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Garland Resort, Lakes of the North Join Expanding Gaylord Golf Mecca

The Gaylord Golf Mecca has expanded for 2020 with two former member properties coming back into the fold to offer additional quantity and quality to the destination golfer.

Garland Resort in Lewiston, with its four golf courses, and Lakes of the North’s golf course near Mancelona, bring the number of courses available through the Mecca cooperative marketing effort to 20.

“It’s good for the Mecca, it’s good for the Gaylord area and it expands what we can offer as America’s Summer Golf Capital,” Paul Beachnau, the executive director of the Mecca said. “They bring different things to add to the overall experience. It gives the golfers who come here more great choices.”

Lakes of the North Golf Course was one of the original six member courses of the Gaylord Golf Mecca and Head Golf Professional Rob Diroff is happy to rejoin the collection.

“The Mecca has worked well for years and years and we need to be a part of it for the marketing and advertising, and ultimately, to get more golfers to our beautiful course,” he said. “It’s not just about the golf course either. We want to showcase the Lakes of the North Association and this area’s real-estate opportunities.”

The 2019 golf season was Diroff’s first as head golf professional. He worked for the course in 2017 as an assistant professional and was asked to return.
“In my interview I talked about how the course needs to be part of the Gaylord Golf Mecca and it is great that it is happening,” he said. “The association is putting money into the golf course. Last year a $300,000 irrigation system was added. We’ve added some new maintenance equipment. Money is going into the golf course and we are seeing results in better conditions and more play. I’m excited to see what happens in 2020 as part of the Mecca.”

Diroff said Lakes of the North offers a new price point – the highest rate of play with cart is $49 at peak times – and the course is walker-friendly. It also offers five different welcoming tee/distance combinations, including a maximum challenge of over 7,000 yards.

“We want to bring golfers for stay-and-play packages with the Mecca lodging partners and work with the people in Gaylord,” he said. “That’s really the closest city to us with hotels and restaurants, about 20 minutes. We think we can be a nice addition to stay-and-play packages.”
The golf course is what Diroff calls a tale of two nines. The back nine opened in 1968 and was designed by Bill Newcomb, an accomplished Michigan-based designer of several courses in northern Michigan, and what is now the front nine was added in 1981 by Michigan Golf Hall of Fame architect Jerry Matthews, who has done over 400 golf courses.

“The back nine is old style, has a country club look and is kind of open with beautiful landscaping and really nice greens,” he said. “The front nine is cut through the trees with rolling fairways and gives you more of a northern Michigan feel.”

Dave Sanderson, president and chief operating officer at Garland Resort, said joining the Gaylord Golf Mecca is not as much about increasing the number of travelers who visit the Lewiston resort as it is about increasing the length of stay by adding to the golf and resort options for those who come to the region.

“Obviously the Mecca has been a great success in the way they have increased distribution and widened the market,” he said. “We need to participate financially to support the group in that.”

He said Garland adds a resort to a group that already includes great resorts, adds different golf experiences with its four courses and adds a wide variety of lodging rooms from a standard lodge room to four-bedroom homes.

“Being a part of a successful group like this gives us the ability to extend our distribution reach much farther than we can on our own,” he said. “The Mecca has done a fabulous job of working to bring flights from Dallas into the Traverse City Airport, and there are more being added next year. That’s how we grow our market, and we want to be part of that.”

The Mecca members are familiar with Garland’s facilities and welcome them back to the marketing group. The resort has previously held membership in the Mecca.

Sanderson said he is often asked which of the four golf courses – Fountains, Monarch, Reflections and Swampfire – is his favorite.

“I have a hard time answering that because each of them has things I like about them,” he said.

“Fountains is bent grass tee to green with undulating greens. You look at the scorecard and think it is getable, but when you are done playing you realize it was harder than you thought. The Monarch is the longest and the traditional championship layout. The Monarch and Fountains are where our member tournaments are held. Reflections doesn’t get the credit it deserves through. I think holes 6 through 12 are as fine as anything we have at Garland. It has narrow fairways and smaller greens, but it’s a good golf course. Swampfire is named appropriately with water on 15 of the 18 holes, but I always tell people it is visually intimidating and the design gets in your head. If you dive deeper into it, it is really not that hard. The fairways are generous. It does have a couple of par 5s that really make you think strategically from the tees, but that’s part of the fun experience.”

Sanderson said the resort has made a remarkable turnaround in recent years, and not because of his efforts alone.

“There’s a great team here that provides a quality hospitality experience,” he said. “The superintendent and his staff keep the golf courses up. It’s really a great resort and it has been a lot of fun to ride the wave.”

Greg Johnson

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