Shanty Creek: Three Equals One
Shanty Creek, one of northern Michigan's premier four-season resorts, is living proof of the old axiom: The sum is greater than the parts.
It began as two smaller resorts and made its debut in the early 1960s. Its sister resort, which later would become "part of the sum," Schuss Mountain, opened later that decade. Shanty Creek was the dream of Roy Deskin, a Detroit steel magnate who wanted a classy "up north" resort where he could entertain clients and friends. Having owned property on nearby Torch Lake since 1944, he was -- as the story goes -- tired of driving all over northern Michigan in search of good restaurants to entertain visitors.
Construction on the present-day Shanty Creek lodge began in 1959. Originally it was going to be a private club, but Deskin quickly realized the potential the resort could have as a destination ski and golf resort. The first ski season was the winter of 1962-63, and the Summit Golf Course, designed by William Diddle, opened in 1968. The first four-season destination resort in the Traverse City region was in business. Chicago stockbroker Daniel Iannotti, who had a vision of pattering a Midwest ski and golf resort after Vail, Colorado, but one also closely resembling a little European hamlet, was meanwhile developing just two miles away, Schuss Mountain. His dream was realized when the "Kingdom of Schuss" made its debut in 1968. The Schuss Mountain Golf Course, designed by Warner Bowen, quickly followed, opening in 1972.
"It was a great time," said Shanty Creek marketing Director Barry Godwin, who worked that first season at Schuss as a hotel desk clerk. "The customers loved it. We had our own currency -- backed by pork bellies -- and language." Both resorts continued to grow and prosper as separate developments until they were merged in 1985 by then Shanty Creek owner, Club Corporation of America.
Deskin passed away in 1969, but Shanty continued to grow and prosper -- managed as part of his estate -- until it was sold in 1978 to developers John Meeske, who had worked at Schuss Mountain in the early years, and partner Jerry Auger, a Traverse City businessman. To help promote the resort, it became a part of the Hilton chain for a brief period.
In 1980 a management group, headed by Meeske, was retained to manage Schuss Mountain. When Club Corp. bought out Meeske and Auger in 1984, they purchased Schuss a year later and combined the two properties. At the same time the new Arnold Palmer course, The Legend, opened at the Shanty Creek. That opening, along with the opening of The Bear, the Jack Nicklaus course at nearby Grand Traverse Resort, ushered in the golf boom that's been taking place in northern Michigan for the last 15 years.
"We wanted their ski slopes. They were better than Shanty's slopes, although, with the opening of the new Palmer course, we had the better golf," recalled Shanty Creek CEO Terry Schieber, who also has a long history with the resort. He was part of the original Meeske management team, and rose to became GM under Club Corp. He would later head up a team of limited partners called GFO that purchased Shanty from Club Corp. in 1997 and continues today to operate the four-star resort.
Over the years the various owners continued to add surrounding property to the sum of the resort. One of their later acquisitions allowed them to develop the Lodge at Cedar River and the Cedar River Golf Course designed by Tom Weiskopf. Opening in 1999, it gave Shanty a third village. Connected to the other two villages, Summit and Schuss, by an interconnecting network of trails and roads, it gives the resort a very European feel and look. It sits on the backside of Schuss Mountain offering a labyrinth of hiking trails that climb the hills between the two villages.
The golf, with legendary golf course architects like Palmer and Weiskopf, makes the resort one the best destinations in the Great Lakes region. In addition to Cedar River and The Legend, the resort also offers the Schuss Mountain Course, a local favorite, and the open, playable Summit Course.
A conference center was added at the Summit in 1988 and several condominium clusters and single-family homes have sprung up around the villages and golf courses in the last few years. Situated on 4,500-acres of beautiful, forested land laced over the hills and dales of Antrim County, all of the "parts" come together to create one of the most scenic destination resorts in northern Michigan. Deskin and Iannotti would be proud of the sum that their separate visions created.
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