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GOOD THINGS LAST: Gaylord Golf Club Celebrates 100 Years

By Greg Johnson

Gaylord Golf Club isn’t the typical golf experience one finds as part of a popular golf course destination.

Though the Gaylord Golf Mecca isn’t your typical golf destination either.

J.T. Aude, the head golf professional at the club, says, “The Mecca is unique because it has all the kinds of courses you could want in a destination but also has a course like ours that you don’t usually find being open to the public, being this good and being member-owned all at the same time.”

Gaylord Golf Club, for most of its years known as Gaylord Country Club, celebrates 100 years as a club this summer, albeit one club that has been in two different sites. For the first 51 years the club was located in downtown Gaylord. It had just nine holes, designed by the legendary Wilfrid Reid and was open to the public to help finance its existence.

The lines of a greens complex are easy to see when you visit the popular City Elk Park viewing site that is fittingly next to the Elks Club in town. That’s what replaced the original course, a place for the city’s herd of elk to graze, as members decided they would like a bigger golf course.

In 1975, the current 18-hole course designed by Don Childs opened at the club’s second site just west of the city, which means next summer the club celebrates 50 years at its current home.

The club kept the same name, Gaylord Country Club, until 2018 when the member owners decided a name change would better reflect that they welcomed public play. It is now called Gaylord Golf Club but it has been open to the public from day one. It was always such a delightful place that some people assumed it was private.

Over the years, a smattering of additional golf courses were developed in the Gaylord area, like The Classic in 1957 at Otsego Resort, which started as a private club. The Pines at Michaywe,’ another Don Childs design that opened in 1967, is another unique public member of the Mecca.  Needless to say, more followed.

Then, in 1987, along came Harry Melling, an auto industry supplier and NASCAR team owner with a big personality. He purchased a ski resort on the edge of town and launched into the golf/ski resort business by having Robert Trent Jones Sr. design the Masterpiece course. Treetops Resort became the name, and four more golf courses followed. The face of golf in Gaylord was forever changed.

Gaylord Golf Club rolled with the tide as a member of the original Gaylord Golf Mecca group. More resort-style golf groups joined the fray, like the now public Otsego Resort with two courses and Garland Lodge & Golf Resort with four courses out in Lewiston. Just a bit farther north, you’ll find Black Lake Golf Club, owned by the UAW. Today’s Mecca consists of 16 golf courses at eight properties, which includes three resorts. There are also 20 lodging partners.

Folks will tell you for miles around, and from around the country now, the best greens in town, the best greens in the Mecca and maybe all of Northern Michigan, are at Gaylord Golf Club.

“That’s still what we hear about the most, the great condition of our greens,” J.T. says. “We’re not a super long course (6,600 yards) but our greens make up for it as a challenge. You miss a green in the wrong place and it’s tough to save par when the greens are rolling at speed in the summer.”

The 185-member owners of Gaylord Golf Club are proud of their course. They will have a special member celebration event in the fall with music, fun, and even a bit of hickory golf on one of the par 3 holes. The club has souvenir ball markers and other items that mark the centennial year, but J.T. says the club will otherwise be the usual busy place.

“As bad as Covid was for the world, golf changed because people found it again. There was social distancing built in and what we’ve really noticed here is that families come play more than they did before,” J.T. says. “There’s just a great atmosphere and great golf and a real commitment by our membership to keep this a great golf club. They organize and do things like come out and help fix divots to help the maintenance crew work on bigger issues, things like that.”

It’s clearly a team effort at Gaylord Golf Club, which shows all signs that it might be around another 100 years as a unique member of the Gaylord Golf Mecca.

Good things last, J.T. says.

Good point.

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