The small Alpine town of Gaylord, straddling I-75 in Otsego County, is living proof of an adage borrowed from a famous baseball film If you build it, they will come.
It in this case is a series of terrific golf courses that have been built in the area in the last 10 years, making Gaylord a golfing destination to match any in the country. With22 courses within a 45-minute radius, five resorts - including two Golf Magazine Silver Medal winners for excellence, Treetops and Garland - Gaylord is truly he Golf Mecca of the Midwest.
Old-time Gaylord hands will remember when the venerable Sugar Bowl restaurant on Main Street and the German-steeped Schlangs Bavarian Inn on Old Otsego were the only choices for discriminating diners. Timothys Pub and Marys Tavern were the watering holes for locals and visitors. Not anymore. Since the soft-collar shirt and shorts set began pouring into town, the 19th hole attractions are now as varied as the courses that bring them to town.
The make-over of Schlangs, where a banquet room was converted into a golf club-style lounge, and steaks, fish, and giant grilled double pork chop snow dominate the German menu, are testimony to the influence of golf on the local economy. Steak and beer lovers can get their fill of both at the original and cavernous Big Buck brewery and restaurant in the heart of town.
Another stop for golfers, or anyone who appreciates a crackling fire in a huge stone fireplace, nipping the evening chill, is the Log Mark, a hill-side perch at the Otsego Club. With a great view of the Sturgeon River Valley, and the 17th hole of the Classic course, this rustic haven is a charming pause after golf, or before dinner in the resorts classy Pontresina Ristorante.
The most significant new course opening for play this year is The Tribute, a massive but very playable Gary Koch and Rick Robins design at the Otsego Club. With owner Keith Gornick turning his attention from the gas and oil drilling business to golf, the Otsego Club, with three other courses, is now a major player on the Michigan golf scene.
The Tribute, which has big valley views similar to the nearby Treetops courses, features wide fairways with gentle landing areas. Sports Illustrateds Gary Van Sicle took notice by ranking it No. 7 in his latest top-10 listing of the best new courses.
The best comeback in Gaylord golf is the rejuvenation of the wonderful traditional Pines course at Michaywe. under the direction of popular Golf Director/Manager Don White. Also reopened and redone in fine style is the Inn of the Woods restaurant which is open year round.
In addition to the Otsego Club and Treetops Sylvan Resort, the other resort anchors in the Mecca are Marsh Ridge and the Garland complex in Lewiston. Garlands Four-Diamond rating from AAA, its 60 two-bedroom, two-bath golf cottages and four meticulously maintained courses make this a natural stop for serious golf groups. The superb fresh game and fish fare and wine list at Hermans makes this resort restaurant a natural stop for those who are equally serious about dining. The big patio outside the mammoth log lodge is a memorable spot to wind down after a day on the links.
The nearby Jerry Matthews-designed Elk Ridge Golf Club plays through some of the states most majestic stands of red and white pine and large tracts of wetland. A pig-shaped bunker at the 10th hole and the delicious sandwiches served in the club house reflects its ownership, the Honey Baked Ham company.
Treetops notable four championship courses - one each by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Tom Fazio, and two by the resorts own star, Rick Smith, offer some of the best golf on any one property anywhere. You also cant beat sipping a cold one after golf on the patio at Treetops North where the Sturgeon River Valley falls away at your feet.
On Gaylords south end, Marsh Ridge Resorts compact 6,127-yard course is a tight shot making challenge. The resorts restaurant, Jacs Place, competes admirably with the best of big city eateries. Sunday brunch over the newspaper is a treat. A lighted driving range is available for those really serious golfers who cant get enough.
In addition to the Michaywe complex, Charles Brink Road , just south of Marsh Ridge is also home to Otsego Clubs two other courses: The Lake and the very good Mike Husby-designed Loon. It is also the address of the Gaylords most prestigious Blue Goose restaurant, a fabulous conversion of a home into the best area gourmet dining this side of the Rowe Inn in Ellsworth. Its pricey, but worth it for a special night out.
Any visit to Gaylord must include Tom Doaks Black Forest, at the Wilderness Valley Golf Club. Few courses can match the variety of strategy Doak fused into each hole. The heart-stopping undulated greens and the shaggy-collared Scottish style bunkers make this course one of the states best tests of shot making and touch on the greens.Just down Mancelona Road from Black Forest, the understated Settings restaurant in the Lakes of the North development is an unsung gem with a creative kitchen that does wonderful things with chicken and fish dishes and the tariff here will not break the bank.
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