Monday, September 15, 2008

Greywalls in Marquette MI

Thurs. Sept 11

Today we went to the Greywalls course at Marquette Golf Club. It is about 11/2 hour drive from Island Resort where we are staying but they have a stay and play package with all three of these courses.
This one is a bit of a drive but definitely worth the trip and certainly a unique golf course. It sits high on a bluff, ½ mile from the north shore of Lake Superior and several holes have panoramic views of the Lake. It has over 300 feet in up and down elevation changes which makes for some very challenging holes. This is mining country, for iron ore and it must have been copper and granite mining territory too because this course is filled with Granite outcroppings, most of which are strewn throughout the fairway. On #6 a 65-foot high granite wall looms over this par 3 green.
Imagine boulder- strewn foothills, sitting on a bluff high above Lake Superior with ribbons of emerald fairways meandering through granite walls and outcroppings. That is the beautiful and intriguing Greywalls.

This is a most interesting golf course, with no level lies to speak of, but there were a couple holes that I didn’t particularly like. # 5 call for a tee shot through such a narrow rock chute that it appears to be a smaller target than your average green. The fifteenth hole is a par three that took a driver and 2 putts for my par, A par-3 that requires driver is just too much for me.

Greywalls was designed by Mike DeVries who has worked for both Tom Fazio and Tom Doak and it is truly amazing to me that anyone looked at this property and could envision a golf course here. It is spectacular looking, very challenging (slope of 144 from the tips) and still very playable. There is very little about this golf course that anyone would call straight forward. And there is not a house in sight.

I was surprised to learn that this course was built for just over 3 million dollars and somehow, their maintenance budget is dramatically less than the average golf course in the U.S. I don’t know how they pull that off. It is also one of just two courses that has seeded its fairways with Dwarf Bluegrass, which plays surprisingly well and handles cart traffic extremely well (the greens and tees are bent grass)
And if you want to join here, the annual dues is just $1350 for a single and $1975 for a couple, but it does accept public play. I wish the dues at my home club were that cheap.
I played very well today and still shot 88 but our host, Bruce, shot 44 on the front 9 and told us it was his best 9 holes here at Greywalls ever.

It has received several accolades, including best new course for 2004 when it was built, and #2 Course in Michigan You Can Play- by Golfweek Magazine

For more info visit

If you go:
100 miles north of Green Bay WI
Affiliated with Island Resort and Casino
Indian Gaming Casino, which has a hotel on site

Nearby Airports: Marquette MI and Green Bay WI

Off course activities: Casino gambling, hiking, fishing canoeing camping and plenty of outdoor activities and Lake Superior cruises

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Timberstone at Pine Mountain

Tue Sept 9, 2008

Today we are off to play TimberStone at Pine Mountain, where we will go from the Eastern Time Zone to Central and back to Eastern when we return.

TimberStone has a design credit of Jerry Mathews Design but it turns out that Paul Albanese was the team leader for Jerry Mathews before he started his own design firm and he had a strong hand in designing this golf course too. Interesting that I am playing two courses in a row of a designer I never heard of before. Having experienced these two vastly different courses, I know this is a designer that we will be hearing more about in the future.

It was a 45-minute ride from Island Resort and Casino to TimberStone at Pine Mountain. This course couldn’t be more different than Sweetgrass, even though it was designed be basically the same person. This is a mountain like course, with lots of elevation changes (310 vertical feet of elevation change) and tree lined fairways. There is no doubt we are in northern Michigan now. Number 17 and 18 are the most dramatic in the downhill area. #17is a par 3, with a stunning 120 feet of vertical drop and I would guess that #18, a par 5 playing almost 600-yards, has the same or more. These two holes have to qualify among the best finishing holes in golf,certainly in Michigan

The trees here that line many of the fairways are majestic and the boulders, strewn everywhere, especially along the cart paths add a real country glacial feel to the grounds. The trees that frame the fairways make it appear that the holes are much tighter than they actually turn out to be. Quite a visual trickery of the eye.

I played with Nile Young and Scott Sumner and Tom McChesney and we had a fun day- laughing all the way. Nile had a tough day at 97 but Scott and I both shot 87, which was good for a course I have never seen before and Tom shot 85. Is it tough here? The slope from the tees we played (not the furthest back) is 144 now that’s plenty tough.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sweetgrass Golf in Upper Peninsula of Michigan

A Golf Trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

I have been invited to play and review three golf courses near Marquette Michigan. Monday Sept 8, I flew to Green Bay Wisconsin and met up with 8 other golf writers to attend the opening Monday night NFL football game of the MN Vikings vs. the Green Bay Packers.
This was a wonderful experience and I had never been to Lambeau Field before and I can see why it may be the most popular NFL stadium in the U.S. It is a great place to see football and the fans are truly fanatic(that may be why they call them fans). The tailgating seems to endlessly surround the stadium and everyone came there to party.

After the game we drove 2 ½ hours to Island Resort and Casino in Wilson MI. This is a typical Indian Gaming Casino except for one difference that I noticed. The casinos is Minnesota do not have Craps tables or Roulette tables. This place does.

