Two of the prettiest areas of the state are Charlevoix and Petoskey in northwest lower Michigan. Without a bit of history, recent visitors_especially golfers_might think these twin resort areas are upstart treasures. But actually both locales have been attracting golfers for over a century. As pointed out in the August issue of Michigan Golfer, Charlevoix GC, Harbor Springs CC and Wequetonsing CC all celebrated centennials this summer. Yes even before 1900, railroads and steamers were transporting hordes of summer visitors to the area. A travel brochure by the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway from the early part of the century described it as such: "Those beautiful places in northern Michigan which are so attractive because of their natural locations and advantages are of greater interest to lovers of the game of golf"
Lovers of the game for sure enjoy Charlevoix and Petoskey. Let's take them one at a time. (For an update on the eagerly awaited opening of the Bay Harbor (Links Course) layout by Art Hills just west of Petoskey, see Jack Saylor's article elsewhere in this issue.) Besides the hubbub of Bay Harbor, the best scoop for golfers heading to Charlevoix this fall is the news that highly-regarded American Golf Corporation (AGC) is now managing Dunmaglas Golf Club. Dunmaglas opened a few years ago to rightful acclaim for its stunning views of Lakes Charlevoix and Michigan. However, due to past ownership problems, this Larry Mancour/Dean Refram-designed layout has had its fits and starts. Many players found it one of most beautiful courses in the state. Most also found it one of the most difficult.
User-friendly Dunmaglas was not; ball-hungry it most surely was. But now with the pros from AGC coming on board, Dunmaglas' future is indeed bright. Under the care of GM Joel Gohlmann, Dunmaglas is undergoing a transformation to make it more agreeable to golfers. "We've taken steps both in the short and long term to make this layout more customer-friendly," said Gohlmann who was transferred here this spring from The Links of Northfolk, one of AGC's upscale public facilities near Minneapolis. Although it will take another year for AGC's changes and improvements to be flilly implemented, visitors to Dunmaglas this fall will appreciate some immediate remedies. To take advantage of the fine restaurant/clubhouse located off Boyne City Road, golfers will now tee off down below at the old sixth tee. From there golfers will play the old sixth through 18 and then one to five. It's a much more sensible routing. Gohlmann also improved the cart paths, laying new asphalt alongside many tees and greens. Most importantly, he has made the course more forgiving by clearing the underbrush in the rough areas. "By mowing back the heather and undergrowth, we've increased the playability of the layout," said Gohlmann. In the long term, capital improvements in maintenance equipment and course changes such as enlarging certain greens and filling in a few bunkers will certainly allow Dunmaglas to recapture the excitement and promise of its opening.
Besides Dunmaglas, there's all kind of golf in and around Charlevoix. Traditionalists still favor Belvedere GC, the long-time former host course for the Michigan Amateur. It's a sporting layout, ideal for match play, featuring wide fairways, smart bunkering and small greens which demand good iron play and deft chipping. Not surprisingly, short game master Pete Green won three of his Amateur titles there. Also on the old Amateur qualifying circuit is Antrim Dells, the 6606 yard course designed by Jerry Matthews, located just south of Charlevoix in Atwood. A more recent Matthews effort is his fine Charlevoix Country Club, an impressive real estate development which is open to the public while also affording semiprivate and private memberships. Located on the city's northern perimeter, Charlevoix CC is nestled amid some 500 acres of woods, ponds, and wetlands all within the sound and fresh breezes of Lake Michigan.
For sheer charm, however, it's hard to beat traveling to quaintly named Ye Nyne Olde Holles, a congenial, budget-minded course. To save a 15 mile trip around the south arm of pristine Lake Charlevoix to reach the course, one may take the Ironton Ferry made famous by Ripley's "Believe it or Not" for being one of the world's shortest car ferries at less than 100 yards!
Of course, now heading toward Boyne City you'll find the golf haven of Boyne Mountain with its two stellar tracks of the underrated Alpine course and the more challenging yet equally scenic Monument course. Both layouts start out with the longest cart ride to the first tee in Michigan_ mile and a half woodsy treks to the back side of Boyne Mt. As evidence of their mettle, both courses serve as the venue for the annual Boyne Tournament of Champions and are widely respected for having some of the best conditioned and slickest greens up north.
