When Everett Kircher commissioned Art Hills to design a third course for his Boyne Highlands Resort, he had a very different idea than he had for the Highlands' first course.
Robert Trent Jones did the first course, now called the Heather, in 1965. It stamped Boyne as a major player in resort golf and it remains one of Jones' best works and one of the finest championship courses in Michigan.
It is, however, a difficult course for the average player with lots of water hazards including a couple of par 3s that are all carry and the signature par 4 18th with the green fronted by a large pond and nowhere to really bail out.
By the time Kircher decided on a third course at the Highlands, nearly three decades after the Jones course, Kircher wasn't carrying hazards the way he once did. And 30 years of watching resort play convinced him to order up a kinder, gentler layout. Still a strong test from the black tees but room to roam and play for every level. Let 'em make a birdie or two!
Hills, the Toledoan with degrees from Michigan State and Michigan and renowned as one of the finest golf course architects in the business, came in right on target with his first northern Michigan design. The first nine opened late last fall for limited play by Country Club of Boyne members and a few itinerant visitors.
The second nine probably won't be completed until Hills and Boyne finish work on the megamillion dollar Bay Harbor project overlooking Little Traverse Bay. That's a 27 hole private and lodge guest course with nine scheduled to open this summer.
Boyne is combining the first nine of the Hills course at the Highlands with one of the two nines of the Moor for an 18-hole round. The price is $85 for walk-ins and $70 for Boyne guests.
If the second Hills nine is like the first, it will be my favorite Boyne course and to this point the Alpine course at Boyne Mountain has been my pick for fun.
Like the Tom Fazio and Rick Smith courses at Treetops and The Quest at Houghton Lake, the Hills course has w-i-d-e fairways. Naturally, you're better off for the shot to the green if you're at the right spot in the fairway but you're not thrashing about in the woods looking for your ball.
Boyne has done a better job than just about anyone, right from the Jones course, in clearing rough, brushing out under trees and specifying wide fairways.
Of the nine Hills holes open, only one par 4, the first hole, is 400 yards and it's that on the nose from the blue tee_there are, incidentally, five tees on each hole.
The second is a short par 4 of 345 yards from the blue and 305 from the white but the green is elevated and contoured so the shot calls for accuracy.
At present the first four holes are in the same sequence as they will be when all 18 are completed. Now it's a jump from the fourth to what will be seven and eight and then another jump to what will be the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
The seventh is 200 yards from the back black markers and 150 from the whites and the backdrop last fall was a blaze of color from the Highlands' ski hills. There is marshland on both sides and behind the green but it's a generous target.
The last two holes of the nine that is open will be 17 and 18 when the course is completed and they're dandies. The 17th has a split fairway with tees for each side and trees up the seam, short of the green. It's 345 to 420 yards. From the back tee there's a 160-yard carry over water regardless of which fairway you pick.
The 18th is signature Boyne_water. It was Kircher, not Jones, who ordained the pond on the 18th of the Jones course and since then, the 18th hole of every Boyne course, the Alpine, Monument, Moor and Ross, has been a water hole. Hills' 18th is a par 5 that bends around to the left as opposed to its next-door neighbor, the 18th on the Donald Ross Memorial course that bends right and is a copy of the famous 16th hole at Oakland Hills.
Hills' 18th invites you to bite off as much as you can chew. From the white tees it's 465 yards and certainly a birdie chance if you keep it dry. From the back it's 550 yards and the green is nestled in an amphitheater, a nice spot to watch at tournament time and a finishing hole worthy of its brothers at Boyne.
Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. At least that was my first take on The Coyote, a new course in Oakland, located at 12 Mile and Milford Roads. Designed by Scott Thacker for Osburn Development, the course boasts four par fives over 543 yards in length, with the 9th hole, coming in at 583 yards. Lest you think things get easier on the gold tees, they don't. All of the holes still measure 500+ yards All told, the course measures 7200+ yards from the black tees. Would you pass me the really, really, really Big Bertha, please.
