A Solo Golf Trip to Michigan

I just took a trip back to my home state to enjoy some time away and some amazing golf courses.  I must say that Michigan did not disappoint.  What an awesome trip!

What started out as a buddy trip became a solo getaway when my friends bailed for financial and health reasons.  But this opened up some doors that probably would not have even cracked were I not alone.  So, thanks guys!

I flew up on Tuesday, landing in Detroit early that morning.  I immediately jumped into the rental and drove up to the middle of nowhere to try and get in a twilight round on The Loop course at Forest Dunes.  I went in and paid, and then approached the cart guys to get a cart – and was told the Loop was a walking only course.  Anxious to get started I declined their offer for a push cart and trudged over to the first tee.

The Loop course wad designed by Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf Design as a “reversible” golf course.  It plays clockwise one day and counter clockwise the next.  The starter described the course, telling me that it was hard and fast. The fescue greens would not hold a high approach shot and that I should play low and short and run the ball up from the front of the green.  Boy, was he telling the truth!

I found the course unplayable and unmanageable.  I putted off of the first green with a putt I didn’t think was THAT bad!  I tried to follow the starter’s orders and play to the front of the greens – some shots rolled THROUGH the green, some didn’t roll up at all.  The teeing grounds were so hard I could barely wedge a tee through.

Having been SO anxious to play Forest Dunes – I’ve been waiting years to get up there and play – I recall thinking that I was going to be vastly disappointed the next morning if it was anything like The Loop.  I loved the concept of The Loop, but did not like the execution.  I’ll chalk it up to not having the game for true links golf, but I absolutely hated the round.

Wednesday morning I made my way back to Forest Dunes to play the main course.  Since there really was not anything in the area, I arrived early enough to grab a breakfast – opting for the cinnamon french toast.  Excellent choice!  Simple, quick, and DELICIOUS!

I played alone that day, which allowed me to relax and enjoy every minute of the spectacular day.  The temperature was crisp, but the sun was shining with a slight breeze.  A perfect fall day in the Midwest – something I have missed for years!  I took my time getting around the course, but still caught up to foursome after foursome.  Luckily, each group was courteous enough to let me play through.

The course did not disappoint!  Very few blind shots, phenomenal fairways, and soft, yet fast greens.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 6th, 12th, and 15th holes, but the entire course was perfect.  I enjoyed it so much that I stuck around for a replay round – where I birdied 17 & 18 to tie my career best at +3 (in windier conditions as the breeze became a wind in the afternoon).

The next day I was scheduled to play True North Golf Club, a beautiful private club in Harbor Springs.  I arrived early enough again to allow myself to absorb the whole experience.  Those who know me know that I typically arrive about 30 seconds before my tee time, so this was a welcome, relaxing way to play.

I spent about 15 minutes talking to Brent Redman, Director of Golf for the club.  He could not have been more welcoming and friendly to a complete stranger than he was to me.  He talked to me about the course, he asked about my career and aspirations, and he offered his assistance in any way during my visit.

I went off to the range to loosen up.  The morning was a little cooler than the day before, but still a perfect fall morning!  I was the first and only one at the club that morning, so the range was immaculately prepared and perfect.  I stopped at the putting green for a few minutes to get used to the speed and to work on my stroke – I had not been pleased with my putting from the day before, even with a great round!

True North was a little more challenging, featuring many more blind shots.  Again, I just trusted that the designer was not a masochist and that there was fairway where there should be.  I was right!  The 4th hole was spectacular – an uphill Par 4 with bunkers perfectly placed in the center of the fairway – a beautiful golf hole.  All told, True North was a gem.  A fantastic layout with a lot of blind (but fair) shots, amazing use of the natural terrain, and impeccably manicured.

I spent that afternoon in downtown Traverse City.  I walked around with little purpose, enjoying the day and the shops along Front St.  I ate lunch at Amical, a quaint little restaurant with a great view.  I opted for the chicken pot pie and enjoyed it and the view. On my way back to the car I popped in to Doug Murdick’s Fudge shop to get a Northern Michigan staple – fudge.

