At the top of the Kalamazoo River Valley is a special course designed to attract golfers of all skill levels looking for a fun yet challenging day on the links.
At a time when many golf courses are going and closing, or going bankrupt to try to live another day, Gull Lake View Resort is building its sixth golf course to add to its already popular inventory. The scheduled opening is mid-summer 2016.
Stoatin Brae – translated from Gaelic meaning Grand Hill – has the elements to become a destination course, which the Scott family hope as they continue to draw golfers from the upper Midwest to the scenic, rolling countryside between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek .
“We’re always trying to increase our reach,” said third-generation family owner and president Jon Scott, of the reasons for building a new course during Michigan’s economic recovery. “We do a lot of business out of Chicago and Detroit, but we’ve been successful in looking at markets like Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Toronto. So we’re trying to give them another reason to go a little further; raise our flag and say why they should come here. For some, it’s their Up North.
The geographic area looks like northern Michigan, but Stoatin Brae’s focus is the opposite – think Scotland but surrounded by forest-covered hills, according to Scott.
The main entrance will give a warning to any first-time visitor. The driveway from East Augusta Drive has a climb of about 200 feet to the future clubhouse and first tee, overlooking the Kalamazoo River Valley with a lookout facing south with downtown Battle Creek at the far east. The property runs along one of the highest ridges in the region.
“It’s a great course, and that was one of the attractions, just seeing what the possibilities were – and we’re looking for projects where there’s a lot of really good golf right on the ground, and it certainly has it. eu, ”said Eric Iverson, one of four members of the Renaissance Golf Design team, senior partners of the company’s founder and world-renowned designer, Tom Doak. While the latter may offer suggestions, this joint design and build team with the Gull Lake View staff is in the very capable hands of Iverson, Brian Schneider, Brian Slawnik and Don Placek.
“I think the golf course is going to be – stylish sometimes comes to mind,” added Iverson. “It’s just a beautiful, gently rolling terrain with some fantastic native grasses to work with. We’ve really tried not to overdo it, and I think we’re getting there.
Iverson was fascinated by the location of the plateau along the river valley. The former landowners took care of an apple orchard, then sold it to real estate developers who stripped it of all those trees, before ultimately selling it to the Scott family when the residential development failed. occurred.
“You can see a lot of holes in a lot of directions and there are just nice views everywhere,” he said.
The basics that golfers will want to know is the fact that there are no water hazards, understandable for being on such high ground. Protecting the par will be its tough green complexes, thoughtfully placed bunkers requiring golfers not to always follow a straight line, and the wind – oh my boy the wind.
“It’s a strategic golf course and it’s going to hold up, but the wind is a big part of it (shielding the par),” Iverson said. “Even on a relatively calm day in the area, it is still a bit windy here. Great golf breeze, about 10 miles an hour, half a club here and a half club there. You just have to pay attention to it; this is a great asset to the course.
Many times, however, the wind will be much faster than a club or two.
“The greens are pretty interesting,” Iverson said. “There’s a lot of strategic bunkering, and you’re going to be encouraged to go around the hazards to get the best angles, and there’s enough breadth to do that. There will be very little “going down the middle”. We made room to cover one side or the other (of the fairways) to get the best angle.
It’s not Augusta, but it’s
Scott made it clear from the start that he wanted Stoatin Brae to be fun – not necessarily easy – but fun. He relates this to the way golf courses were built, in the 1930s and before.
“Look at Augusta National (golf club) for example,” Scott said, as a 25 mph wind blew light dust around us in late September on the property in Augusta, Michigan. “This course was designed where it wasn’t. For all roughs it’s basically fairway to fairway (think Amen Corner). It’s supposed to be wide open, so if you were a good player it was a challenge but if you were a bad player you could always find your ball and hit it again.
“This course is still like that today. So, in many ways, Stoatin Brae is a throwback to some of the basic philosophies of the 1930s and before, which were more focused on the average golfer than the professional golfer. Professional golf has kind of led the charge in course design since the 1960s. ”
Scott continued his soliloquy on why golfers should love his last heartbreaking effort.
“We always want people to have a fun and enjoyable experience,” he said. “This new course is not meant to kill people. We’re not trying to stake a stake in the ground and say that’s where the pros will come from. We are a seaside resort and we want people to be able to have fun here.
“We want it to be a challenge. We want good golfers to play it and say we have to play a good game for it to work. But if you’re not a good golfer and just hitting the ball, we still want it to be fun for everyone. This fun factor is far too underestimated in the golf industry today, and it’s a big deal.
“The fairways are wide,” Scott continued. “It’s different from our other courses stylistically and visually – wide open, grassy hilltop, windswept, broad shoulders, open sky.
Another visual that turns Scott on is the fact that after the apple trees were removed by the previous owners, they planted a wide variety of native grasses and wildflowers. Scott says a golfer can play once a month and each time see a different course in color change throughout the growing seasons of the grass and flowers.
“A lot of golf in the United States is made up of courses that have turned into forests (providing tree-lined fairways), which is also great,” he said. “But this course is meant to be an open field – forever. And it works because the topography is exceptional.