Northern Michigan golfing offers a short season but great variety

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A local golf cart on the course. Photo by Amy Davis.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Although the golf industry in Traverse City faces seasonal issues by Northern Michigan’s harsh winters, it comes back in full swing as spring swings around.

Traverse City offers golf courses across the area with designs like Arnold Palmer’s, Jack Niclkaus’s, Jerry Matthews, Gary Player’s etc. The sport attracts large amounts of business which in turn impacts the city immensely.

Michael DeAgostino at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, says they offer three distinguished 18-hole championship courses, as well as private lessons, on-course instruction, team builds, ladies-only schools, junior camps, clinics for corporate groups, memberships, and club fitting. The Golf Academy at the Resort offers year round lessons and practice sessions with both indoor and outdoor facilities.

The three courses here include The Bear, a Jack Nicklaus signature course, The Wolverine, a Gary Player signature course, and Spruce Run, which was redesigned by William Newcomb.

Alex Scott, a 20-year-old golfer at Grand Valley University finds himself at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa weekly. He says that Northern Michigan courses may be a bit more expensive than other areas, but he understands because of the short season. The best part about golf in this area is the variety. This can be seen in courses that are affordable to pricey, easy to hard, traditional to links, public or private, etc,” says Scott.

Don White has been in Traverse City since 2010, and shortly after began at the Crown in 2012. He says that the many great golf courses in the area attract players and in turn impact local businesses.

“We also offer specials for locals, and senior specials Monday-Thursday,” says White. He says that on the weekends the course gets a younger crowd as well as lots of wedding parties. This benefits the diverse crowd in Traverse City, that ranges in age. “Our customers together range in age from their 20’s to their 70’s,” says White.

Another professional golfer in the area is Mike Mooney, who has worked at Shanty Creek Golf Course for 23 years.

He says that about 30 percent of the business at his course comes from locals, which is very important during the slower times. “The other 70 percent of business comes from non-locals,” says Mooney. “I would not classify all of them as tourists, however, as many are frequent guests but not living here.”

Mooney also says that he has seen a change in the golf industry in Northern Michigan throughout his time in the area. “Golf used to be the major draw in Traverse City and Northern Michigan,” Mooney says.

“With all the other activities the area has to offer, the impact is not as large as it was 20-plus years ago, but it is still a very important component in drawing tourists,” says Mooney.