The next morning I had secured a tee time at The Kingsley Club.  If you ever get the chance to play there, trust the GPS.  The course IS off of a dirt road, about 3 miles worth.  But just like the other courses – being in the middle of nowhere did not take away from the experience.

The morning brought some rain – and it was pouring when I arrived at the course.  I unloaded my clubs at the clubhouse and parked in the lot.  I sat in the car for about 10 minutes hoping the rain would die down some.  It didn’t.  Not wanting to accept that my round would be washed out, I jumped out, swapped my shoes and ran into the pro shop.

The clubhouse was tiny and rustic, with a log cabin sort of feel to it.  A sign hung on the door reminding men to remove their hats – there were even tees in the wood to hang them on.  I stepped inside and was greeted by one of the assistants.  We discussed the rain and he said the radar showed it moving through pretty quickly – to which I smiled and said, “Thank God!”

As the rain started to slow, I made my way out to the first tee, a very elevated tee looking down to a Par 5 with a huge bunker in the middle of the fairway.  The assistant had handed me a yardage book on my way out – which was very necessary as I referenced it immediately.  I misjudged my carry distance and the massive bunker caught my ball.

The first 5 holes were magnificently woven through each other with amazing elevation changes.  I birdied the very long Par 3 5th (225 yards INTO the wind) with a little luck, using the terrain around the green to feed my ball to within 6 feet of the hole.  I matched that birdie on 6 and was -1 through the 8th hole.  Then the rain came back and the wheels fell off.

The rain lasted only two holes, and the rest of the day was as good as the previous days, and so was the course.  A spectacular layout loaded with variety and challenge.  Another incredible golf course located in the Middle of Nowhere, MI.  An absolute treat to play, The Kingsley Club was incredible.

As soon as I finished, I called Arcadia Bluffs and set up an afternoon twilight round.  I was about an hour away and needed to get lunch.  Unfortunately I did not pass any restaurants on my route – like I said, Middle of Nowhere, MI.

I got to Arcadia with plenty of time to spare before my tee time so I grabbed a lunch in the restaurant overlooking Lake Michigan.  I can’t imagine ever getting tired of that view!

They paired me up with three guys on their annual buddy trip to northern Michigan.  One of them owned a summer home in Frankfort, MI, just north of Arcadia.  They were all very friendly and welcomed me into the group immediately.  I’m not sure if I was tired or the rhythm of playing with others threw me off, but I did not start out very well.  I struggled through the first 3 holes and found myself 5-over.

I settled in with a par on the 4th and missed a 20-foot eagle putt on the 5th, tapping in the birdie.  I didn’t really play well that afternoon but still enjoyed the company of my playing partners and the incredible golf course at Arcadia Bluffs.  A few blind tee shots aside, the layout at Arcadia is nothing short of awesome, and the views are even better!  We weren’t able to finish the round before the sun set over the lake, but watching it was memorable.

I didn’t play on Saturday as I was driving back down to Detroit.  I met up with some friends from high school that night and enjoyed sharing some memories and catching up.  I joined my uncle and cousins the next morning for a round at Cherry Creek Golf Club in Shelby Township.

What a great municipal course with an awesome practice facility.  My uncle explained that his girls practiced there throughout their high school days.  I just wish I could find a facility like that where I live!

I played well that day, but most importantly I enjoyed the company of family.  It has been a long time since I returned to Michigan, so I hadn’t seen my cousins in years.  It was great playing with them (and beating them!).  I think I had 8 1-putts that day.

The next day I did something I had never done – went to the Henry Ford Museum.  Growing up in the Detroit area most kids go to the museum on a field trip.  I do not recall ever having gone, so I made a point of making that a part of my trip.  Let me tell you, if you enjoy history then you must go!

While the trip was supposed to be a buddies trip, I am somewhat glad that it wasn’t.  Being alone allowed me access to two epic golf courses that I doubt I would have been afforded with multiple players.  It also gave me the flexibility to do whatever I pleased, and I did just that.  I ate some of my all-time favorites while home – Papa Romano’s deep dish pizza, Olga’s Kitchen, Better Made Hot! potato chips, and washed them all down with ice-cold Vernors.

I look forward to putting together another trip – going back home to show my buddies how awesome Michigan golf is.  Wanna come?

 

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