By Janina Parrott Jacobs, Golf and Media Consultant-- – With course conditions in Michigan at their peak, it is a mystery why scores of golfers stash their clubs in the garage post Labor-Day.
Many golf courses become ghost towns but it is time to amend that trend and plan a fall golf excursion.
Why? Crowds have thinned, prices have dropped, and the cool and wet summer has yielded spectacular playing conditions, since most facilities have fully recovered from the worst winter in Michigan history.
September and October offer prime weather windows and we Michiganians know that the autumn colors, which already began production in mid-August, offer the best backdrops anywhere the country.
One course in particular stands out and your chance to play it is very limited. The stunningly beautiful True North Golf Club in the idyllic town of Harbor Springs is probably the poster child for fall golf vistas. With thousands of hardwoods and pines framing lush green fairways, there is probably no finer observation point in all of Michigan. And this, however, should not totally distract from the architecture of the award-winning Jim Engh design -- although I'd challenge you to focus only on golf in this spectacular setting.
Created on a magnificent piece of property just north of Boyne Highlands, the course meanders through hundreds of acres and serious elevation changes. No two holes are alike and rarely will you see or hear anyone else on the course. A fair mixture of uphill and downhill holes will challenge your knowledge of how to play those lies because quite often, level lies are rare.
True North has undergone changes in the last few years but now its identity as an ultra-exclusive private club has been cemented. In order to expose golfers to what lies at the end of the ever-uphill serpentine driveway, the club is offering a ‘one-time-only' arrangement to those wanting to take a look at the possibility of membership at this upscale private club. Stay at a beautifully appointed full-service cottage, which actually is much larger than the name implies, with four private suites. Rates for golf and lodging are comparable with other top resort destinations, yet you'll be treated like private club members during your stay. Ask about generational national membership and other details by contacting General Manager Matt Payne at 231.526.3300 or visit www.truenorthgolf.com.
Play this impeccably conditioned and Audubon-certified course a couple times to fully appreciate Engh's architectural artistry at blending subtle craftsmanship with dramatic landscapes. In the fall, explosions of color among the thousands of towering hardwoods are stunning. In 2008, Thai golf professional, Feng Shui master, and Michigan native Peter Andraes, deemed True North a ‘power spot' due to incredible energies he sensed there. Every hole is an adventure and you can't wait to see what's next. The first hole, a par-5, lulls you into a relaxing start only to have the second wake you with a jolt as the downhill par-4 requires a long carry over water to a hilly green lined with bunkers. Holes 7 and 8, back-to-back par-5's at 595 and 562 from the Silver tips, showcase spectacular elevation swings, one downhill, one up; the 8th even challenges Director of Golf Terry Carlson, a former Senior Tour member and professional at the famed Estancia in Scottsdale, though the day we played he managed a par. Pause to admire the vista on the downhill 365-yard par-4 11th, with its sculpted tree-lined fairway and a pond dominating the undulating green. As benign as it appears, I've heard of professionals carding 7's and 8's on this hole when too-bold tee shots found the fescues and woods. The par-5 18th has been revamped a couple times: a double fairway invites long hitters to try their luck at threading the needle on a left upper-tiered fairway between trees and fescues. It does cut off significant distance from the other right-side fairway path down the hill, then up to the elevated green. However, playing that seemingly safe alternative might not be so attractive: you'll be hitting your approach shot from a downhill/sidehill lie to that same towering green. But either way, it will be a magnificent end to an enjoyable round.
After golf, you may wish to enjoy dinner at the club's restaurant, which offers gourmet cuisine, with a local Michigan flair, in an unpretentious setting overlooking the golf course. Dine inside or outside….no matter….you can still savor the view and watch the show on 18 as players try to negotiate their choices. Grab a cocktail, and then head over to the short-game practice range adjacent to the cottages. There you'll find Titleist Pro-V1's stashed in Titleist bags which you can chip and putt to your heart's content as the sun sets, perhaps even wagering a few bucks via a putting contest with your playing partners. To me, there is no better way to end a full day of golf than to watch the darkness descend so deeply that I cannot even see the ball anymore, only feel it -- reminds me of my college days!
Janina Parrott Jacobshas played top-level competitive golf for decades and now uses this experience to enhance her work as an international golf and travel writer/editor. Having hosted WJR's ‘GolfWrap' and CBS-TV-Detroit's ‘Michigan Golf Weekly', she also advocates golf equity for the women's market and provides consulting services to the golf industry. She has been a Golf Digest ratings panelist since the mid-80's. In 2000, Janina was inducted into the Wayne State University Athletic Hall of Fame. She is also a professional pianist/organist and vocalist and has owned Capers Steakhouse in Detroit since 1982. She may be reached at Jjacobs2456@gmail.com.