Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

From The Editor

By Terry Moore

This is our final issue of the season for '96. With the Russian-like winter, it seemed as though the golf season in dear old Michigan just teed up. Well, at least no one can say Michiganders take their good weather for granted. In the meantime, let me squeeze in some final comments and observations on golf in our fair state.

  • User-friendly designs are back in vogue. Most of the new courses I've seen offer wider fairways, open and approachable greensites and fewer forced carries. Not only is such design good for the game in terms of more enjoyable, less penal play but it lends itself to speedier play and less costly maintenance. Now the trick will be for developers to 'stay the course' while also being open to the creativity and imagination provided by architects and designers. As noted golf course architectural editor Ron Whitten said this year in a speech: "Golf course architecture is show biz_ that's why the worst label we can ever slap on a course is that it's boring."

  • One more wish for all those still musing about building their dream course: read the literature of the game. In our state, a tremendous success story in publishing is the Chelsea-based Sleeping Bear Press led by its president, Brian Lewis. Lewis is the person who saw the potential of a rare find a few years back of "a lost manuscript" of the esteemed golf architect, Alister MacKenzie. So enthralled was the 35-year-old Lewis with the manuscript that he left a secure position with Times Mirror Co. and decided to open his own publishing house in Chelsea in the office where his father had founded Lewis Publishing. As mythologist Joseph Campbell might opine, Lewis followed his bliss. The result was the hugely successful and critically acclaimed "The Spirit of St. Andrews" by MacKenzie. "I love books and I love sports_ especially golf," said Lewis. "When I left Times Mirror, I had no business plan other than my love of and belief in that one book." That one book (priced at $24.95) has sold over 40,000 copies and is into its fourth printing. Buoyed by that success, Sleeping Bear Press also published "A View from the Rough," an elegant 4-color coffee table book with stunning photography by Mike Klemme that depicts golf's underreported synergy with the environment and wildlife. This year, Lewis has brought out two more golf architectural gems: "Golf Has Never Failed Me: The Lost Manuscript of Donald Ross" and "The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses" by Traverse City native and the always candid course designer Tom Doak. Along with the Mackenzie book, the Ross and Doak books should be required reading by both dreamy-eyed developers and aspiring members of a club's Green Committee. First, there is a tremendous feel for and love of the game in all three. Secondly, each one espouses in its own way a careful, minimalist approach to design, free from ephemeral gimmickry. Most importantly, these tomes should convince even the strongest-minded owners, developers, entrepreneurs that it's vital to hire a qualified golf course architect. As Ross has written, "By an expert, mind you, I mean an expert_not a golf enthusiast, who feels himself an expert_but an expert golf architect who is also a golf enthusiast."

  • A few encouraging words for "spikeless shoes." More and more clubs, courses, and players are now convinced of the turf benefits and comfort level of non-metal spikes. When Raymond Floyd, a traditionalist of the first order, won the Ford Seniors Players Championship at the TPC of Michigan, it was the first time a tour event was won by someone wearing non-metal spikes. It'll be interesting to see how the shoe manufacturers respond to the growing consumer interest. Once the publinxer jumps on board with both softspike feet, metal spikes may end up alongside persimmon woods and metal shafts in the bin that reads: Good Products The Game Has Passed by.

  • More good news is that cooperative and macro-marketing within the state's golf circles is again gaining momentum. The best news for the health of the Michigan golf and tourist economy was the state's initiative, long overdue, in recognizing golf's pivotal role in the burgeoning travel sector. Plaudits are in order for the state's efforts, with input and advice from the golf industry, for the "Drive Michigan" golf and travel marketing program. Also, the choice of Treetops irrepressible Rick Smith as the Michigan's golf spokesman was a savvy one. To expand the customer base for Michigan's record number of public courses, the need to advertise and market the state's golf assets year-round as effectively as do the Myrtle Beaches, Carolinas, and Pinehursts is paramount. "Drive Michigan" is a good start. Word to the wise: hurry Michigan_because our neighboring states, although behind us in quality courses, are not going to stand still and lose customers to us.
  • Then again, it's kinda hard for our friends in Indiana and Ohio to match Bay Harbor. When the Bay Harbor project literally exploded on the scene two years ago, many people felt that its buzz of being the 'Monterey Peninsula of the Midwest' was mere hype. After being on those fairways last month high above the blue waters of Little Traverse Bay, let me say emphatically Bay Harbor is the real deal. It's the type of truly spectacular layout that lingers in your memory all winter long. But before winter, there's fall.

    Invoke the leaf rule and enjoy it.


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