A recent road trip this summer from the beautiful shores of Vancouver Island, Canada where we live to the equally beautiful shores of Lake Huron introduced us to a magical golfing opportunity. Included in the list of the top 25 “must” play golf courses in Michigan was one that was a mere 20 minutes from where we were staying. Contained within Lakewood Shores Resort in Oscoda, Michigan was a triumvirate of championship quality golf courses and in particular one that had me salivating like a starving dog, The Gailes. Voted the number 1 new public course by Golf Digest in 1994, The Gailes was one of the first bona fide attempts at recreating a true Scottish links, all be it, without the direct seaside vistas that are part of a true links golf outing. It also was void of men named Jimmy wearing tams or kilts, haggis as the daily lunch special and drams of good scotch in flasks attached to their golf bags to combat the bitter cold North Sea winds. None of this mattered to be honest. So there we were on a cloudy and overcast slightly blustery June afternoon thinking to ourselves that they even got the weather right. We couldn’t feel more welcome and General Manager Craig Peters was one of the most hospitable representatives of golf management I had met in many, many years. The bi product of his persona obviously rubbed off on his staff and in particular Sharleen at the counter was very pleasing to meet, calling me Mr. Flower more than once while we browsed for items in the pro shop. The Pro shop was rather minimalistic, refreshingly so and it had a great selection of golf attire without being crammed full of golf gear. I added a great hat and towel to my collection and Myra a new top to her wardrobe and away we went. Outside Louie, who was a true character guy directed us you to grab whatever cart was suitable, (they all were) and to head out anytime we were ready. He and Myra, fellow Michiganders shared some local stories and with the camera and notebook in place we eagerly set off. From the moment we sighted the first tee I knew that they had nailed this one, as I looked down the fairway to all that is “links”.
Authentic can be an often abused adjective but in the case of The Gailes I can confidently say they would deserve at least an 8 out of 10 in capturing the true feel of authenticity in replicating the desired affect.
To gain a higher rating they would have to do the impossible, build a small Scottish town off to one side of the course and cut down every tree within sight of every position. The adjacent two courses which are part of this golf facility rely on a lush forested look so I kept my sightlines within the boundaries of The Gailes and feel it is on par with the revered Bandon Dunes golf resort in Oregon for its links feel.
What it doesn’t compare with is its allocation of money towards the non-golfing part of the operation and this is very acceptable to me. Although some of the out buildings and décor were looking dated we were there to play golf, manicures, back massages and having a 5 star dining experience were of no interest to us and the bottom line was even an older looking property is totally enjoyable if its clean and tidy as Lakewood Shores Resort is throughout.
This day was not all about me but paring the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th personally to me was very rewarding and an 85 from the 6400 yard blue tees was not an embarrassing first attempt.
A second go round might honestly be worth a couple of shots per side and if you lived close by or were a travelling golfer you would frequent it enough to figure out a few of its tricky nuances.
For Myra it was a chance before her 1st golf anniversary to have her first “links” experience and she loved it almost as much as I did watching her play and hit some shots that even season players would be proud of.
She adapted quickly to playing the contour of the course and played more than a handful of “bump and run” Hybrid shots from around the green to near perfection, one resting a foot away from the hole after moments earlier she stared at 40 yards of undulating fringe and green.
The bunker sand was exquisite, the club sliding under and through like a warm spoon scooping out Grannies homemade jam from a jar and the cut on the fairways and the roll on the greens would leap frog over the 8 out of 10 rating and garner a 9 any day of the week.The double green shared by Hole 11 and 14 was a marvel of golf course construction with a sod faced bunker of over 7 feet high protecting shots from the 14th fairway.
Sitting down afterwards with GM Craig Peters it was obvious to him what fans of The Gailes we had become in only 18 holes of golf and although very appreciative of his offer to come back one day and play both the Blackshire and Serradella courses in the future it would only be after playing The Gailes again first.
Fellow Canadians with numerous Ontario license plates were prevalent in the parking lot and the rate of $49 with a power cart was a bargain beyond belief.
Before you fly over to Great Britain and spend thousands on a links golf vacation check out The Gailes first, then you can book your trip, nothing beats it in my mind.
For more information and pricing see www.lakewoodshores.com
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What type of turf? You say it is on par with Bandon which is fescue grass on sand.