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About Traverse City
Traverse City, known as a four-season playground, is now celebrated for quality cuisine, wine and culture. Miles of sugar-sand shoreline include the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with romantic lighthouses and coastal villages. The glacier-sculpted landscape of orchards and vineyards also includes championship golf courses. Swimming, sailing, paddling, hiking and fishing are favourite warm weather activities, while winter turns the region into a playground for skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers.
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With 17 championship courses to choose among, Traverse City’s golf scene is wonderfully diverse – but that sheer abundance can sometimes be a little intimidating. Where to start? Rather than spout our own opinions, we decided to ask local golf pros to tell us what golfers would be most attracted to their courses, and to give a few tips for playing them successfully. Larry Lavely of A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort has different recommendations for each of his property’s three courses. Although it’s a very challenging course, for instance, The Torch appeals to golfers who are as interested in its beautiful views of Torch Lake as they are in their scores. “Smart play off the tee is a must,” says Lavely. “The course doesn’t play long, so the driver really isn’t needed. Sundance, which opened in 2005, is recognized as one of the Midwest’s best courses because of excellent course condition, design and playability. Antrim Dells has long been a favorite with local golfers: a classic design that offers a very fair test of golf – with the added attraction of spectacular Lake Michigan views, mature woodlands and creeks. A golfer can be extremely aggressive on its open front nine, says Lavely, but the wooded back nine demands patience. Shanty Creek Resorts boasts four separate courses, and according to pro Brian Kautz, there’s a design for every type of golfer. Cedar River, recently named among the Top 1,000 Golf Courses in the World by Rolex, is for the experienced golfer. So is Arnold Palmer’s The Legend. But beginners and younger golfers can feel comfortable at Shanty’s other two courses. The Summit has long been hailed for its “public course” design, and although Schuss Mountain remains a challenge thanks to its setting of hardwood forests and rolling hills, the resort has added 8” cups to all 18 greens to offer a less intimidating putting option. “The best approach is to know your own game and choose your course accordingly,” Kautz says. Jay Stanula at Hawk’s Eye Golf Resort says his course also attracts a wide range of golfers; low-handicap players can challenge themselves by playing the tips, while less experienced golfers can still be challenged on the white tees. “My advice with Hawk’s Eye is to trust the yardage markers,” he says. “There’s a lot of elevation changes here, and the distances are sometime very different from what you think they are.” At The Chief, professional Megan Rogers says her course is breathtaking, but “definitely not for the faint of heart.” Competitive players who want a challenge will have an outstanding experience at The Chief, she says, but her advice is “not to be too greedy” when teeing off. “You don’t need to have a long ball, but you do need to have a straight ball,” she says. Scott Hebert at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa says all three of his courses were designed to be player-friendly, although The Bear has a more fearsome reputation for difficulty than The Wolverine or Spruce Run. His top recommendation for successful play applies to all three courses: take the time to learn the layout of each hole and to understand the distances from tee to green. Golfers who play at Grand Traverse Resort for the first time would enjoy the experience more if they bring a range finder along. “”When you’re playing a new course, especially a challenging one, the thing that really hurts you is not knowing the lay of the course,” he says. Traverse City’s Elmbrook Golf Course prides itself on its relaxed, unpretentious vibe, says golf director Dennis Sternburgh. The vast majority of its players are local residents who enjoy being treated like members of the family. “What good is a great course if people treat you rudely?” he says. Best tip? Leave your driver in the bag and focus on staying on the fairway; the roughs at Elmbrook are thick. Golfers looking for value are also attracted to The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms says pro Logan Price. Since the course is very undulating, approach shots and putting can be challenging and there are some spectacular vistas from the tee boxes. “Golfers should make sure their iron game and putting is sharp before their next round,” he says. “Our greens are small and shaped, so hitting accurate approaches and keeping the ball below the hole is a must for good scoring.” Scenery is also a big draw at the Manitou Passage Golf Club, which overlooks Lake Michigan near the Sleeping Bear Dunes, but Jamie Jewell says the course’s five sets of tees allow it to cater to all skill levels. “The best way to enjoy Manitou Passage is from a “tee it forward” mentality,” says Jewell. “Since some of the fairways are narrow, players should move up a set of tees. Distance off the tee isn’t as important as accuracy on many holes.” Players are drawn to The Crown Golf Club by its great shot quality and variety, the grooming of its fairways and greens, and its location just southwest of Traverse City, says golf director Don White. “Leave your ego at home -- you may not have your best score here,” says White. “There are some very friendly holes, mostly on the front nine, that will get you feeling pretty good about your game. But there are also holes that leave you scratching your head and wishing you had an eraser on your golf pencil.
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