Par for the course in Michigan

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I’ve taken a liking to Michigan.

Well, admittedly, it may be more than just a liking.

What’s not to like? Great weather. Great people. Great resorts. Great spas. And great golf, through the spring, into the summer and well into the fall.

Six days in one of Michigan’s most welcoming destinations has also given my erratic golf game a nice kickstart.

As it turns out, two of the United States’ top golf schools are not far away, just south of the border. And not only is the price right, the schools live up to their billing, both located in the middle of superb resorts.

Billed as northern Michigan’s favourite golf, ski and spa resort, Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa (crystalmountain.com) was a great way to start the trip.

"This is the total package," Brad Dean, director of golf, said. "Families are our niche. There’s a waterpark, spa, hiking and we’ve got a top-25 golf school in America. There’s something for everybody to do. The lodging here is among the best, the food is great. Combine all that and you get a pretty good trip."

And since I spent two days with clubs in hand and a teacher patiently working with me, I can attest the resort has a heck of a golf school

"Golf schools are a vacation experience," Dean said. "Our instructors are passionate about what they do. Our return rates is very high. And the Canadian market is very important to us."

The advice from my instructor Mike Cote made plenty of sense.

It’s driven into my head the ball follows the shape of the slope on an uneven lie and that "keeping your head down is a bit of misnomer, really, it’s to stay in your posture." And I am told: "There is no magic pill. It takes practice."

I yearn for the magic pill.

The Crystal Mountain Spa put a nice exclamation mark on a day of awesomeness. Then it was off to the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School at The Homestead, billed as American’s Freshwater Resort (thehomesteadresort.com).

Stefan Carlsmith patiently worked on my putting and chipping. Pure-in-line-square putting is good. Screen-door putting is bad.

"This is a school to come to when you’re thinking, ‘Hey, I want to score better,’" Carlsmith said. "It’s not the school to come to when you’re trying to figure out which end of the club to hold. We teach short game and putting. That’s the best way to improve our game the fastest."

The resort, on the shores of Lake Michigan, is very pretty, with plenty to do within its boundaries.

"Families are very popular (in the summer), but we see changes through the season. In spring and fall, we see a lot of couples," Homestead’s Jamie Jewell said. "We’ve done some things to attract the couples … like our Beach Club patio with an adults-only area and the restaurant, Nonna’s, which is adults only."

Golf is another market Homestead is targeting. While staying there, I went up the road a few miles to play Manitou Passage, an excellent golf course with outstanding views. I also checked out Spa Amira, in its own little nook of tranquillity, its magnificent view on a ridge overlooking Lake Michigan.

Then, it was off to Traverse City, an area rich in tradition, with plenty to do. Film director Michael Moore is a local and co-organizer of a major film festival there each year.

The Grand Traverse Resort (grandtraverseresort.com) provided more awesomeness, on the golf course — there are two great ones, The Wolverine and The Bear — and in the spa. I can assure you there’s nothing like stretching out in a bathrobe before getting the tension rubbed out of your back in a serene setting

The next day, I got to play LochenHeath, a former private course which re-opened in May under local ownership, with heavy involvment from the course’s GM and director of golf Mike Husby, who showed me around. It’s a beautiful course and on the must-play list if you’re in the area. On my day at the course, TV handyman Carter Oosterhouse popped by.

"It’s a unique golf course, with spectacular views," Husby said. "It’s challenging. There are not many courses like LochenHeath."

Amen to that.

For more information on Michigan, check out michigan.org.

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