Contributing Editor Jack Berry, so the story goes, feels that a course can't be deemed a championship quality course unless it has a par three over 200 yards. I wonder what Jack would think about the Coyote, a course that has four of them? The 14th, is the longest being at 223 yards.
However, there is more than length to the Coyote story. Scott Thacker has developed a very good track. Six of the holes are located in a woodsy area, while the other 12 lie in a fairly open area. There are a couple of stands of trees in the open area, but you will find trouble in a number of well placed marsh areas, four ponds and interesting traps. The course features strategic mounding, four tee areas, a putting green and a first rate driving range.
A number of holes should prove to be memorable. The first par 3, Hole #2, features a serpentine trap in front of the green and one of the four ponds in the back. No. 12 is a monster 483 par four with a Marmaduke-sized dogleg. The last of the five's, #18, has a classic finish over water.
William Jaynes is the director of golf for the project. Bill spent some time at Detroit Golf Club and about 15 years as an assistant professional in the metro Detroit area. Samuel VanDusen is the superintendent.
The driving range measures 200 by 300 yards and an excellent practice green will also be available. The clubhouse will measure some 7200 square feet.
Oh yes, there is a family of coyotes on the property. Whether they'll tolerate the onslaught of thousands of golfers is another matter.
For further information, call The Coyote at 810-486-1228.
If there were an award for best name for new golf courses, it may well go to the Mystic Creek Golf Club. For devotees of the cult book, Golf in the Kingdom, Mystic Creek sounds like an ethereal home course for its hero Shivas Irons. Instead, it's a down to earth Michigan layout in Milford, located just outside of Camp Dearborn.
Developed and co-designed by Jim Dewling, president of Total Golf, Mystic Creek is a 27 hole project with considerable amenities for Southeastern Michigan. The three nines are called The Meadows, The Woods, and The Lakes courses. They are set to open May 15, June 15 and July 1 respectively.
The Meadows course will play anywhere from 2355 to 3246 yards depending upon which tees are selected. Playing to a par 36, the layout will be noted for the twists and turns in the routing, strategically placed bunkers and a network of ponds. Dewling feels the signature hole on this nine will be the par three, 157 yard fourth hole. Here, a well struck iron must usually battle the prevailing winds and fly over Mystic Creek.
Next up in June will be The Woods obviously featuring a tighter, leafy look befitting a nine where "nearly every species (of trees) found in Michigan abound over the rolling land." And roll it does as one elevation change drops 70 feet on this side. The longest of the three nines, The Woods can stretch out to 3419 yards from the back tees. As far as demanding holes, the par four, 432 yard fifth hole will undoubtedly take honors here. From the tee, a carry of some 180 yards will be needed to reach the landing area. From there, a long iron or fairway wood must be squarely hit to reach the elevated green. Surely, it'll be one hole where par is as good as a birdie.
Completing the triad at Mystic Creek, is The Lakes. And yes, H2O will predominate here with five lakes coming into play on eight of the nine holes. (No word yet who has laid claim on the lucrative ball reclamation.) So be forewarned: hit it straight and true and you'll stay nice and dry. The yardages range from 2350 to 3383 yards so those with hydrophobia may be well-advised to move up to a friendlier tee box. The par four, 386 yard eight hole will be a favorite of players. Even though water will come in play for really errant drives, there is a large and ample landing area. It will be another hole where par is readily accepted.
In addition to the three nines, Mystic Creek has several other attractive amenities. One, is the Mystic Creek Adventure Golf, an 18 hole miniature golf facility set to open in July. Then there's a large and full service banquet center/clubhouse, that can accommodate up to 300 persons, which is now open and booking reservations.
Considering its ideal location, full service philosophy, and family oriented attractions, Mystic Creek will be a popular spot this summer. Yes, there's more to this golf complex than just an enchanting name, Shivas.
Rick Smith's Tradition
A walking course? In resort country? Hard to believe but that's what they're doing at Treetops/Sylvan Resort for their fifth course.
Walking is next to impossible at every resort course in America and for the most part, all the new high-end public courses in metropolitan areas.
