by Bob Sparrow
It had been thirteen years since I jumped on a plane in Orange County to Detroit on a Monday morning to go to work, and then flew home on Friday night – yes, I ‘commuted’ to Troy, Michigan, mostly every week for five years, so I knew the way to Michigan. But this trip was not about work, it was about golf. Actually, it turned out that golf was a lot of work! The Sagers, Budds, VanBoxmeers, and us, headed to Traverse City in northern Michigan to enjoy four of the over 1,000 golf courses in the state of Michigan. Those who have been to northern Michigan understand just how beautiful it is – lots of trees and everything is so green! We got lucky with the weather, as it was not too hot, not too humid, but, as Goldilocks would say, “Just right”. Our lodging for the first half of the week was in an awesome, four-bedroom condo at the A-Ga-Ming golf complex.
We traveled on a Sunday and had a tee time at the A-Ga-Ming Sundance course set for Monday morning, but the Sagers’ and VanBoxmeers’ golf clubs decided they wanted to spend some extra time in Dallas. So, no golf on Monday; our free day of Tuesday was rescheduled for golf and on our golf day of Monday was rescheduled for a self-directed tour of Traverse City, where we had lunch on the roof top bar of the Hotel Indigo, that provided us a beautiful view of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.
We took this free day as an opportunity to visit an old friend of Linda’s and mine, Shiela Nittman, who used to live in our neighborhood back in Orange, but she and husband, Helmut, were now retiring in their beautiful second home overlooking Torch Lake, which was only about twenty minutes from where we were staying. It was a great visit, as Shiela regaled us with stories of the surrounding area.
Later that day we also visited a friend of John’s, Cindy, who lived in the area and used to own the Colorado Mining Co. restaurant in Denver and knew John when he played for the Denver Avalanche, NHL hockey team. She had one story after another, either about the hockey players coming into the restaurant and causing havoc, or the night Elvis came in and they made him a huge peanut butter, jelly and bacon sandwich. We ended the evening having some indigenous white fish and walleye at Gray Gables, a nice restaurant in Charlevoix.
After another day of bad golf for me, we changed locations from our four-bedroom condo in Ag-A-Ming to the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, a nice, but dated, facility. Our room looked like something right out of 50s. We had a free day, meaning no golf, to just tour the area, so we went into Traverse City for breakfast, then stopped by a large field of sunflowers that we spotted along the road; there was a place to pull over and take photos, so we did. Dinner on the 15th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa building – beautiful view, just an OK dinner.
After three rounds of frustrating golf for ‘Double Bogey Bob’, that’s me, I can’t tell you how excited I was that we booked the Jack Nichlaus designed course, ‘The Bear’ for our last day of golf in Michigan. Here’s the description of the course:
“One of the toughest golf courses in America, featuring Scottish terraced fairways, tiered greens, deep grassy roughs, moguls, mounds and deep pot bunkers, along with lakes, ponds, forests, streams and fruit orchards.”
Oh great, all that to deal with plus FRUIT ORCHARDS . . . on a golf course??!! I didn’t sleep well the night before, wondering whether I had enough balls to get through even the front nine! But, as it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded . . . IT WAS WORSE!!! It took three hours to play the front nine!!! Not wanting to miss our dinner reservation and being totally frustrated with ‘The Bear’, we quit after 12 holes and headed to the showers! Travel tip: Don’t play this course unless you are a very good golfer, are in a very good mood and have plenty of time . . . and balls!
Our last supper was at the Turtle Creek Hotel & Casino, and it was probably our best of the trip, made better by the fact that Camus wine was half-priced, and after what we’d been through, we all needed something to help us forget that round, or two-thirds of a round, of golf.
Northern Michigan golf: Check