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TRAVELS WITH THAD*

My visit at Bay Valley Resort was a true delight. Lou Dallas, the Director of Golf and I go back many years, but our path’s haven’t crossed in a long time. Lou says things are going well at Bay Valley now that all the renovation has been completed. The course is closed for the season, but the lodging, dining and meeting rooms remain open year round. Bay Valley certainly fits Conrad Hilton’s often quoted: "Location, Location, Location."

I was truly impressed when I stopped at Apple Mountain near Freeland for the first time. The clubhouse and conference center is first class all the way. D.J.DiBlasi, the Director of Golf said they had a great year. Later at the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association meeting at the Soaring Eagle, I had an opportunity to learn more about Apple Valley from Ken LeCureux. As General Manager, Ken is responsible for everything including The Grove, a golf course community of premier homesites.

At Skyline Resort near Grayling, Jerry Balmes was out checking on the new 18 hole course but I had a nice visit with son Tom. (Tom and Jerry. I love it!) Cut through the trees with great elevation changes, the course looks like a winner. The first nine is scheduled to open next summer. That’s the good news. Here’s the other. For over forty years Skyline has been a skiing destination, but the incredibly warm fall has been a temporary disaster to the revenue stream. Incidentally, Skyline is one of the very few who rely completely on the natural white stuff – no snow guns here.

Otsego Club at Gaylord has been a first class golf and skiing destination for many, many years. My first experience here was on the slopes in 1964. It was then called Hidden Valley and was a private enclave for the more well to do. The head of the real estate operation here Scott Chesley was away showing the property to a prospective buyer, but I had an enjoyable visit with his associate, Lois Skinner. Not unlike most elements of American business, there was a little downturn in late September and early October, but Lois says things have really picked up now – "people are not only looking, they are buying!" In addition to the "Classic," Otsego Club debuted an awesome new course recently. The "Tribute" is definitely a must-play!

Things are going well at Eagle Beach, the all-new waterfront golf community near Harbor Springs and Petoskey, according to Sarah, "Girl Friday" to developer Bob Shorter. Bob was away checking out the new golf course scheduled to open next spring. Eagle Beach is another Larry Mancour design. He and Bob collaborated on the nearby Chestnut Valley course a couple of years ago.

My first trip to Birchwood Farms north of Harbor Springs was in the early 70’s when I joined the late J.P.McCarthy on a most pleasant golf holiday. Today Richard Rochette heads up the real estate operation here. Originally from back East, Rich spent many years in the ski industry, so he and I took a brief trip into history including the days when long-thongs were the bindings of choice reserved for only the most accomplished down-hill and slalom racers.(Incidentally, these aren’t the type of thongs that made the front page a year or so ago.) Business is very good at Birchwood and everyone here is very upbeat about the future.

Vacation Properties Network markets homesites, condos, cottages and existing homes in and near Eastport, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs and Beaver Island. Boyne Realty handles all the Boyne USA properties: Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and Bay Harbor. I enjoyed my visit with Richard Lobenherz, President of both of these organizations. Combined they are a powerhouse in Northeast Michigan with eleven offices and over 60 representatives. He is extremely confident that more and more people are beginning to understand that real estate offers real comfort and security when compared to other investment opportunities. I agree, because I don’t recall ever hearing of a "Bear Market" when it comes to real estate.

At Shanty Creek Real Estate Properties Mike Piscopo was home recovering from a bad case of pneumonia and his partner Gary Stubbs was away on business. But as always, visiting with Janice Massey and Rochelle Stubbs was a distinct pleasure. They report that business is very good and they look for it to get even better. Shanty Creek offers a wide range real estate opportunities on and near their four great golf courses: The Legend; Cedar River; Schuss Mountain and the Summit.

My last stop was to visit with Tom Rowe who is handling all the real estate sales for the soon to open, Hawk’s Eye Golf Community. Tom is most enthusiastic about the opportunities at this development and reports that over 50 homesites have already been sold. Hawk’s Eye is adjacent to the very popular Chief course, which opened just a couple of years ago.

*Thad Gutowski is a member of the Michigan Golfer editorial team and will be a regular contributor to Michigan Golf News. Thad founded Falcon Golf a quarter of a century ago and has developed friendships all over Michigan.

Thad can be had at thad@acd.net


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