Gaylord Golf Mecca Grows, Thrives and Thrills Golfers in Northern Michigan
By Brian Weis
Brendan Stevenson and Gus Wilhelm are from Windsor, Canada, just across the bridge from Detroit, and when they want to get away and play golf they head, well, north from their part of Canada to Northern Michigan and the Gaylord Golf Mecca.
"We've been doing this for years now," Wilhelm said. "Brendan's dad has a cottage at Michaywe'. It's great. There are so many good golf courses to choose from all in this area. You really can't beat it."
The longtime friends were playing one of their favorites, Gaylord Golf Club, this day.
"We've played just about all the Mecca courses I think," Stevenson said. "The Pines at Michaywe' and this one are two of our favorites. We love it up here. It's great golf at a good price. We try to get up here at least two times a summer. My dad spends 12 weekends a summer up here."
Golfers like Wilhelm and Stevenson have been coming back to the Mecca for 32 years. It was started as a cooperative marketing effort for its collection of golf in 1997 and marched onto the destination golf scene with classic courses, new modern masterpieces and more. Today it includes 15 golf courses and 20 lodging partners with five new courses joining in 2020.
Black Lake Golf Club, Gaylord Golf Club, Indian River Golf Club, The Loon Golf Resort, Michaywe - The Pines, The Natural at Beaver Creek Resort, the Otsego Club and Treetops Resort are the sites of the 15 current member courses, and Garland Resort of Lewiston with its four golf courses, and Lakes of the North's golf course near Mancelona are set to come on board. Learn about them at gaylordgolfmecca.com.
The 2019 season is closing down in the Mecca, but the area's devoted regular visitors are already booking for 2020.
The Gaylord Golf Mecca, the Gaylord Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, honored with the 2017 Governor's Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration, have had success bringing golfers from southern states like Texas to Michigan.
Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Mecca since its inception in 1987, is elated with the direct feedback from Texas golfers who have made the pilgrimage to the Mecca via non-stop air service between Dallas/Fort Worth and nearby Traverse City. Texas golfers are now third on the list of golfers from other states that visit the Mecca.
"They tell us that the golf courses in the Gaylord Golf Mecca are nicer than the nicest courses in Dallas," he said. "I think sometimes we take it for granted. We might be spoiled in Michigan. We always felt we had a great product with great courses, and they are a new voice to confirm it for us."
The Mecca collection has a great reputation.
Wilhelm and Stevenson were playing Gaylord Golf Club's renown greens. Superintendent Paul Holmes keeps them rolling and in perfect condition year after year.
Michaywe' and The Pines course added a caddie program a few years ago to a wonderful walkable parkland style course that has hosted a pair of Michigan Amateur Championships.
The Natural at Beaver Creek Resort, serving golfers for 27 years, is a Mecca model for the Northern Michigan lifestyle.
"We're oriented toward the great golf during the day on a fun golf course, then at night sit outside a great cabin with a fire and relax kind of thing," Kevin Henley, the general manager and superintendent at The Natural at Beaver Creek Resort, said. "It's that Northern Michigan lifestyle people want to enjoy when they come here."
Indian River Golf Club joined the Gaylord Golf Mecca in 2017, and more golfers enjoyed the classic golf course in 2019. It dates to 1923 and showcases a traditional, fun round of golf at the course that calls itself "the friendliest golf club in the north."
"There has absolutely been an impact with the relationship to the Gaylord Golf Mecca for us," General Manager Corey Crowell said. "Rounds are up the last two summers and the feedback from golfers coming here for the first time through the Mecca has been fantastic. I have not heard one bad word about us."
Renovations and improvements have been the task at Treetops Resort in recent years. The capital improvements made have brought the facilities in line with the award-winning golf, recreational experiences and service already established at the resort that features five golf courses, including one of the most celebrated Par 3 courses in the world - Threetops, and the work of Tom Fazio (Premier) and the final course designed by legend Robert Trent Jones (Masterpiece). The Signature, The Tradition and Threetops were all designs of famous golf teacher Rick Smith, who launched his career as a golf professional at Treetops.
"The entire collection of lodging rooms has been fully renovated with flooring and furnishings, offering the finest elements for every guest to enjoy," Owens said. "Our rooms are modern and up-to-date while still maintaining a casual relaxed feel."
Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway features the design work of another Jones - Rees Jones, and it made its debut in 2012-13 as one of Golf Digest's picks on "America's 100 Greatest Public Courses." New renovated lodging options at the nearby UAW Center, which owns the course, have been added to the mix in recent years.
The Loon Resort features three golf courses and a great variety of lodging and restaurant options. The Loon, redesigned by famous teacher Butch Harmon, is one of the Mecca's most popular courses. The Lakes course features breathtaking views via woods, ski slopes and holes cut around Lake Michaywe'. The Ridge course has dramatic elevation changes and some par 3 holes that send golfers home talking about the fun they had.
Otsego Resort, under new management in 2019 that immediately made an impact with improved golf conditions, features The Tribute, a modern design by Rick Robbins and PGA Tour analyst Gary Koch. It has a bit of everything - elevation changes, spectacular views, trees, water, big greens and dramatic fairways. Otsego also has its other course, The Classic, which is a classic for family outings, seniors, beginners and those not quite ready or willing that day to take on The Tribute.
The Gaylord Golf Mecca is planning to continue its move forward as a premier U.S. summer golf destination in 2020.
"The real reason the Mecca works and continues to grow is a really great group of owners who have vision and believe in destination marketing," Beachnau said. "We keep getting better as a destination.
"Garland and Lakes of the North are excited to be part of the Mecca and simply makes us stronger. We are unique in this country as a destination in the north because of the quantity and the quality of golf. I believe only Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has been together as a cooperative marketing effort in golf longer than the Mecca. And right now, I see and feel a resurgence in cooperative action, in golf travel, a good economy, those types of things and it is easier to get to Northern Michigan now, which opens us up potentially to other big golf markets too. It's exciting. We have a bright future as long as we keep the quality of our great courses at a high level and keep working together."
Revised: 10/16/2019 - Article Viewed 11,462 Times
About: Brian Weis
Brian Weis is the Publisher of GolfTrips.com, a network of golf travel and directory sites including GolfWisconsin.com, GolfMichigan.com, ArizonaGolfer.com, GolfAlabama.com, etc. Professionally, Brian is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA), International Network of Golf (ING), Golf Travel Writers of America (GTWA), International Golf Travel Writers Association (IGTWA) and The Society of Hickory Golfers (SoHG). In 2016, Brian won The Shaheen Cup, an award given to a golf travel writer by his peers.
All of his life, Brian has been around the game of golf. As a youngster, Brian competed at all levels in junior and high school golf. Brian had a zero chance for a college golf scholarship, so he worked on the grounds crew at West Bend Country Club to pay for his University of Wisconsin education. In his adult years, his passion for the game collided with his entrepreneurial spirit and in 2004 launched GolfWisconsin.com. In 2007, the idea for a network of local golf directory sites formed and GolfTrips.com was born. Today, the network consists of a site in all 50 states supported by national sites like GolfTrips.com, GolfGuide.com and GolfPackages.com. It is an understatement to say, Brian is passionate about promoting golf and golf travel on a local, regional, national and international level.
On the golf course, Brian is known as a fierce weekend warrior that fluctuates between a 5-9 handicap. With a soft fade, known as "The Weis Slice", and booming 300+ drives, he can blast it out of bounds with the best of them.
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