VanderVeen and Randy Prichard
by Kevin Frisch
business with stay-and-play golf packages
have helped make golf vacations a family
affair in Michigan.
resorts in areas such as Grand Traverse,
Shanty Creek and Boyne, among others, have
built their reputations in Northern Michigan
on quality accommodations and spectacular
golf courses. There are, however, a number
of more silent partners in the industry
offering outstanding lodging, dining and
golf packages in some of the most beautiful
settings Michigan has to offer.
Among those are resorts at The
Homestead on the Leelanau Peninsula, Otsego Club
in the Golf Mecca of Gaylord and Blackshire at
Lakewood Shores Resort in Oscoda.
Along with upscale lodging conditions,
fine food and great golf courses, these resorts
share several other intangible traits including
old-time charm, family atmosphere and views straight
America’s Freshwater Resort
The Homestead offers golf as a centerpiece, but it’s all
the extra amenities — both physical and natural — that
go along with it that makes it such a special vacation retreat.
It creates a very family friendly atmosphere where mom and dad
can slip away and play some outstanding golf courses while the
kids enjoy any number of activities at one of Michigan’s
most diverse and pristine summertime resorts.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan’s
treasures with history dating back to the Ice Age. The scenic drive
and national park, along with South Manitou Island, are just minutes
away from The Homestead.
Vineyards and wineries, arts
and craft shops and other small businesses epitomizing
Leelanau’s rustic heritage are all in the
“ People are looking for
serene, close-to-home places that offer something
a little different,” Homestead host Bob
Karas said. “Being next to a national park
is certainly a plus, along with the many wineries,
farm markets and unique stores. It gives a sense
of a much more traditional view of what America
was when times weren’t as fast-paced.
The Homestead’s upscale
lodging units are time-share condominiums set
on or near the shores of Lake Michigan. The blue
hues of the water and clean, sandy beaches are
located within walking distances from all lodging
“ We’ve been fortunate
enough to have a wonderful site with the beach,
water, lake, river and other topography that
really makes it unique,” Karas says. “The
combination of extreme topography, heavy mature
forests, the river and — of course — the
lake frontage is what people envision as Northern
“ People envision Northern
Michigan as having dense forests, pine trees,
sandy beaches and stunning views, and that’s
what we have here.”
Along with some of the most beautiful
The Homestead also offers outdoor
cookouts, a fishing derby, tennis, canoeing,
kayaking, mountain biking, windsurfing and sailing — along
with the resort’s indoor facility, Camp
Tam-A-Rack — for family fun or while mom
and/or dad are enjoying a round of golf. Enrichment
courses in wildlife, ecology, ship wrecks, the
dunes, wildflowers and more are offered by neighboring
“ We have enough diverse activities where everybody is happy — even
if one or two members of the family play golf and the others do not,” Karas
said. “One can go to the beach, to the pool, play tennis or any number
of things that gives a breadth of experience people like.”
The Homestead, in conjunction
with participating courses in the area, have
put together a package known as “The Links
of Leelanau.” It includes 54 holes of championship
golf located within minutes of the resort and
one outstanding par-3 course nestled into the
ski slopes at The Homestead.
The Homestead Golf Course is
a little nine-hole par-3 wonder with some views
that rival those of the fantastic “Bluff” courses
overlooking the big lakes of Michigan. It is
a fun test of golf complete with hardwoods and
pines, dramatic elevation changes and sweeping
views of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The course has
undergone some recent upgrade renovations due
to the implementation of snow making equipment.
“ The views from the course
are wonderful,” Karas boasts.
King’s Challenge, an Arnold
Palmer design, along with the Leelanau Club at
Bahle Farms, are two newer additions to the Michigan
golf lineup. The challenging golf courses feature
bent grass playing conditions and a diverse array
Another championship course on
the peninsula is Sleeping Bear Golf Club, Leelanau
County’s first golf course. Sleeping Bear,
which opened in 1966, is a lot tamer than the
other Northern Michigan course that bears its
name. The naturally rolling terrain weaves through
a heavily wooded landscape. The fairways are
spacious, but the greens are small, placing a
premium on the short game.
The par-72 course features three
sets of tees, playing 6,813 yards from the back.
Included are some demanding long holes and strategic
par-3s with a homestretch of holes named the “Chute,” “Rocks” and “Windmill/Silo,” a
par-3 finishing hole.
