Up North Resorts in Michigan in Full Swing

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Summertime in Michigan isn’t complete until golf lovers take at least one trip “up north.”

The plentiful golf courses dotting our Northern Michigan landscape put Michigan on the national golf map long before the Pure Michigan advertising campaign began bringing even more attention to our natural and man-made resources.

I had the pleasure of visiting two such locales in the final weeks of June while covering a pair of major golf championships — the 100th Michigan Amateur at the Boyne Highlands Resort (The Heather course) and the Michigan PGA Women’s Open at Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa. History was made at Boyne, where Willie Mack of Flint became the first ever African-American to win the prestigious event. Then at the Women’s Open, Laura Kueny, a recent MSU player and 2010 Big Ten Player of the Year, defeated mini tour and LPGA pros from across the country for her first professional win, on home soil.

Both settings were ideal for golf tournaments. Boyne has highly-acclaimed multiple golf course choices at the Highlands location, at Bay Harbor in Petoskey, and at the original Boyne Mountain property further to the south. Both resorts continue to improve, unlike so many businesses in the U.S. that have cut, slashed, or delayed capital improvements since the bottom fell out of the economy in the summer of 2008.

Both resorts have continued to make upgrades: A sampling of those improvements at Boyne includes:

• An expanded driving range at Bay Harbor Golf Club, plus tee and bunker renovations at multiple courses.
• Irrigation upgrades on The Alpine at Boyne Mountain.
• A partnership with GPS Industries to offer yardage systems on carts — providing accurate yardages to the pin, fly-over views of each hole, pace of play accountability, food ordering service, and group and tournament scoring.
• New fleets of golf carts at Boyne Highlands and Bay Harbor Golf Club (Boyne Mountain received a new fleet in 2007).
• The addition of Zipline Adventures at Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain.
• A management deal with Hidden River Golf & Casting Club so that Boyne now offers 180 holes of golf.
• Horseback riding trail rides at Boyne Highlands in 2008 — also new this summer at Boyne Mountain.
• Added junior tennis programs, fly fishing casting lessons at Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, and paintball (new this summer at Boyne Mountain).

Crystal Mountain is arguably the most family-friendly resort in northern Michigan. It was great to see license plates from Delaware, North Carolina, and many parts of the Midwest in their parking lots. Expecting moms were hanging out with their toddlers; while multiple generations of families were enjoying the very relaxed Crystal atmosphere.

Crystal has won numerous awards as a top Midwest ski destination and has two very distinct golf layouts — the more family-focused Betsie Valley course and the more challenging Mountain Ridge layout the Women’s Open navigated.
Brian Lawson, Crystal Mountain’s communications director, detailed the improvements: “We announced a $10 million expansion early in 2008, so from a timing perspective everything was in place prior to the economic shift,” he says. “The Crystal Spa (opened in January 2009) is the single biggest individual investment the resort has made at $5 million. Crystal Spa is LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), which differentiates it from any other in the Midwest and is unique from a national perspective, as well. We were certainly navigating through the same economic challenges as everyone else but this investment diversified our business and gave us an even stronger presence as a four-season destination.”

Also in the tumultuous 2008 year, Crystal added Michigan’s only Alpine Slide, a dry weather non-motorized cart ride that twists back and forth down the mountain. Crystal Mountain has also been constructing three and four-bedroom units called The Bungalows at the base of the slope, just one of multiple lodging/owner share options at the growing resort. For skiers, adding a new quad-chairlift for this coming winter represents an investment of over $1 million — including some snowmaking upgrades.

“The alpine slide added a truly unique activity during the spring, summer, and fall while Crystal Spa provides an option that is not seasonal — or weather-dependent — which are two inherent challenges in the travel industry,” Lawson says. “There’s no question these investments have made us a stronger business which is even more apparent as the economy continues to recover.”

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