The reasons are several, chiefly: the revenue golf cars produce, Americans' reluctance to walk any farther than the couch to the refrigerator and the distance between greens and tees.
It isn't that way in Scotland or Ireland or New Zealand. Golfers don't ride golf cars on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Ballybunion in Ireland or Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. They walk, usually carrying their own bag or pulling a trolley_a golf cart to us.
Rick Smith, Treetops' resident golf director/architect/teacher to the stars, loves golf's traditions and he convinced Treetops owner Harry Melling of Jackson to let him build a walking course. Melling once said, he thought in jest, that he wanted a course for each day in the week. Someone quoted him on it and he's stuck with it. With the Tradition he's just two shy of a full week's worth of courses.
The Tradition is at Treetops North, with the Tom Fazio, Rick Smith Signature and Threetops courses. They're five miles north of the resort lodge. The first nine is scheduled to open July 1 with the second nine in spring of 1997. Last summer's torrential rains threw the project off schedule.
Treetops' first four courses, by Robert Trent Jones, Fazio and Smith, have some severe ups and downs. In fact, the resort got its name when Jones, looking over the par 3 sixth hole on his course, told Melling he should name the course Treetops because that was all you could see all the way to the horizon.
Walking the first four courses would require a degree of fitness that would eliminate a lot of customers. Not so on The Tradition.
"The ups and downs are longer and more gentle," said Warren Henderson, Smith's design associate who previously worked for Jack Nicklaus and Michael Hurdzan.
"There aren't any steep climbs and that's why the walking concept worked out," Henderson said. "It's a nice compact routing."
Smith's philosophy is to make the course a challenge for the best players and enjoyable for everyone including high handicappers. Therefore there aren't any ponds, water hazards, wetlands or forced carries, an incredible circumstance in Michigan.
"It's a high and dry site and they're hard to find in this day and age," Henderson said. "There are some natural nice rolling contours that lend a Shinnecock feel, a lot more open areas that have been grassed with long grasses. It's going to be beautiful in late summer when those grasses go brown and dormant."
The greens aren't as contoured as on Smith's first course and there aren't as many bunkers_there are 120 on his first course.
"Rick likes bunkering that frames holes, provides targets and forces the player to think about the shot that's necessary to fit the circumstance.
The Walking Course stretches to 6,500 yards and will have a series of tees, as on the other Treetops courses, down to 4,700 yards.
As demands on Smith's time grew and as more people wanted him to design courses, he looked for help and Henderson, a native of Pennsylvania and landscape architecture graduate from the University of Arizona, was recommended by Fazio and Nicklaus. Henderson also was in charge of Hurdzan's award-winning Westwood Plateau 30-hole project in Vancouver, British Columbia. It includes an 18 hole course, 9 hole executive and 3 hole practice course as part of its learning center.
"Rick and I spent a lot of time talking philosophy and we agree on so much," Henderson said.
"More than any other architect, he brings playability as his leading concern," Henderson said. "He's going to design a course that will challenge anyone from the back tee."
Sparrow Hawk, once cited by the National Golf Foundation as one of the top nines in the Midwest, is opening a new nine this month."
Jeff Gorney, the designer and the golf architect who brought us the magnificent Little Traverse Bay, has managed to weave the new nine through some creeks and wetlands. Seven of the nine holes have water crossing over or next to them.
The original nine is rolling and noted for its up or down hill lies and terrific greens. Audrey and Alex Disabato plan to add some additional irrigation some time this fall.
Audrey was the founder of the Jackson Area Golf Association and stayed at its helm for two and a half years. This year Maggie Gilson has taken over. The association, with the help of Jackson CVB executive director Wendy Erskine, is starting to make its impact on the Michigan golf scene. Jackson is the place that was cited by Rand McNally as having more golf holes per capita than any place in the world. However, in those days, the battle was over market-share within the Jackson area. Now, they are all trying to bring more business to Jackson golf courses.
Sparrow Hawk is located off exit 141 on I-94. It has an excellent driving range and putting green. Call 517- 787-1366 for tee times.