King’s Challenge, meanwhile,
has a little bit more bite. The par-70 layout
is ranked among the toughest in Michigan according
to slope. The Arnold Palmer design, which opened
in 1998, features wooded terrain, wildlife — fox
sightings are not unusual — changing elevations
and plenty of landscape variety.
Not an overly long course, the four sets of tee boxes at King’s
Challenge play from 4,764 to 6,593 yards with each hole presenting
a slightly different challenge for golfers.
The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms
is an outstanding layout for golf that runs through
and near a working fruit orchard. Deisgned by
Gary Pulsipher, the par-71 course features spectacular
views of Suttons Bay and Lake Michigan.
The varied terrain of hills,
woodlands and water is accented by strategically
placed bunkers and runs past working cherry orchards
that the area is renowned for.
These courses offer spectacular
views of many of the attributes Leelanau County
is renowned for — water, rolling hills,
sandy dunes and working fruit orchards. Just
a small drive away — perhaps a 3-wood for
big hitters — is Arcadia Bluffs to the
south, and courses such as The Bear and The Wolverine
to the north.
For more information on stay-and-play
packages at The Homestead Resort visit them on
the Web at www.thehomesteadresort.com.
Shores: Links to the Past
Stan Aldridge, businessman and owner of Indianwood Country Club
in Lake Orion, purchased Lakewood Shores Resort near East Tawas
in 1986. But it was his then 26-year old son who unwittingly and
indelibly placed the early 20th century dairy farm on the map.
Lakewood Shores had one golf
course, a parkland layout designed by the late
W. Bruce Matthews – Serradella. However,
if Lakewood ever intended to name itself among
the states resort elite, it needed a golf course
that was a bit more aspiring.
Stan had a plan.
“ My dad was a Scottish
freak guy,” said Kevin from his Indianwood
It was beyond anyone’s
wildest imagination that a three-week trip to
Scotland to see and experience how the games
ancestors intended golf to be played would result
in designing a golf course that had no equal
Two years earlier the father
had asked his 24-year-old son to design and build
The Gailes on 230-acres several hundred yards
west of the Lake Huron shore.
“ I had spent all kinds
of time on designing the course,” Kevin
I walked onto the first tee at
Turnberry, took my blueprints, crinkled them
up and through them in the garbage. You just
don’t understand (links golf) unless you’ve
The Aldridges returned home,
enlisted Bob Cupp to draft a routing plan, and
laid out the greens and tee boxes.
“ We literally stuck 18
stakes in the ground to mark the greens and 18
more to mark the tees,” Kevin said. “We
had no design, period. All we had was the routing
plan.” And a vision.
After two years of “moving
more dirt” than on any of Kevin’s
projects, Lakewood Shores lifted the veil on
The golf world was stunned, and
so was the apprentice.
“ I was more than surprised.
I was shocked,” said Kevin upon getting
a call from his wife.
The news? The Gailes was voted
by Golf Digest architectural editor Bob Whitten
as “The Best New Resort Course in North
America for 1993.” It was only the second
time the prestigious golf magazine had honored
a rookie with the coveted prize. And Kevin had
never so much as played the game at the time.
Today Kevin is 34. He still doesn’t play much golf, but his
renown for truly genuine golf course design and construction is
Last year Lakewood Shores’ Blackshire
debuted to rave reviews. This time Kevin’s
inspiration came from the famed and fabled Pine
Valley; a golf course known for its penal beauty.
Routing for Blackshire actually
began in 1994, right after The Gailes was finished.
But business elsewhere placed
Blackshire on the back burner and it wasn’t
until four years later that Aldridge returned
to Lakewood Shores to complete the course.
“ We wanted Blackshire to
be the farthest spectrum to the right of The
Gailes,” Kevin said. The intent was to
have three distinctly different courses at Lakewood
Shores Resort. They have that and more.
A Wee-Links course is great for kids, beginners and a good place
to sharpen your iron shots and short game.
There’s overnight lodging
available with all the amenities you would expect
of a Michigan resort: private pool, swimming
and jet skiing on Cedar Lake, full-service restaurants,
banquet rooms and conference facilities.
Lakewood Shores also offers numerous
For more information visit Lakewood
Shores Resort on the Web at www.lakewoodshores.com.
