Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Conferences, Business Meetings & Golf
By Dean Holzwarth

The demanding everyday grind of the business world can have a lasting effect on today's society. Although it's never easy to escape the daily workload, convention centers and resorts around the Great Lakes make it easier to handle the pressures of the workplace.

Corporate and professional conference planners are beginning to understand this and are booking these facilities by bringing golf and business meetings together.

"A lot of business is done on the course -- we see meetings in the morning and golfing in the afternoon," Crystal Mountain Public Relations Manager Joan O'Neill said. "It's a lot more than just a meeting room and it helps to enrich the entire business experience because golf is one of the most popular sports. Our conference center feeds our golf course and the two complement each other very well."

The following is an inside look at a variety of conference centers and resorts in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario:

In north-central Michigan, a host of conference centers at some of the state's most

popular golf courses allow companies to get employees and clients away from the daily distractions of the world.

The Otsego Club and Resort in Gaylord offers 14 state-of-the art meeting and conference facilities for 20-200 people and will be open in September. The signature rooms for meetings are the 3,000 square-foot Headwaters Room as well as the 2,050 square-foot Sitzmark Room. Accommodations include 105 hotel rooms, suites, chalets and condominiums. A collection of great golf comprises four uniquely challenging PGA championship courses. The Loon, the Lake, the Black Bear and The Classic each offers a scenic background in the form of wetlands, water and wildlife.

Also on the outskirts of Gaylord, Treetops Resort provides eight meeting rooms and an experienced conference staff which can efficiently serve groups up to 1,000 people. The property features up to 254 rooms and 10,017 square feet in the Convention Center. The resort includes four championship golf courses for corporations to unwind after the business operations have concluded.

Also in Gaylord, Marsh Ridge Resort is nearby. This property also combines golf and conference facilities, to offer a unique setting for productive meetings. The Nordic Conference Center sits atop of the highest elevation in northern Michigan. It's completely

glassed in on one end and has a panoramic viewoif an 18-hole championship golf course. The conference facility accommodates as many as 150 people. The Summit Atrium conference room is also available. Marsh Ridge offers 22 suite lodges and two conference rooms set back in the hardwoods.

For smaller functions, Marsh Ridge provides the Bergen Atrium or Copenhagen Atrium for up to 80 people. It's ideal for meetings, small seminars or break-out rooms.

For more casual gatherings, the Continental Lounge was built for intimate meetings of up to 16 people. A wet bar is attached.

In Frankenmuth, the No. 1 tourist attraction, the Fortress Golf Course, provides the surroundings for Zehnders Restaurant. In addition to being proclaimed America's Largest Family Restaurant, it has 10 separate rooms for meetings and is estimated at 10, 800 square feet. It also includes 105 hotel rooms.

"We cater a lot to families, but the conventions are still important to the growth of our company," said Director of Sales and Marketing, John Shelton.

At Ferris State University in Big Rapids, the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center includes an executive boardroom, state-of-the art auditorium and a conference center which features of 15,000 square feet of meeting and functional space. Twelve rooms are available for meetings and the ballroom seats up to 500 people for a banquet. The center is adjacent to the PGA Katke Golf Course.

In the Upper Peninsula, the two-year-old Wild Bluff Golf Course on the Bay Mills Resort includes a first-class hotel, two casinos and a restaurant. The conference ballroom can be divided into three meeting rooms and holds 300 people. The hotel will add 77 new rooms in May for a total of 144.

For those interested in traveling out of Michigan for their mix of business and pleasure, Blue Mountain Resort and the Forest Golf and Country Club are two of the finest resorts across the border.

Blue Mountain, Ontario's largest conference resort located 1.5 hours north of Toronto, has a new conference center is in the heart of the resort located adjacent to the Blue Mountain Inn and the Inn Cafe. It's a beautifully designed, 9,000 square-foot, state-of-the art center which features three meeting rooms, a pre-function room and a foyer. It includes a view of the mountain and the hotel features outdoor tennis courts, shuffle boards and year-round hot tubs. The Xerox Business Center is also available with a full computer station which includes a photocopier, a printer, laptop computer outlets and wall outlets for conference calls.

The Kandahar Room and Weider Rooms can accommodate groups over 500 and the spacious 6,000-foot room can be converted into three large meeting rooms. The Forest Golf and Country Club is nestled in the rolling countryside of southwestern Ontario. It's a unique all-season resort with secluded charm and a country ambiance which includes a 27-hole golf course and a 75-room hotel.

It's a perfect setting for a next meeting and includes a conference room which seats up to 200 people and has complete meeting amenities. Smaller meeting rooms for up to 25 people are also avilabable.

"We have a lot of local businesses in the area who stay overnight and enjoy a round of golf," Office Manager Debbie Merritt said. "Our business is very good in the summertime."

In northeast Ohio, the Sawmill Creek Resort is located on the South shore of Lake

Erie and is said to be Ohio's finest conference center and vacation resort. The 235-acre resort is a convenient Midwest destination within driving distance of Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Detroit.

It provides 17,000 square feet of meeting space, which can accommodate small meetings in unique settings or large conferences up to 800. A stroll on the Tom Fazio 18-hole championship golf course is a must, while The Lodge accommodates 240 deluxe hotel rooms.

In southeast Michigan, the Ypsilanti Marriott and 18-hole championship Eagle Crest Golf Club combine to form the Eagle Crest Conference Resort. The course overlooks the picturesque Ford Lake in Ypsilanti Township and the conference center offers a perfect place to conduct business getaways. The Education Center features two auditoriums, a conference room, seminar rooms, executive boardrooms and a computer lab.

In southwest Michigan, Candlestone Inn Golf and Resort in Belding features an 18-hole championship course with three banquet rooms and remodeled hotel rooms. The Fireside Room can hold up to 95 people and audio and visual equipment is available on request.

On the Lake Michigan shore, the Haworth Conference and Learning Center is located in downtown Holland. The facility works in junction with Clearbrook Golf Course and The Ravines in Saugatuck and offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space with 12 rooms.

The Grand Traverse Bay Resort and Spa offers 49,000 square-feet of versatile dedicated meeting space for groups ranging from 10 to 2,500. Governor's Hall offers more than 20,000 square feet of group space with 20-foot ceilings, state-of-the-art conference equipment and a projection booth. The resort's flexible conference facilities can be divided into 34 separate meeting rooms of varying space.

The resort's indoor tennis courts are also available for use as two separate exhibition halls totaling 30,000 square feet. Both halls feature a 30-foot ceiling for the most dramatic events and a spacious outdoor function overlooking the golf courses and grounds is also available.

"It's the nature of our business," Cheryl Ferguson of Grand Traverse said. "Seventy-five percent of our business is meeting and convention related."

"Our peak months are June, July and August and are conversion rate (which is number of rounds per group stays) is 25 percent so we're very happy with that.

"Our biggest benefit is having three golf courses (The Bear, Spruce Run, and The Wolverine) because we're able to fill the need for our community."

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