For accommodations, there are options galore for stay and play packages at the large resorts and at several excellent motels in Charlevoix. For combining beauty and convenience, the aptly named Edgewater Inn is highly recommended. Located off Bridge Street, the Edgewater affords one and two bedroom suites overlooking picturesque Round Lake Harbor of Lake Charlevoix and downtown Charlevoix. Every half hour during the day, the famous Charlevoix Bridge swings up to allow sailboats to and from Lake Michigan. At the Edgewater, you'll have the best view in town.
In the old days, Charlevoix and Petoskey were connected by rail. In fact, there was a train called "The Dummy" that ran four times a day between the two resort towns. Today, the only dummies are those crazy drivers who speed over the limit from Charlevoix to Petoskey and never appreciate the views along US-31. Along the way, you'll pass by the magnificent Bay Harbor development. On the south side of the highway overlooking Bay Harbor is Crooked Tree GC, a comely and nicely-priced alternative to the more pricey resort fare. Designed by Harry Bowers, Crooked Tree is gaining a loyal following from local residents. It's a good test of golf with memorable views of the Bay.
But when you think of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, golfers immediately think of Boyne Highlands. Boyne must be credited with launching the northern golf boom more than 30 years ago when Everett Kircher hired legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones to design the Heather course. Now here in 1996, the Heather seems to get better and more appreciated with each passing season. Has anyone ever heard a disparaging word about the Heather? It's doubtful because the layout is so well-designed and such a pleasure to experience. Its sister courses are dealing nicely with sibling rivalry. The Moor course is still popular and the Donald Ross Memorial has matured in fine fashion since its opening a few years back. For would-be amateur course designers, this latter course is a must since the holes there are faithful reproductions of Ross-designed holes around the country (e.g. Oakland Hills, Pinehurst, Oak Hill etc.) as well as the 14th hole from Scotland's Royal Dornoch, the birthplace of Ross. The new kid on the Boyne block is the Arthur Hills nine. It's a winner. Hills offers friendlier design elements such a big fairways, open green approaches, mildly rolling putting surfaces, and chipping areas. The bunkers and waste areas are both strategically placed and visually pleasing. And the view of the ski slopes from the course is terrific. The fall colors will be breathtaking. The only downside is that the Bay Harbor golf project (also managed by Boyne) has pushed back the second nine opening to next season.
Speaking of fall colors and views, the judging is in on which course is the gold medal, Olympic champion: Little Traverse Bay GC. This par-72, 6850 yard beauty has majestic vistas of Little Traverse Bay. The first tee has a 120-foot drop and great lake view. The putting surfaces are demanding but most players will be so entranced by the surroundings that an occasional three-putt will be graceflilly accepted. Best tip: schedule lunch or dinner along with your golf here. There's excellent dining with unmatched scenery.
Up the road a ways, golfers will find Larry Mancour's Chestnut Valley, an entertaining 18 with more modest intentions than its more highly touted neighbors. A 6402 yard design, Chestnut Valley has a gentle flow to it with natural greensites and minimal earth-moving and shaping. It's located just to the east of Nub's Nob.
Dining options are countless. Most notable are four-star winners such as the Rowe Inn and Tapawingo near ElIsworth. But such locales as the Grey Gables Inn, Whitney's, Weathervane, and Edgewater Inn in Charlevoix all are good dining decisions. In Petoskey, there's the Perry Hotel (try the casual Noggin Room), Stafford's Bay View Inn, and the underrated Park Garden Cafe. In Harbor Springs, favorites are The Pier, Teddy Griffin's, The New York. Worth the drive to Cross Village are the Crow's Nest and the Legs Inn.
Hey, I'm out of space. But don't run out of time by missing a fall golf trip to Charlevoix and Petoskey. They've only been waiting a century for your arrival.
For more information, call the Charlevoix CVB at 1-800-367-8557 and the Boyne Country CVB at 1-800-845-2828.