Golf and gambling share more similarities than youíd think. Each pursuit has its share of risky decisions. But beating the odds to pull off a great shot or win an unlikely hand can lead to great rewards. Both involve smooth green surfacesÖ the greens of a golf course and the felt of poker and blackjack tables. And we all know a little luck goes a long way in golf and gambling. Oh yeah, who wouldnít love a pair of aces in either game? The two addictions seem made for each other. Golf by day. Gaming by night. Are you all in?
“There is a common thread,” says Michael Facenda, marketing director for the new FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek. “A lot of folks who play golf like to gamble. It makes the round fun to have some risk in the game. We see a lot of folks after a nice afternoon who appear to be coming off the links. It’s a pretty good marriage.”
Experiencing the same sort of boom that swept throughout the state’s golf industry in the 1990s, casinos continue to spring to life in every corner of the mitten despite the economy.
FireKeepers opened last summer, following on the heels of the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg in 2008 and the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, the Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey and the MGM Grand Detroit, all in 2007.
Other gambling hotspots, like the Island Resort & Casino in Harris in the Upper Peninsula, have embarked on million-dollar expansions in recent years. There’s even a proposal to build a $300-million Indian casino in Romulus.
With so many courses and casinos, including two U.P. casino resorts with their own tracks, it’s easy to find great golf-and-gaming packages around Michigan that require no risks, only rewards of a great time.
A DETROIT GETAWAY
The MGM Grand Detroit has always been the crème de la crème of Michigan’s Las Vegas-style casinos, but did you know it delivers one of the state’s best golf experiences, too?
The “Tee” golf package, costing $399, includes two rounds at the private Tournament Players Club of Michigan, transportation to and from the Dearborn course and one night to experience all the wonders of MGM. If only one person in the room is a golfer, the other round can be converted into a 50-minute massage at MGM’s stunning Immerse Spa and Salon, a two-story urban loft inspired by the world’s most calming element: water.
Luxury lives throughout the 400-room hotel and casino. Guests can dine at three signature restaurants by celebrity chefs, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak and the Wolfgang Puck Grille and Saltwater, known for its succulent seafood. Entertainment ranges from a relaxing piano bar to the plush, exotic comforts of Ignite Sushi Bar and Lounge and the high energy of the V Nightclub. In every guest room, flat screen televisions are embedded in the bathroom mirror.
Playing the TPC of Michigan, former host of a Champions Tour major for 16 years, is just as invigorating. Architect Jack Nicklaus designed narrow fairways twisting through mounds and around intimidating water hazards. The harrowing tee shot on the par-4 sixth hole and the treacherous approach shot on No. 14 over wetlands cause many golfers to flinch. The MGM Grand continues to pursue partnerships with some of Detroit’s other top private courses, so check back regularly to see what’s new on the menu.
BIRDIES & BLACKJACKS AT BAY MILLS
Michigan’s gaming industry all started north of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula at the Bay Mills Resort & Casino in Brimley.
The Bay Mills Indian Community claims to be the first in the nation to open a tribal casino, way back in 1980. The tribe’s earnings eventually helped build the 142-room Bay Mills Resort & Casino, Michigan’s only waterfront casino on the shores of Waishkey Bay, in 1995.
Architect Mike Husby added the final piece of the puzzle, the Wild Bluff Golf Course, three years later. He crafted the layout atop a significant ridge that provides views of the bay, not to mention several memorable tee shots and a cool driving range looking down on target greens in the shape of a heart, diamond, spade and club.
The 7,056 course plays tough enough to be a former host of a Canadian Tour event (Michelle Wie once teed it up here). Never fear, you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the course. The GPS system helps first-timers score better.
SOMETHING “SWEET” IN HARRIS
The Island Resort & Casino in Harris has put together, without a doubt, Michigan’s best golf-casino package. The Perfect 4-some Package costing $249 (the same rate as 2009) includes two nights at the resort and rounds at two courses rated among the top 20 in Michigan by Golfweek – No. 3 Greywalls at Marquette Country Club and No. 20 Sweetgrass – and a third round at TimberStone, rated five stars by Golf Digest.
The threesome couldn’t be more distinct from one another. Architect Paul Albanese sculpted wide open holes lined with prairie grasses and an island green to define Sweetgrass. Jerry Matthews’ TimberStone layout in Iron Mountain climaxes atop Pine Mountain as the final two holes tumble down terrain more fit for skiing than golf. The rugged natural rock outcroppings on the dramatic Greywalls feel like they belong in the Canadian Rockies not Michigan.
A recent massive expansion at the casino added 162 rooms in the Palm Tower, the 1,327-seat Island Showroom, 500 additional slot machines, the Club Four One nightclub and the Beachcomber Restaurant & Bar.