Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Like Autumn Leaves, Late Season Prices Tumble
By Tom Cleary

After a succession of several early springs to start the 1990's, the Michigan golf industry has gotten itself slapped around but good the last few years by Mother Nature. Once again in 1997 it seemed as though winter ended just in time for Memorial Day, leaving players and course operators struggling to catch up to the number of rounds they had anticipated and planned for. Despite the rough start to our season, though, summer has rebounded nicely and the post-Labor Day portion of our calendar should be a good one as well. And while many of us became a little stir crazy in March and April, September and October might allow us to purge those spring nightmares from our memory.

While early September is a time when many of our sports-minded citizens find themselves turning their attention to football, the savviest among us are getting ready to take full advantage of mild playing conditions and bargains that can be found from one end of the state to the next. The weather may be a little chancey in the Upper Peninsula after August ends, but even places like Woodmoor Resort on Drummond Island make it more affordable for golfers who haven't yet given up the ghost. During the peak months of July and August, the resort offers a standard package which includes a round of golf and a room for just under $100. But if you visit Woodmoor starting September 28, you can get a room, unlimited golf and a continental breakfast for only $59. From August 24 until September 27, the same $99 you might've spent during the peak summer season also gets you golf and a room. But by waiting until late August, the bargain shopper gets unlimited golf, continental breakfast and a gourmet dinner. Similar savings are available on Drummond Island for other golf packages as well as property rentals involving island homes and cabins (As with all courses to be mentioned, call ahead for details.)

South of Mackinac Bridge other bargains are plentiful, including the ones you'll find at A-Ga-Ming on breathtaking Torch Lake. Say your foursome wants to rent a condo there the first weekend of September; you'll realize a savings of $300 on a two-bedroom unit. Additionally, there's only a cart fee for second rounds played during the week, which slices almost in half your per-round cost. Long regarded as one of Michigan's most scenic golf sites, A-Ga-Ming has discovered late season golfers enjoy not only its plethora of fall earth tones, but the color of saved greenbacks as well.

In the Traverse City area, there's golf choices galore including some terrific guest and walk-up rates at Grand Traverse Resort. For example, if you're a guest at GTR in September and tee-off after 5, your round with cart on well-manicured The Bear is only $47. And the prices drop even more in October. Another smart TC option is the Waterfront Inn/High Pointe Resort combo where beginning Sept. 8, a two night room package with two rounds of golf with cart starts at $129 midweek. Other area courses with fall specials include Matheson Greens, Elmbrook, and Mistwood, to name only a few.

At Boyne USA, late season reductions are as plentiful as December snowflakes. Generally, mid-week golf prices are discounted by at least 25% by the end of August and by up to 40% by early October. The window of opportunity at Boyne isn't always a large one, but like most places downstate Michigan's biggest resort operation almost always does a good golf business in the weeks prior to Halloween. Take the plunge this year before the end of Daylight Savings Time and play Bay Harbor for not much more than you'd drop at your average neighborhood muni. O.K., maybe a few bucks more; but it's still worth it.

Sliding down to Thompsonville, there's more savings and enjoyment awaiting you at the ever-changing Crystal Mountain Resort. After Labor Day the price of 18 holes (cart included) drops from $55 to $46, and before the end of the month it goes all the way to $31. Starting September 28, Crystal also offers a terrific bargain with a package called "The Classic." It features golf (cart included) breakfast, dinner and hotel accommodations beginning at $79 per day. Crystal Mountain has successfully marketed itself as a full-service family resort and offers a myriad of activities beyond golf on its 1500 acres.

Farther south, the fall golf is slightly less discounted at most destinations including the highly-regarded St. Ives at Canadian Lakes. Head golf professional Kevin O'Brien says fall was perhaps his busiest time last season, and while golf prices don't get rolled back until mid-October, O'Brien says accommodations are much less expensive once school starts back up.

Farther south still, there's plenty of golf to be played in the Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek triangle before Thanksgiving. Check out the price-slashing at some of the West Michigan Shoreline Golf sites (the Thoroughbred, The Meadows in Allendale and HawksHead in South Haven, etc.) and don't forget the plums to be picked along I-94 at places like Gull Lake View and Bedford Valley. Battle Creek, in particular does a bang-up job of marketing its area golf riches and regards September and October as months where the opportunities are limitless.

