Maximize Fall Playing Time With These Michigan Golf Trails

Today, guest blogger Janina Parrott Jacobs tells us how to minimize travel and maximize time on the course by playing through a Michigan golf trail this fall. 

Treetops_12SMT046There’s strength in numbers. Golfers may not normally fly across the country to play just one great course but they’ll consider doing so to play an assortment of superb ones. The folks in Myrtle Beach figured this out years ago when they realized that by banding together, they could create one-stop shopping to promote a stellar array of courses, attractions, and restaurants to golfers who would visit from around the country.

In Alabama, the creation of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – which runs the entire length of the state from north to south via 11 Trail sites complete with 26 magnificent and affordable courses – was originally fashioned to strengthen the state’s financial health by maximizing investments from retirement funds. Visionary Dr. David Bronner, former CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and the brainchild behind this idea, borrowed his philosophy from the movie Field of Dreams: ‘if you build it they will come’. He did…and they did.

Yet no state or trail or destination anywhere can match the sheer numbers of courses available for public or resort golf in Michigan. Different regions of the state have connected with each other to attract a wider range of golfers – and not simply from their local area. Here, a number of trail offerings are available to maximize your golf and minimize your drive time so you can enjoy the shorter days of late summer and early autumn.

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Area CVB

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Area CVB

Most people know of the ‘Gold Coast’ resort courses on the west side of the state: Boyne, Grand Traverse, Shanty Creek, Arcadia Bluffs to name a few. North centrally, there’s the Gaylord Golf Mecca, headlined by Treetops Resort – where you can sample ‘The Masterpiece’ an original RTJ Sr. design.  Experience the same inspiration Jones had when looking at the formidable elevation drop to the 6th green when all he saw were treetops…and thus the resort’s name was born.

Further east along US-23 and adjacent to Lake Huron, the Sunrise Side is lesser known but offers a wonderful collection of splendid courses that are surprisingly affordable. Red Hawk, near Tawas, an Arthur Hills design (think ‘Bay Harbor’) is a perfect introduction to the quality of golf you’ll find in the area. Up the road is Lakewood Shores Resort, with the nationally top-ranked links-style Gailes as well as the enjoyable Serradella, Blackshire, and par-3 ‘Wee Links’ courses which sit adjacent to Lake Huron near Oscoda. Alpena Golf Club, River’s Edge (formerly Alpena CC), and Black Lake are must-plays as are Elk Ridge, owned by Honeybaked Ham – you MUST try the ham sandwich at the turn – and Thunder Bay Resort, which offers golf with the added attraction of elk viewing tours via horse drawn wagons in summer and sleighs in the winter…both culminating with a multi-course gourmet dinner cooked on a century-old stove.

Just north and west of Detroit, the Michigan Grand Golf Trail encompasses five upscale courses that are in close proximity: Whispering Pines and Timber Trace in Pinckney, Mystic Creek in Milford, Brentwood in White Lake, and Boulder Pointe in Oxford.

Municipal courses are also getting in on the combine-and-prosper act. The Michigan Municipal Golf Trail, part of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association consists of several public, city, county, and Huron-Clinton Metropark courses. At Dearborn Hills, $20 will get you 18 holes of golf, cart, and a hot dog, chips and pop Monday through Friday from 11am-1pm.

As Fall golf approaches – and this year it seems to be coming early, weather-wise – look for even better deals everywhere in Michigan. At all Boyne courses, fees are based on airlines-style pricing: it all depends when and where you want to play. Being flexible will pay off. Check out all 11 courses spanning 3 resorts at Boyne.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot12-186x250Janina 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, 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.

 

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.

Michigan Golf Courses Prepare for the Summer Season Ahead (Plus a Giveaway!)

With more than 800 public golf courses surrounded by lush natural beauty and the Great Lakes, Michigan is a perfect summer golf destination! To get ready for summer golf season, we spoke with Janina Parrott Jacobs to learn more about how Michigan courses are preparing for the busy season ahead after our record-breaking winter. Plus, learn how you can win tickets to the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores!