Club: A Michigan Tradition
As one of Michigan’s long-standing resorts, Otsego Club has
a rich history of tradition, culture and innovation. That tradition
has grown even larger in stature with the addition of its newest
golf course, The Tribute.
While the Otsego Club’s
ski slopes remain exclusive to its private membership
list in the winter, the time-share residences
open their doors to Gaylord’s Golf Mecca
with stay-and-play packages during the spring,
summer and fall seasons.
Established in 1939, the Otsego
Club combines the traditional elegance and amenities
of a country club experience with four outstanding,
yet distinctly different golf courses.
Casual fine dining is served — often
in several courses — overlooking the beautiful
Sturgeon River Valley with a panoramic view as
far as the eye can see.
Swimming pools, hiking trails
and tennis courts add to the number of activities
available for family, group or corporate fun.
For those so inclined, there is a cigar lounge,
wine cellar and cafe Espresso bar in close proximity
to the main lodge and housing units.
“ Because we operate as
a private ski club in the wintertime, it really
means that our staff is tuned into a high level
of service, and that reflects in the sort of
service we deliver in the spring, summer and
fall during our public golfing months,” Otsego
Club owner Keith Gornick said. “Being around
since 1939 shows that there is a lot of tradition
“ In many cases, we have
guests here — not only in the winter, but
the summer as well — for up to four generations.
That is something not everyone can say. We are
very family oriented, and our staff is really
geared toward that. There is definitely a real
hominess to the place.”
The golf courses creating Otsego
Club’s version of a grand slam include
The Classic, The Lake, The Loon and The Tribute.
Since its opening in 2001, The
Tribute has already become the marquee name for
the grand slam lineup of golf courses that are
part of the Otsego Club. It is a fitting upscale
addition to what Gaylord golf is renowned for — fantastic
views, top-notch conditions and peaks and valleys.
The golf course — named
in honor for the late fathers of Gornick and
designer Gary Koch — is set high on rolling
peaks, with running water, wetlands, native grasses
and fescues and immaculately manicured fairways,
tees and greens.
“ God gave us a great piece
of earth to work, but what Gary Koch and Rick
Robbins and their team did with the course is
far beyond what I expected,” Gornick said. “It’s
The views from different vantage
points of The Tribute are nothing short of spectacular.
Spacious fairways are surrounded by hardwood
and pine forests as The Tribute plays up, down
and alongside mountain slopes, creating wide
array of views and shot opportunities. Babbling
brooks, wetlands and elevation changes are situated
among the peaks and valleys that highlight the
Pigeon River basin.
“ The course is really one with nature,” Gornick said. “It
is just gorgeous, especially on a sunny day.”
“ Breathtaking” is an apt description of the magnificent views from
the top of the tee boxes at No. 3 and No. 4 on The Tribute. But there is even
“ In conjunction with the
elevation changes and views from the ridge tops
where you can see the Pigeon River State Forest,
there are the lower parts of the valleys where
you go down along trout streams and beautiful
wetland areas,” Gornick said. “All
those qualities are just not seen that often
during a single round of golf.”
The Loon, which can be briefly
be spotted by motorists heading north on I-75
just before reaching Gaylord, is another outstanding
golf course. Not overly long nor difficult to
play, this course runs through and around wetlands
and ponds, and has some interesting features
to test one’s skills, judgment and course
The Classic was designed by William
H. Diddle, a prominent golf course architect
of the era who was commissioned by Gornick’s
father, Alan, in the 1950s. The Classic reigns
as the elder statesman of all courses that comprise
the Gaylord Golf Mecca.
The Lake, designed by Michigan
architect Jerry Matthews, provides an interesting
mix of golf, including six Alpine-style holes
playing up and around ski hills, six around and
over water and six that are Scottish-links style.
“ All the golf courses here
are imminently playable,” Gornick said. “There
is not a single course here that is here to humiliate
the golfer, and that is definitely by design.
“ There are some great challenges
here, but they also allow a higher handicapper
to play from the forward tees and go out and
have a very nice resort guest experience.
“ With over 60 years of
being in the hospitality business, our thing
is to let the guests feel good about their experiences.”
Go to the Web and learn more
about the variety of offerings at The Otsego
Club at www.otsegoclub.com.