So wait a few extra weeks this year before you get out your stadium blankets. It should be against the law to get a sunburn in the fall at Spartan Stadium and even if the Lions do make the playoffs this year the Super Bowl isn't until the end of January.

If that happens and you don't want to play at Boyne that day, Michigan's golf industry will understand.

by Ken Tabacsko

The days become comfortable and the nights crisp. Mother Nature uses her full palate of colors as the woodlands are ablaze. Those darn trees that captured errant balls in the summer seem downright inviting now.

Fall is a great time to enjoy golf in Michigan and the east side of the state, in particular, has a variety of courses and resorts offering deals for those smart enough to enjoy their favorite sport in what is perhaps the most enjoyable season.

"During the fall you're going to find some of the best course conditions of the year," said Jim Dewling, a managing partner of the Mystic Creek Golf Course in Milford. "We generally get some nice fall rains and the crisp nights make the turf experts happy.

"At our course, the setting is spectacular. We have a lot of trees, water and elevation changes to make it really nice. Fall golf is getting more and more popular, almost as much as the prime summer season."

Mystic Creek, like most courses in eastern Michigan, offers fall rates. Golfers can save $12 compared to summer rates by playing 18 holes for $30 or all 27 for $45. The course is located just off I-96 at the Milford Road exit.

The Fortress, located in the state's top tourist draw, Frankenmuth, offers a variety of packages -- one aimed at encouraging junior play.

The one nice thing about the area is there is plenty to do for the non-golfing friends and spouses, including shopping at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the massive Outlets at Birch Run and Zehnder's.

The Fortress offers a Eat, Sleep and Play package from Sept. 6-21 that includes 18 holes of golf with cart, one night at the classy Bavarian Motor lodge and an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner for $225 per couple. The price drops to $199 from September 22 to October 5.

At the same time, the course is offering a Fortress Family Fun special that is in effect after 4:30 p.m. Adults get a special $39 rate for 18 holes and their youngsters, up to age 18 can play for $5.

"We're doing this to try and encourage junior golf and give parents the opportunity to spend some quality time on the golf course with their kids," said John Shelton, Zehnder's director of sales and marketing.

Just off I-75 near Bay City, Bay Valley Golf Club provides a fall special starting in October for $75 a person that includes 18 holes with cart and lodging. Greens fees alone drop from $56 to $38 for 18 holes with cart.

"Fall golf is getting bigger and better," said Rick Quellman, head pro at Bay Valley. "In fact, September is now our third biggest month behind August and July.

About 40 miles west in central Michigan, The Pohlcat in Mount Pleasant is continuing its $25 twilight rate (after 5 p.m.) for 18 holes into the fall. The challenging course on M-20 drops its weekend fees from $65 to $59 and $55 to $49 weekdays starting Oct. 1.

"We do something unique for our fall golfers," said Mike Heintz, director of golf. "We get rid of all the leaves, and that's everywhere, daily. You get the beauty of fall golf without the mess. People seem to like that."

A bit further north just off I-75, Maple Leaf Golf Course in Linwood offers a real bargain starting October 1. Golfers can play 18 holes for $13 and 9 for only $8.

Especially picturesque on a fall afternoon is No. 8 on the North Course. On the 93-yard, par 3, golfers can hit to an island green. The autumn hues reflecting off the surrounding water is breathtaking.

Starting in early September, Garland in Lewiston, featuring 72 holes, offers a variety of fall midweek packages starting at $129 per person. That includes a room for four in a golf cottage, and unlimited golf with a minimum two-day stay. And is there a more beautiful spot for fall golf than scenic Garland? No wonder eagles nest there.

In the Upper Peninsula, Hessel Ridge in Hessel drops its rates to $26 for a round of golf. From the Ridge's No. 6, a 345-yard par 4, you can see the Mackinac Bridge.

In central U.P., where fall comes in early September, Red Fox Run near Marquette lets golfers play 18 holes for $17 weekends and $15 weekdays until the end of October, when the course officially closes.

Yes -- up and down the state -- fall golf is a deal and a delight.

Michigan Golfer advises its readers to call the golf course directly for specific details, packages, and tee-times.

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