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

In golf, records are made to be broken. Usually, we’re not referring to the weather. Mother Nature busted the all-time snowfall record on Tax Day 2014, when a couple inches dusted the Detroit metro area, bringing totals above 94 inches. For northern Michigan folks, that’s child’s play, and exactly why you may be able to visit northern courses earlier than some southern state locales. Here’s why: the thaw-freeze cycle. When the ground freezes and snow falls, the snow provides a cushion for the grass. If it’s cold all winter, the ground is protected. However, if there’s a thaw – even a brief one – followed by an ice storm that coats the ground with snow on top of that, the grass is deprived of oxygen and ‘suffocates’ under the ice layer. Grasses can only handle this condition for 60-90 days depending on species, until they start to die, resulting in disease and bare spots.

According to Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s Public Relations Director J. Michael DeAgostino, “we cannot put golf maintenance equipment on the courses until the frost is out of the ground and the turf is firm enough to support the equipment without tires sinking into it. So far, the greens on our courses look great but there is some winter damage to fairways and tees. GTR has already staged staggered openings of all three courses, Spruce Run, Wolverine, and The Bear.

hole1_slide

Photo courtesy of Tullymore Golf Resort

Farther downstate, Tullymore Resort, near Mt. Pleasant, normally has lake-effect snowfall providing a happy medium between heavier mixes up north and lighter precipitation in the Detroit metro area. According to Alex Greenacre, Director of Golf Course Maintenance, the resort’s two courses, Tullymore and St. Ives, came through basically unscathed, with snowfall in the ‘high normal range.’ “This year’s winter was different; we never received a large rainfall or warm days to melt any snow, which resulted in heavy amounts of drift areas that were more prone to disease – but these are actually in the rough and only superficial. Our greens, tees, and fairways were 99.9% unaffected.”

However, it’s not as if courses don’t prepare for winter’s bite. Typically, they’re treated chemically in the fall and this prevents winter damage and snow mold. The Grande Golf Club in Jackson, which opened in early April, annually spends about $4,000 to apply the anti-mold chemical, according to General Manager Brian Roberts. “It’s not fun to spend that much money going into the off-season….but you’ll really pick out the courses that didn’t use it.”

Golf-in-MichiganSo what does this mean for golfers itching to get out and play? Before planning golf trips, call first, even into May and June. And consider hoofing it: with wet conditions, courses will let walkers out sooner than carts. High school golf teams and league players are mostly affected because they begin play earlier in the season. For organizations conducting tournaments whose dates have been in place for months, there could be a concern. Michigan PGA Executive Director Kevin Helm said, “there are some facilities in the Detroit area that have been hit pretty hard. We didn’t start our schedule until the last Monday in April, so it is hard to say how our events may be affected; but at least we have not heard from any of our host sites saying we have a major problem.”

One important event happening regardless of weather is the Michigan Women’s Golf Association’s Legacy and Lifetime Achievement Awards golf celebration honoring three legendary Michigan women who have impacted golf for decades on Monday, May 19, 2014 at Travis Pointe CC in Ann Arbor.

Also, the Bogey Golf Tour, the ‘premier tour for the average golfer’ which hosts events in southeast Michigan and across the border in southwest Ontario, is already off and running with five events scheduled in May.

Finally, the Senior PGA Championship will be teeing off at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor May 22 – 25, 2014. Read below to find out how you can win free tickets to the event on the Pure Michigan Facebook page!

FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY: Do you want to score free tickets to the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor? Head to our Pure Michigan Facebook page and simply tell us in the comments section why you want to attend the Senior PGA Championship. We’ll randomly select five lucky winners to win two tickets to the event. To be eligible, submit your comments by this Friday, May 16th at 12:oo p.m. EST. We’ll  follow up with our winners via Facebook on Friday afternoon.

Janina-Jacobs-headshot-224x300Janina 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. Contact Janina at Jjacobs2456@gmail.com.