Joe Kaufmann decided to increase the size of a pond on his property a couple of years ago and ended up building Twin Bridges. Twin Bridges is aptly named for a couple of bridges built at the turn of the century which are located on old Swan Creek Road in Merrill. Joe and his wife Joy opened up nine holes last year. They plan to integrate the new nine with the old when they launch the total course in June. Generally speaking, the course has been labeled as one that is very challenging. In designing Twin Bridges, they respected the domain of native wetlands which has contributed to the relative tightness of the layout.
Twin Bridges, located in Merrill just 20 minutes south of Midland, (east of Alma or west of Saginaw) should draw quite well from those communities. The course, which measures 6350 yards from the back tees, is designed to offer both charm and challenge. Cut partially out of a wooded area, Twin Bridges will offer golfers a balance of tight and open terrain, a little bit of water here and there and an ample practice area and putting green. Superintendent Rick Hayes, formerly at Crooked Creek, helped the Kaufmanns with the course development.
For further information or tee times call 517-643-7475.
Twin Lakes GC
Mark this date down: August 1, 1996. That's the expected opening of one of the most eagerly awaited new public courses in the state_Twin Lakes GC in Rochester, MI.
Ray Hearn, senior designer for Matthews & Associates, is beaming with enthusiasm. "This truly will be a wonderful golf course," said Hearn whose previous work with Jerry Matthews includes such standout courses as The Majestic and Mistwood. "Owner Sam Cottone provided us with all the resources and budget necessary to design and build a first-class layout."
Although not a serious golfer, Cottone knew what he wanted. "I wanted a top of the line course to fit an upscale housing project," said Cottone. "Ray convinced me there's a big difference between a good and a great course."
In pursuit of greatness, Hearn spent almost three years on Twin Lakes, a gestation period of a blue whale in the design business. "I can't even estimate how many site visits I made to Twin Lakes," said Hearn to me recently. As such, the luxury of time and money have greatly contributed to its "grand scale" according to Hearn. "Everything was built on a grand scale_from tees, to greens, to bunkers," said Hearn.
Twin Lakes has five sets of tees, ranging from 4720 to 6775 yards. The greens will be large by public course standards with the 18th green reaching 25,000 square feet in size while the first and 15th holes will share a 38,000 double green. That's why pro Doug Grove, formerly of The Orchards, described the course to me as "a really big golf course." Grove stated that based upon his conversations with golf architectural writer Ron Whitten and designer Tom Doak that "Twin Lakes' greens are probably the largest built in the industry, averaging 12,000 square feet."
Hearn's work has been influenced by visits to the classic courses of Scotland. "I felt the large size of the greens contributed to great variations in how the golf course could be set up [for] different types of play and conditions." Also, Hearn knows multiple tees and large greens will combat the wear and tear of frequent public play that's surely in store here.
But more than anything, Twin Lakes will be noted for its natural beauty. The property is enhanced by three connecting lakes and Stony Creek flowing through the southern end of the site. "What should set this course apart," said Hearn, "is that it'll be outstanding in textures, contrasts, and transitions. Natural vegetation, prairie grasses and Midwest wildflowers will mix in."
From Hearn's preview comments, it appears that determining the "signature" holes at Twin Lakes will be the subject of a friendly 19th hole debate. Certainly, the charm and personality of the double green first hole must be noted. Ditto for the dramatic final hole, a 500 yard par five with the previously noted huge green and a-homage-to- St.Andrews "Valley of Sin" guarding its approach. Hearn also speaks highly of his par 3, 165-yard 16th hole. A 30-foot valley extends the length of the hole, named "Grass Fingers" due to the long grass fingers that bleed down from the small hills on the left side of the green. Instead of bunkers, there are deep grassy depressions and swales that'll pose problems for golfers missing the three-tiered green.
It's not surprising given the breadth and scope of Twin Lakes_which will afford approximately 300 lots around three of its holes_that some proven and respected names have been lured to the project. In addition to Grove, Country Club of Detroit's Carey Mitchelson is the new superintendent.
