Smyers set to open first Michigan course next spring
WILLIAMSBURG, Mich. - Promising "an overseas experience" with a bunkering style that is unseen in new golf development in Michigan, LochenHeath Golf Club is on target to open Memorial Day weekend 2001, according to Golf and Club Director Doug Grove.
Golf course architect Steve Smyers' first Michigan course, LochenHeath is located seven miles north of Traverse City along the shore of East Grand Traverse Bay on US 31 North. The facility will be a private, gated community with 84 home sites and 2,350 feet of Lake Michigan shore frontage. A handful of rental cottages will be available for national members.
"There's nothing like it around here," Grove said of LochenHeath. "The vistas and bunkering style are new to Michigan as far as new golf development. There may be some older courses with this look, but no one up here has built anything like this in a lot of years. It's a good piece of land and Smyers is an old school architect. "We're proud of those two things. The rest is for the players to judge." Grove said the 7,300-yard, par-71 layout is full of risk-reward opportunities. "It's a dry design," he said. "The playing surface is firm, with trouble behind rather than in front of the greens. There are a lot of opportunities to bring the ball in either high or roll it in low. A wet design requires you to hit the ball in high and drop it on the green. The bunkering style is classical - very Donald Ross- or Alister Mackenzie-looking."
"The bunkers are dramatic," Smyers said. "But it is such a wonderful site that with the movement of the land and use of native grasses, we kept them pretty basic. There are 69 bunkers and no water hazards." The course overlooks Grand Traverse Bay, affording gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. The lake throws off winds that will undoubtedly affect club selection. "It's going to be like an overseas experience," Grove said. Grove's favorite hole is the par-3 17th, an uphill 156-yarder with a cluster of five bunkers in front of the green. "It's a pretty challenging hole," he said.
"There's a lot of movement and roll to the course," Grove said. "Sixteen holes have views of the bay. And it's close to Traverse City, where the major airport is located."
Added Smyers: "We kept the dirt-moving to a minimum. It was a fairly open site and so we allowed that to come into play and let native grass and fescue areas define the holes and give you a feel of the wind. You can see the grasses moving, feel the wind and feel the shots you need to hit." LochenHeath will have a full caddie program. "Our goal is to get people back in the old-school mind set," Grove said. "We call it understated elegance. You take a caddie, go for a walk, shut your phone off and spend a day with your friends or family. Get away from the hectic pace for a little while." Course owners Marc Krakow and Jim and Barbara Maitland selected Smyers from a number of possible architects. "Marc is a pretty avid golfer and really liked Steve's work," Grove said. "Not only is Steve a class guy, he's a superb golfer. He played golf on an NCAA championship team at University of Florida and plays in a lot of the national invitational tournaments at major clubs. He knows golf and is a good player. But he's an amateur, so he understands what the average guy is going through."
The Maitlands owned the former 225-acre cherry farm where the course sits. Approximately 300 memberships will be offered at an initial initiation fee of $20,000 and monthly dues of $225.
Steve Smyers has design three courses that are listed among the top 80 modern layouts in America - Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind., Old Memorial in Tampa, Fla., and Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club in Haines City, Fla. His Chart Hills Golf Club in London is ranked the Number 1 Inland Golf Course in the British Isles. He has been designing golf courses for 20 years, 13 with his own firm.
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