Tue. Morning we teed it up at Sweetgrass Golf Club, right next to the resort,which just opened in July 2008. I played with Ross Tanner of PGA Tour Partners and Paul Albanese, the architect of the course.
If you have never had an opportunity to play a golf course with it’s designer, I recommend it. I learned quite a bit about how he designed this course, which I am sure helped me in my shot strategies.

A couple years ago I read a book by Robert Trent Jones Jr. called “Golf by Design.” The premise of the book is “most sports have an offense and a defense. But most people do not perceive that in golf.” But RTJ says, “In fact, I the architect, am playing defense and you the player, are playing offense. The better you understand what I am trying to do to defeat you, the better your chances of succeeding.”

The course is owned and operated by the Hannahville Band of Potawatomi Nation. Designer Paul Aabanese honored the tribal legend throughout the process. It is basically a very open course with fairways and green complexes framed by wispy native grasses. As wide open as the fairways are, there is more than enough challenge in the wonderful green complexes. The course stretches from a challenging 7300 yards down to 5000 yards making this a true test for all levels of golfers.

They have named every hole, motivated by Native American stories and Paul then tried to design the holes to reflect these stories.
For example hole one is called Cedar, which is used as a traditional medicine of the tribe. The fairway is framed by a stand of Cedar trees.
Hole eleven is called Good Harvest. This tribe believes that Mother earth provides bounty for the people and should be protected. This hole has water, trees, farmland and wild game, all representative of Mother Earth.
Number thirteen is called Eagle, which is sacred to the native people. The eagle watches over the tribe, and near the green is a tree stump left, that easily resembles the form of an eagle looking protectively over the green. There are similar stories for each of the holes.
One wonderful design element is the 7 reclaimed railroad bridges that were brought to the course and reconstructed where bridges are needed. This element makes the course look like it has been here longer than its 2 months.

Some very traditional design elements are incorporated into the design as well such as a Redan green on number three which runs down hill from front right to back left. Redan means fortress and this kind of green presents quite a challenge to stop your ball near the pin.

Number 12, a par-3 called Maple Sugar, is home to a Biarritz Green, a long narrow green with a very deep swale in the center. This and Redan are both design elements that have been borrowed from centuries old design elements of the old British courses. This hole also hosts a beach bunker, a bunker that sweeps down to the adjacent water, giving it the look of a beach.

The course hosts 2 drivable par-4’s #1 and 14 both of which attempt to bring out the risk taker in you. # 15 is a scenic, challenging par-3 to an island green utilizing one of these wonderful reclaimed bridges to get to the green.

Other design elements he incorporated are a couple water falls (one between 9 and 18 and 9 &18 also share one green.

I had a half dozen pars and a few blow up holes for a total of 89. Paul shot 83 and Ross isn’t admitting what he shot, but he went right back out to bring the course to its knees shortly after we were done.

The fairways were in terrific shape for such a young course and the greens move subtly and quickly; running fast and true.
Personally I liked the name of hole #17, Wisdom, even thought I didn’t find much there. To learn more about this course visit

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nutrition on the Golf Course

Sept 3, 2008

Last year I spent a very intensive week training at Athletes Performance in Phoenix AZ. I not only built up some strength and endurance but I learned quite a bit about nutrition as well.

One thing I learned was about the volatility of my Blood Sugar. On any given round of golf I would get a coke or cookie from the beverage cart or at the turn. I didn’t realize it then, but I realize now, that it would spike my blood sugar and with it would spike the quickness of my swing and everything else I was doing. Then a few holes later my blood sugar would plummet and I would feel very tired. And my golf game would deteriorate. I was even reaching a point where I needed a nap after a round of golf.

I still love cookies and candy, but I now avoid them before and during golf and it makes a very noticeable difference. I drink only water, and plenty of it and carry a bag of snacks that consist of Peanuts, roasted soy nuts, sunflower seeds and sometimes other ingredients. I try to eat a handful (no more) every 2-3 holes (that is 6-8 times per round) This keeps my energy up and my blood sugar constant, which improved my concentration and endurance on the back nine.

Then I started learning about electrolytes. Water hydrates the body, but does not deliver any of those necessary electrolytes. Even drinking most sports drinks, like Gatorade has quite a bit of sugar in it.

This past week I tried two electrolyte-enhancing drinks and I highly recommend them both. One is Electrolyte stamina power pak. You can read more about this at it is a small powder packet that you mix in a 6-10 oz bottle or glass of water. It’s loaded with electrolytes and some vitamins and even lots of vitamin C. It does have a bit of sugar in it, but not much. It comes in several flavors and its quite tasty.

I also tried Ultima replenisher. This has no sugars at all, and less sodium and plenty of vitamins, but in lower quantities. (still a high percentage of daily value) this also comes in a packet that you mix in water, and its just as tasty.

Using both of these in my water on the golf course, I found greater concentration, especially near the end of a round and greater stamina and decreased exhaustion.

I think I like Ultima better (no sugar at all) but I recommend them both highly and if you try them and cut out sugar during a round of golf, I think you will notice an improvement as well