You can bet beginning August 1, caravans of eager golfers will also be attracted to this meticulously conceived and nurtured beauty. For more information, call 1-810-650-4960.
Double Eagle (Ohio)
Let me explain right at the start that Double Eagle Club in Galena, Ohio is a very small and private club. Fortunately, I was an invited guest. Located outside Columbus, Double Eagle is fast gaining the reputation as one of the premiere, exclusive golf clubs (emphasis on golf and club here) in the country. Having been there last May, I must say I was duly impressed with not only the golf course but the entire facility. The man behind Double Eagle is John McConnell, founder and CEO of the billion dollar Worthington Industries in Columbus. McConnell originally conceived Double Eagle as a sumptuous getaway devoted to golf for a handful of his friends and associates.
The story really begins in 1977 when McConnell purchased 220 acres of property in nearby Delaware county for a private fishing club. A few years later, McConnell convinced Tom Weiskopf, who hadn't yet devoted himself to golf course design, to take a fly-over of the property which had grown to 340 acres. One aerial look at the property and the seed had been planted for a course to proudly sit alongside mid-Ohio's other gems such as The Golf Club, Scioto, Muirfield Village and the Scarlet course at O.S.U. In 1992, Weiskopf and then partner Jay Moorish finished their design and Double Eagle Club opened to universal acclaim. And although much of the course's genius must be attributed to Weiskopf and Morris, certainly the basic golf instincts and predilections of McConnell should not go untold. About his patron, Weiskopf has been quoted as saying this: "He totally defined our boundaries; knew precisely what he wanted...he sure understands the games and what he likes and dislikes."
And what are those likes and dislikes? McConnell doesn't like fuss and clutter on golf courses. So at Double Eagle there are no signs, no hole diagrams, no rain shelters and not even a restroom on the course. On each tee is a lone hunter green ball washer and one plain sawhorse type bench. McConnell also doesn't care for divots strewn over his fairways and tees. Presto! The grounds crew, led by the incomparable Terry Buchen, soil and seed the tees each day of the season, and weekly for the fairways. The result is near immaculate conditions. (In a survey taken last year, Double Eagle was ranked alongside Augusta National GC for outstanding conditioning.) Finally and most importantly, McConnell wanted a course that would truly be enjoyable to play. "You should be able to get out of trouble without scoring a 10 and should never come off the course mad," said McConnell to writer Kaye Kessler in a story a few years back.
With these credos, Weiskopf and Morrish have created a near masterpiece of understated elegance. Here, the 'less is more' philosophy in design is wonderfully exposed. There are few if any unnatural elements to the layout. No decked fairways, no plateau-perched greens with sharp angles are in play here. Earth-moving was kept to the minimum while skillful shaping affords natural run-ups and friendly bump-and-run type shotmaking.
The routing plan was meticulous. All the par 3's and all the par 5's are in four different wind directions. The course starts gently and then winds its way on holes 5 through 9 through the woods. The rest of the course is generally open and exposed to the breezes.
Special delights are the par four 9th hole which sports a "Spectacle" bunker inspired by Carnoustie's famed "Bifocals." The 15th is a tough but fair par four that skirts along Lake Weiskopf. My favorite is the driveable par four 17th hole, where from the white tees the huge green sits only 285 yards away via one route down this double fairway.
Finally, a word about the "bye hole." Bye holes originated in Scotland to settle matches. Only a half dozen course in the U.S. have this extra 19th hole. But at Double Eagle, Weiskopf raised the ante by having a two-for one bye hole. Located between the 18th and 9th greens, this bye hole affords a green with two distinct tees from different directions. In perpetual homage to Weiskopf's British Open victory in '73, the flag on the bye hole is annually changed to reflect the current Open venue.
Everything is done with style and class at Double Eagle Club. Superintendent Terry Buchen is doing a marvelous job in maintaining this superbly manicured layout for only 100 or so lucky members and their guests. For sure, it's hard to sum up one's day at Double Eagle Club. But would "thank you, Mr. McConnell" do for starters?