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The best of Michigan loaded with quality

By Michael Patrick Shiels, Contributor

Kinlochen LodgeDETROIT - It's an honor and a daunting responsibility to be asked to select "The Best Of" anything other than ice cream flavors and pubs. Rest assured, though, that as the official golf writer of the PGA of America's Michigan Section, I get to an inhumane number of Michigan golf facilities covering tournaments and talking to golf professionals and operators. Most every place and every person has ups and downs - and moments in the sun.

Best New Course: Yarrow Golf and Conference Center, Augusta, Michigan. Designed by Ray Hearn. Scenic and memorable holes abound, though the opener is too tough.

• Best service at a course: Anywhere a ranger or counter person manages to smile.

• Best Resort: Up-market: Bay Harbor Golf and Yacht Club, Petoskey.

• Best Course You Can Play: Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, Clarkston. An Arthur Hills designed daily-fee course with 27 holes on hilly terrain one hour north of Detroit that feels like the deep forest.

• Best Weekend Getaway: Bay Mills Resort and Casino, Brimley. The majestic trip over the Mackinac Bridge, the views from the course, the casino and shopping over the Canadian border make one feel far, far away.

• Best 19th Hole: The Legacy, Ottawa Lake. The outdoor Tiki Bar directly overlooks the 18th hole.

• Best place to have pure fun playing golf in a woodsy, natural environment: Red Hawk Golf Course. Tawas.

• Best menu item: The Steven Tyler Salad at The Moors in Portage. Named after the head professional, the dish is Atkins Diet-friendly with steak strips and crumbled bleu cheese.

• Fastest greens: West Branch Country Club. Semi-private.

• Best Clubhouse: Kinlochen, a Scottish-style Inn and Pub at Crystal Mountain.

• Best Value: Golf membership at West Shore Country Club, on Grosse Ile. $5,000. In fact, golf memberships everywhere are on sale.

• Best Professional's Shop: Dick Stewart's Old Shoppe at Kalamazoo Country Club.

• Best golf course address: Milham Park GC, 4200 Lovers Lane, Kalamazoo.

• Best new golf resort trend: Elaborate indoor water parks.

• Best Local Architect: Arthur Hills, just across the southern border in Toledo, has built countless courses of note and merit in Michigan. Tom Doak, is local but his best work is out of state, and Ray Hearn's designs run hot and cold: Hot: Yarrow. Cold: Moose Run.

• Best place to get romantic: Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel, home to The Jewel Golf Course, which takes players from the front to back nine via horse-drawn carriage.

• Best place for a cigar smoking, nighttime poker game after golf: Western Golf and Country Club, Redford.

• Best place for shopping and lollygagging after golf: Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands Resort.

• Best place to drive up your Handicap Index: Indianwood CC's New Course.

• Best place to flatter father's handicap: Raisin River Golf Course, Monroe. It's 36 short and flat holes with large, medium speed greens.

• Best place to dine following golf: Veranda dining at Arcadia Bluffs at twilight, when the sun is setting on Lake Michigan and a piper marches below. The entire links-style course is visible from the deck.

• Best place to not get on: Crystal Downs, Frankfurt. Alister MacKenzie. Top 10 in the United States. A holiday course, but veddy, veddy private.

• Best place to beat the Europeans in the 2004 Ryder Cup: Oakland Hills Country Club, Birmingham.

• Best place to play 36 holes and see only two houses: Oakland University Golf and Learning Center's Katke-Cousins and R&S Sharf courses. The only two houses present are historic: the quaint Dodge House and the baronial Meadowbrook Hall mansion.

• Best name for a new golf course: It's a tie: True North Golf Club and Angels Crossing GC.

• Best place to be inspired to quit golf: Inkster Valley Golf Course.

LeAnna Wicks• Best new female graduates-turned-pro players with star power: Stacy Snider - MSU, Misia Lemansky and the colorful LeAnna Wicks - U of M. Futures Tour in 2004, LPGA next.

• Best place for a woman to learn to play: LPGA player Elaine Crosby and Brad Dean's "For Women Only" golf school at Crystal Mountain Resort, home of the Michigan Women's Open.

• Best place to be paired with former Lion great Barry Sanders: Pine Trace CC in Rochester. The always unassuming Sanders plays the daily fee course almost every day in the summer.

• Best reason to remove your cap, bow your head and whisper a prayer: This year's sad passing of past PGA president Warren Orlick and Free Press golf writer Jack Saylor.

• Best place to make an ace that isn't worth $1-million: Treetops Resort's par-3 "Threetops" course, host each summer to the ESPN Million-dollar shootout.

• Best place to pretend you're in Ireland: The towering dunes of waterside Arcadia Bluffs.

• Best place to pretend you're in Scotland: The pot bunkers and burns of The Gailes, at Lakewood Shores resort in Oscoda. Developed by the family that owns Indianwood.

• Best place to lose a dozen: Black Forest GC, Gaylord.

• Best place to walk in the footsteps of Tiger Woods: Warwick Hills Country Club, Grand Blanc - home of the Buick Open.

• Best place to walk in the footsteps of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb: Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club. Ruth once squared-off with Cobb here in a match officiated by Walter Hagen.

• Best place to walk in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus: The Bear, Grand Traverse Resort, Traverse City. But those aren't his giant footsteps, they're bunkers he designed, apparently while in a bear of a mood! TPC Michigan in Dearborn is a less severe, but only just.

• Best place to pretend you're a Champions Tour player: Egypt Valley Country Club in Grand Rapids - home to the senior players in annual Farmer's Charity Classic.

• Best place to get to know Donald Ross: Detroit Golf Club. There are 36 of his holes here, where his brother Alex served as head professional.

• Best place to tailgate before a Michigan Football Game: The University of Michigan Golf Course, across from 110,000-seat Michigan Stadium, where campers, RV's and cars park on Alister MacKenzie's handiwork.

• Best public facility for beginners: Fox Hills Country Club and Banquet Center in Plymouth. From Strategic Fox, an 18-hole executive learning course, to Golden Fox, a premium Arthur Hills design, with two other 18-hole layouts in between.

• Best resort reportedly in severe financial trouble: Shanty Creek Resort, in Bellaire, even with acclaimed courses by Arnold Palmer and Tom Weiskopf.

• Best facility that will be nevermore: The Links of Novi, 27-holes of daily-fee golf that has been sold-off to become a housing development.

• Best day of the year in Michigan golf: June 21. The summer solstice!

 
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