and enjoy our award winning selection of domestic and imported beers. With personal service from the “Best Staff in Northern Michigan” (as voted by Northern Express), we’re sure you’ll feel right at home.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite node of Traverse City wine, check out these taste rooms and vineyards:

  • Left Foot Charley LeftFootCharly
    • The winery has since grown to around 6000 cases and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. LFC is a Michigan version of an Austrian Heuriger – a place where aromatic and flavorful wine is an everyday event. Locals and visitors alike have come to realize that the non-traditional setting pairs perfectly with the atypical fruit sourcing and old style winemaking that defines LFC. Left Foot has a committed a focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
  • Blustone Vineyards
    • Bluestone’s story started 20 years ago visiting Leland as a family for the first time. The simplicity and beauty of the “tucked away” secret that is Leelanau has always been what we treasure most about the area. There is a connection to the land found only here amongst the lakes, dunes, hills, and sunlit fields and our dream to start Blustone was born out of that.

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll ask for a glass of milk. If you give a tourist a beer, they’ll ask for something to eat.  

Along with famous craft beers, Traverse City is known state and nation wide as a hub for unique and tasty meals from your not-so-typical mom and pop type restaurants.  Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, fresh caught walleye, or a mouth watering burger, Traverse City boasts it all.  At the risk of leaving out some hidden gems, here’s a few nibble nooks you won’t want to miss:

  • Bay Bread Co.
    • Specialties: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches and some of the best baked goods you can find!
  • Cherry Republic

    • Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
  • Pepe Nero Kabob
    • PepeNero is a cozy and intimate restaurant snuggled inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Owners Giorgio and Monica Lo Greco are experienced professionals who know how to amaze your palate by preparing simple, genuine Italian food utilizing the gift of fresh seasonal ingredients from local markets and the high quality of imported Italian products.
  • Quay Restaurant and Bar
    • Quay Restaurant + Terrace Bar, pronounced kwā, is located in the beautiful town of Charlevoix, Michigan.  Come enjoy our three story restaurant and bar offering a New American menu along with a comprehensive wine and beer list.
  • Terry’s of Charlevoix
    • With over 35 years in the business since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Terry Left, the proprietor, and Paul Bradley, the executive chef, have brought their years of experience to bear in developing exquisite recipes complemented by just the right sauces. Terry’s offers excellent full course dinners in a warm, casual dining atmosphere. Given the close proximity to the Great Lakes, their fish entrées are a fresh and ever-popular selection.
  • City Park Grill
    • In 1997 Bob & Mary Keedy, Dick & Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café and changed the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect their scratch kitchen and daily/seasonal specials. Since then, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving a wide array of guests from around the world.
  • Twisted Olive Quattro beef_1920x1200
    • A true Northern Michigan gem, Twisted Olive Quattro offers some of the most unique and decadent samplers, entrees, and drinks of anywhere in the mitten.
  • Cafe Sante
    • A casual, European-style bistro serving The Classics—simply and with flair. Featuring wood-fired pizzas, mussels and frites, pastas, Panini, unique breakfasts and casual cuisine from other fine European traditions.

Now that’ you’re good and full, you’re probably wondering what is there to do?

From the Sleeping Bear Dunes, scenic Lake Michigan beaches, and countless trails to explore, there truly isn’t enough time in one day to see it all.  If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, we encourage you to check out a guided tour or make a stop at one of the local museums.  You can’t go wrong with what you pick to do in TC, but here’s a few of our favorite things to get you started:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes tour outdoors_naturepark_dunes
    • You will find a wide variety of activities for every age available to you at the Lakeshore. Climb the Dunes, swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Maybe you will want to spend some time in the museums or tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.
  • Music House Museum Tour
    • Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Music House Museum offers a unique collection of instruments that provide guests with a walk through the history, the artistry and the engineering of automated music.
  • Earl Young House Tour
    • This tour will take you around the triangular block bounded by Park Avenue, Grant Street, and Clinton Street.  Here you can see some of the most famous, and most beloved, work of long-time Charlevoix resident, Earl Young, homes he built or remodeled beginning in the late 1930s, and culminating in the construction of the “mushroom house” in the 1950s.
  • Castle Farms Garden Tour kings_grand
    • Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle! With cobblestone courtyards, soaring stone towers, and magnificent sweeping gardens, Castle Farms has earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s premiere historic attractions, as well as a celebrated wedding venue. Whether you’re on a travel adventure, or searching for the perfect site in which to exchange marriage vows, this French Renaissance style castle offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day elegance for visitors seeking family fun and bridal couples-to-be.
  • Little Traverse History Museum
    • The Little Traverse Historical Socity was established in 1905 and, 1969, it was incorporated as a non- profit organization, “To preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the Little Traverse Bay Area.” To this end, and with the support of members and winter and summer residents, they acquired and restored the abandoned Chicago and West Michigan Railroad depot. Originally built in 1892 to accommodate the large influx of summer resorters, the depot now serves the area as The Little Traverse History Museum.  The museum houses the historical society’s archives, long term displays, and an annual new summer display.  It is also the site of ongoing programs.  Currently, the museum is only open during the summer season (Memorial Day – mid October).
  • Cooking demonstration at Fustini’s
    • The company was founded by Jim and Lane Milligan, who lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul and took frequent family vacations to the beautiful resort town of Traverse City, Michigan. Like many others before them, the Milligans fell in love with northern Michigan and hoped to “someday” settle down there.  Flash-forward to today and Fustini’s is a Northern Michigan staple!

With everything there is to eat, drink and do in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason not to plan your staycation!  These are just a few of our own suggestions, however.  For more information on how to plan your own staycation in Northern Michigan or any other #PureMichigan destination, visit michigan.org