The Lodge

Thanks to Greg Johnson for another fantastic Pure Michigan Golf guest blog post!

I looked down from one of the new Lodge rooms at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club and couldn’t believe it.

The view from the clubhouse (the one I thought couldn’t be topped) had just been topped:  the good folks at Arcadia had added a top floor of 14 guest rooms to the existing clubhouse.  It was the one thing missing from this golf jewel in Northern Michigan – a place to stay on property.

The clubhouse has become “The Lodge”, and the view and room are spectacular. Each room was built with first-class customers in mind:  they all come furnished with a king bed, desk and chair, flat screen television, stand up shower, and private walk-out porch. The Lodge will provide an elegant, comfortable, and private environment for all guests. Each night stay includes breakfast, laundry service, room service and more.  Ten of the rooms face west with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, while the other four offer sunrise views. The lake view rooms are amazing, and The Lodge stayed true to the original architecture and image of the club.

Lake Michigan never looked so good from on high. The unique golf holes at Arcadia, now aged 10 years like a fine wine, were dressed up and ready to play.  Eighteen Rick Smith and Warren Henderson designed holes on 245 acres along 3,000 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline.

As a Grand Rapids-based ownership group envisioned upon founding in 1999, Arcadia has become a must-play for golfers, especially those who travel the world for unique and special golf experiences.

Greg Johnson has been writing about Michigan golf since 1982 primarily as the golf writer for The Grand Rapids Press and Booth Newspapers. He is a native of Three Rivers, grew up in St. Joseph, and a graduate of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and Michigan State University in East Lansing. An award-winning writer, he has lived in Hudsonville for the last 20 years and worked in Grand Rapids for the last 27 years.

Enter Michigan, Turn Right

Thanks to Greg Johnson for this guest blog post on golfing the sunrise side of the state.

Thunder Bay Resort is 21 miles west of Alpena, 54 miles east of Gaylord and in a little village called Hillman. One might think there can’t be much to do there, and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Golf, of course, tops my lists in all places, and it was right outside the fairway cabins we used on a family visit.  It was fun, affordable, isolated, and relaxing – everybody can play this track.

It also seemed like the perfect spot to venture from in search of other golf, unless of course you wanted to see some elk, make a quilt, attend a wine tasting or even do a Murder Mystery weekend (sort of theatrically like playing the game Clue without the board).

It has seemed to me for many years that Michigan golf (in the national order of things) gets a little bit ignored.  And in Michigan, the sunrise side of the state takes the brunt of it.  Go north, golfers are told, to the rich resort areas of Traverse City and Gaylord, and catch the beauty of golf and a sunset on the Lake Michigan side.   And I agree. Those things are great, worth the time, wonderful.  But don’t be afraid to turn right and get up early for the sunrise.  The sunrise side has similar stuff going on though, and in all price ranges. Also, it is in perhaps even more natural and less crowded settings.

Among a couple of my favorite golf spots is Red Hawk Golf Club in East Tawas.   The award-winning course, designed by Art Hills, is an escape to the hills for great golf. It’s scenic and if you take it on from the right tees for your game, you will love it.   Oh, and the restaurant on site is a great 19th hole as well.

The other place that you have to see to believe is Lakewood Shores Golf Resort in Oscoda, which is like visiting one place and getting three remarkably different golf experiences.   The Gailes is a replica of the links courses in Europe, and you can be out on the golf course and truly feel you are visiting another place. It’s one of Michigan’s most unique golf experiences.   Also on hand is The Blackshire course, which is more of a classic design that tests golfers at all levels. Beauty and challenge are combined, so be sure to bring your “A” game.   Of course, you don’t have to leave if you just want something nice and fun, or a place to play with everybody in the family. Lakewood Shores offers up the Seradella course, which is a golf course in a garden.

There’s more on that side of the state, of course. It just takes some seeking and the willingness to have fun.

Enter Michigan, turn right.

Greg Johnson has been writing about Michigan golf since 1982 primarily as the golf writer for The Grand Rapids Press and Booth Newspapers. He is a native of Three Rivers, grew up in St. Joseph, a graduate of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and Michigan State University in East Lansing. An award-winning writer, he has lived in Hudsonville for the last 20 years and worked in Grand Rapids for the last 27 years.

The Bear Won

Thanks to Greg Johnson for this guest blog post on his battle with The Bear.

In the first encounter with The Bear, well, not surprisingly, The Bear won.  Stripped of ammunition (in this case golf balls) as well as pride, I declared I would never try that monster of a golf course again.  But a year later, The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme won again.  

And so it would go — for 24 years.  Bear 24, this golfer 0. 

Jack Nicklaus, Governor James Blanchard, Doug Grove- Director of Golf/Grand Traverse Resort at the opening of The Bear

Sure, it’s not as tough as when it first opened with designer Jack Nicklaus on hand.  Jack that day was not so sure he was unleashing the right thing upon golfers in the shadow of Traverse City, our delightful Michigan tourist Mecca in the north.  Then-owner Paul Nine had ordered the toughest 18 Jack could design though, and the Golden Bear of golf had delivered.  It was brutally tough, and not just for the average golfer.

In the first Michigan Open Championship played there, which included the top professionals and amateurs from the state, The Bear exacted double-digit scores on single holes.  Strangely enough, that made me feel better about the mauling my game would take at the place. 

The Bear has softened over the years, though it still has deep bunkers, long grasses in rough areas, difficult shots over various hazards, including water and undulated hard-to-read greens.  My last scorecard had a 9 on it — yes, on one hole — the diabolical par 3 No. 9 hole that looks oh so innocent.

Some have criticized the design as too severe, too much dirt moved, too much of everything. One wonders if they just scored too much. 

Here’s the crazy part. It’s beautiful, too.

Your score is likely to be ugly, but the collection of grasses, bunkers, twisted greens and the surrounding is stunning.  I seem to get closer each year to my handicap when I play, though it’s certain to have something to do with better knowledge of the angles, bumps and pin positions. I have painfully learned where never to hit it.  Yet, I dig the place, which is located at a grand resort complete with great dining, a classic spa, great service, a nearby casino and two other golf courses on the property. 

The Bear is amid a Michigan vacation paradise waiting for its victims.  Fore I say, and for as long as I can swing a club.  I’ll beat it yet.

Greg Johnson has been writing about Michigan golf since 1982 primarily as the golf writer for The Grand Rapids Press and Booth Newspapers. He is a native of Three Rivers, grew up in St. Joseph, a graduate of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and Michigan State University in East Lansing. An award-winning writer, he has lived in Hudsonville for the last 20 years and worked in Grand Rapids for the last 27 years.