Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

From The Editor
by Terry Moore

This issue includes articles, in a two-part series, on the newest courses in the state.

It's always a popular issue with readers who regularly tell us how much they enjoy learning about these new layouts. For sure, Michigan has given us plenty to write about as the state has been a leader in new course development in the U.S. It's a terrific time to be a golfer in our state. There's an endless array of quality courses all over the state_from the UP down to the Indiana border.

As Jack Berry reports in his cover story, Michigan is now becoming a hotbed for some of major "name" designers in the country. Until this year, noted architect Rees Jones didn't have a single course in the state; in '99, he'll have two. Likewise, award-winning designer Tom Weiskopf goes from none to two. About the only name designer who isn't in Michigan yet is Ben Crenshaw who works with architect Bill Coore. Our Indiana neighbors are one-up on us here as Crenshaw & Coore are finishing up the new course at Notre Dame in South Bend.

But to think about it, Michigan has a strong history when it comes to name architects and designers. I mean, Michigan has its fair share of fine Donald Ross courses_Oakland Hills, Detroit GC, Rackham to name only three. The genius of Alister Mackenzie (and Perry Maxwell) is forever bequeathed to Crystal Downs and the University of Michigan. Pete Dye's artistry is evident at Radrick Farms while Robert Trent Jones will be long remembered for his Point 'O Woods and Boyne Highlands layouts. In fact, looking through The Architects of Golf by Whitten and Cornish (an excellent book), it became apparent that nearly all the legendary architects have done work here. Two-time British Open champion Willie Park Jr. who did Sunningdale in England and Olympia Field GC (North) in Chicago was here (Battle Creek GC and Red Run GC.) So was Walter Travis (Lochmoor Club) whose work includes such celebrated designs as Garden City and Westchester CC's in New York. The notable exceptions are: A.W. Tillinghast of Winged Foot, San Francisco GC and Bethpage fame; Seth Raynor of Shoreacres, Fishers Island and Camargo renown; C.B. MacDonald (Raynor's partner) who did such acclaimed courses as the National Golf Links and Chicago GC; and Stanley Thompson (Canada's Donald Ross) who did the spectacular Jasper Park and Banff Springs courses in the Canadian Rockies. (There are probably several more names I've overlooked but hey, I'm not doing a Master's thesis here.)

So well-known designers are nothing new to the state. Only this time around, the best designs are found not at exclusive, private courses but rather at daily-fee and resort courses. To the point, the United Auto Workers' new Black Lake course was designed by Rees Jones. Some may find that fact a bit ironic or strange, a trade union embracing the golf boom. But on second thought, it makes sense. Golf in Michigan is not an elitist endeavor, especially considering the decades-old tradition of golf leagues. Many leagues grew out of the auto industry and have long been a backbone of daily-fee operations. It's been a pet theory of mine that Michigan's historically strong working class, bolstered by higher wages and the 40-hour week nobly sought in part by such unions as the UAW, helped to fuel the wealth of public golf courses in the state. It's no accident Michigan leads the nation in public courses. You need customers with time and disposal income to play golf. So, according to my theory, Michigan's rich labor history must be partially credited for Michigan's rich golf present.

But back to the designers and architects. They're providing some wonderful and diverse golf experiences across the state. Dialing up 1-800-Cliche, I know that "variety is the Spice (Girls) of life." The leading architects help to make the game more intriguing and fascinating with each new course. If Michigan does indeed position itself as a world-class golf destination, it will be because our palette of courses compel golfers to travel here. And right now, the collection in the outdoor gallery is growing impressively.

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