August 4th, 2015 04:32PM
When it comes to defining a golf destination there are three aspects to consider, the quality of golf, the quantity of golf and the brand recognition of its course designers. The Gaylord Golf Mecca easily registers as one of the leading golf destinations in the country with its quality, quantity and leading course designers.
In 1983 former Treetops owner and automotive parts manufacturer, Harry Melling, acquired the Sylvan Knob ski area just east of Gaylord. In 1985, following two years of expansion and upgrades, Melling was ready to add the next facet of the resort. It was golf, which like at other ski resort destinations, helped to fill rooms during the summer months.
Melling hired Robert Trent Jones Sr., who was arguably the most influential architect of the 20th century with more than 450 golf courses. During the construction while standing on the piece of land overlooking the Pigeon River Valley on what is now the sixth tee of the Masterpiece Course, Melling, and Jones, Sr. commented on seeing all the tree tops for as far as the eye could see. Ultimately the resort was renamed as Treetops Resort and it officially kick-started the area as a golf destination.
In 1987, Treetops along with other area golf courses came together to form the Gaylord Golf Mecca. Soon after, more national designers came to the area, attracted by its sand base and cool growing season, which are major attractions to golf course designers.
In 1992, which was a huge year for new Gaylord golf courses, a young architect by the name of Tom Doak, who was quickly gaining national recognition for his throwback minimalist course design philosophy, designed Black Forest. Today, Doak is one of the most sought after course designers in the world. At the same time, Treetops had attracted Tom Fazio to come up to Michigan and design what is still today his only Michigan course. Fazio loved the area.
“My two favorite places to design courses have been Michigan and Pinehurst,” he says. “In Michigan, specifically the Gaylord area in northern Michigan, you have rolling terrain, sandy soils, tree tops with beautiful views.”
Rick Smith, who was making a national name for himself as a leading swing instructor for players like Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson, also designed the Threetops Par 3 course that year, and would add two more courses, the Signature and Tradition at Treetops.
The national golf course design attraction continued into the late 90s when Robert Trent Jones Sr. son, Rees Jones, came to the region to design a course for the UAW. Rees was known as the “U.S. Open Doctor” at the time and he brought his classic artistry to Black Lake Golf Club. Also during that time NBC golf announcer and former PGA Tour player, Gary Koch, brought a nationally acclaimed course to the Otsego Club. The Tribute course features some of the most spectacular views found in northern Michigan.
While the area was attracting these nationally recognized course designers, one of Michigan’s own course designers, Jerry Matthews, who designed more than 400 courses himself, created the nationally acclaimed Elk Ridge, The Natural at Beaver Creek and the Lakes Course at The Loon Golf Resort.
To learn more about these great architects click on the link below to view the recent Michigan Golf Live television production that highlighted many of these architects. It includes interviews of the architects by show host Bill Hobson.