By Don VanderVeen
Cadillac is a proud sponsor of golf.
The city -- a vacation destination complete with woods, water and plenty of related recreational opportunities -- has enhanced its diverse mix of activities available to those who love the outdoors by upgrading and expanding the scope of golf course offerings in the area.
Cadillac has just about everything for those who love to play. Hiking and biking. Powerboats, sailboats and personal watercraft. Fishing and hunting. Canoes and kayaks. Specialty boutiques. Restaurants and hotels. And golf.
"We had a golf explosion about five years ago when we went from three golf courses to 11," says Carol Potter, director of the Cadillac Area Business Bureau. "In order to highlight these courses, we formed Golf Cadillac."
Golf Cadillac -- a collaborative effort among the city, its golf course community and area hotels -- is a program that arranges convenience packages where golfers can stay at participating lodging facilities and have desk clerks arrange their tee times while booking their rooms.
"It takes a lot of hassle out of the reservation procedure," Potter said.
It wasn't too long ago when Cadillac's primary link to golf in Michigan was McGuire's Resort, a well-respected country club vacation community, complete with 27 holes of golf, tennis, swimming and wining and dining opportunities.
"With the other quality golf courses in Cadillac area, it is now another must stop for golfers to make," says McGuire's general manager Mike McGuire. "You have the Northern Michigan golf mecca, but we now have nine or 10 different courses for people to play that are different styles, different lengths and different levels for abilities."
McGuire's is still doing what it does best, but there are several additional golf options added to the mix, all within minutes of the city.
"This is not your father's Cadillac," Potter says.
The two large lakes -- Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell -- located in the city limits provide even more options of water activities, including fishing, boating, water skiing and sailing.
"What Cadillac has to offer is wilderness, state parks and forests, and things like hiking and biking," McGuire said. "It's that whole feeling of being up north.
"It provides affordable alternatives for some of the greatest recreation and relaxation you can find. And we're closer and more affordable."
Green fees range between $35 and $60 a round, depending on the course.
Cadillac-area golf courses begin to blossom at The Rose in Leroy, north to Emerald Valley in Manton. There also is Briar Downs in Mesick, and, as Potter claims, "just about everything in between."
"Our central, easy access location has brought us right into the mix to it," Potter said of Michigan's golf explosion. "We're right in the middle of Northern Michigan courses and the Grand Rapids area. It's an easy drive, centrally located and we've seen lots of repeat business.
"Once they come, they come back again."
McGuire's, of course, is the one longstanding fixture and the granddaddy of the Cadillac golf scene, along with the Cadillac Country Club, a semi-private course that has tee times available for guests.
McGuire's, a family run business since its inception in 1949, features 27 holes of golf, tennis courts and swimming pools. The resort celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999.
McGuire's 18-hole championship course is the centerpiece, and a good test of golf. The adjacent nine-hole course is a walkable track that provides more of a sportier setting. It is a bit shorter in length, but by no means an executive course with a par-5 and four par-4s.
"The forte of McGuire's is a home feeling in a resort setting," Mike McGuire said. "There have been a lot of people coming here for years and years and not just because of one golf course. It's because they come up here and feel they're at home, get good service, good food, clean rooms and the surroundings are neat."
El Dorado provides a picture postcard entrance to the town which it is partially named after. Two elegant vintage red El Dorado Cadillacs are displayed prominently out front, allowing teasing glimpses to golfers and gawkers alike.
Located at the corner of U.S. 131 and interstate 115, El Dorado "is where Northern Michigan golf begins," according to head professional Todd Pentrack. "The name El Dorado and the town of Cadillac all ties together, and people associate it with golfing in Cadillac. It's the first thing you see coming into Cadillac from the south.
"The standard for The El Dorado is fairly high, and we take a lot of pride being the signature course of Cadillac."
Layered rock wall formations, rolling fairways, a half mile of bridged wetlands and smart bunkering add to the mystique of the course named after a Cadillac.
"What makes El Dorado special is that it is a golf course that everybody -- regardless of playing ability -- will find it a challenge as much as they want," Pentrack said. "It allows the high handicapper to have a good experience without getting beat up, and the scratch golfer can find it a challenge as well with five sets of tee boxes.
"It can reward and punish as much as a golfer can take."
El Dorado also features a wonderful restaurant, the Cadillac Grill, with a beautiful view overlooking the course.
"It's a great destination for people heading north to stop, play 18 holes of golf, have dinner and get to their destination before lights out," Pentrack said. "People coming down from north, put their clubs in last for an opportunity to play a final round on the way home."
Other golf opportunities within a short drive of the main drag include Wedgewood, which is a combination of the old Lakewood Golf Course and new Wedgewood Golf Club. It provides a par-70, 18-hole golfing experience featuring abundant wildlife and a very playable course a person can score on.
Missaukee Golf Club has long been a popular golf stop in the Lake City area. It is complemented by Country Greens, a golf practice center, and an ideal way to get young players or beginners out on the golf course.
Tustin Trails is a nine-hole resort course located on a very eye-pleasing setting in Tustin.
Getting into ski country, Caberfae Peaks is carved out of rolling woodlands and is part of the Manistee National Forest.
"We have 11 very different, distinct golf courses," Potter said. "There's something for everybody."
A downtown shopping area, complete with trendy boutiques, fine and casual dining, as well as fast food outlets, provide a Sunset Strip, of sorts, for mid-northern Michigan.
"The town is an established vacation destination as it is, with its lakes, rivers and forests," Potter said. "We are the city on the lakes.
Downtown is right on Lake Cadillac, there is an awesome walkway with parks and beautiful views.
"There are a lot of things to do as a family for a weekend in Cadillac area."
Mitchell State Park has been a long-standing tourist area with an abundance of hotels and restaurants nearby.
Herman's, McGuire's, Cadillac Sands, Bill Oliver's Best Western and the Cadillac Grill head the list of restaurant favorites, which are almost too numerous to mention.
Free concert entertainment is featured in city parks during the summertime. Concerts are held four nights a week, highlighted by a Thursday jazz session, featuring an accomplished lineup of jazz and blues artists.
The Festival of the Arts is held the third weekend in July. The festival features food, music and art and people come by boats, planes, trains and automobiles to enjoy the outdoor event, which is annually ranked among the art fairs in the nation.
Cadillac also features the tail of the White Pine trail. The 92-mile stretch for biking and hiking begins in Grand Rapids on former railroad tracks before ending at the City on the Lakes.
Want to dip a line after a round of golf? Cadillac's lakes and rivers are stocked with fish to appease the most avid sportsmen and sportswomen.
"One of Cadillac's strengths is that there's something for everybody," Potter said.
Golf is the icing on the cake.
"People have commented that now that we have golf, we have it all," Potter said.
Potter has developed a theme. It goes something like:
"Cadillac. City on the lakes. Surrounded by Forests. United by Rivers. Connected by trails."
And now, filled with tee times!
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