Traverse City’s gem on the hill

TC G & CC: The gem on the hill:

‘The gem on the hill’

Traverse City Golf & Country Club—This is one of my favorite private courses in northern Michigan. A Tom Bendelow classic opened in 1915 that’s often underrated amid the bigger name resort and destination courses, it’s a rock-solid club with a most admirable layout. And like a number of clubs around the state, it’s confidently planning, investing and building for the future. 

In September, I played the course as a guest along with a few cronies and we all walked away mightily impressed. Due to the skill and attention of Golf Course Superintendent Steve Hammon and his staff, the course was in exemplary condition. I’ve known Steve and his family, from Grand Rapids, for a number of years and have followed his stellar career, including his term as President of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association. He’s also a good golfer—when he manages to find time to play—which is always an asset in the finer points of growing and nurturing grass.

This season the club smartly swapped its nines affording not only better 19th hole food service at the clubhouse but also delivering an “Amen Corner” with its old 4-7 holes now becoming 13-16. In our friendly wagering that day, there were some notable late swings in the matches.  Over the years, the course staff has deftly removed trees and branches, opening up vistas and enhancing the quality of its turf. It’s an eminently walkable course in keeping with its classic and unadorned appeal. Although wayward shots rarely are rewarded, they aren’t compounded as they often are in modern course design.  Here’s a cliche but it’s true: “this is a good member’s course.”

In terms of investment and expansion over the winter, Traverse City will have a new pool complex and a large addition to the clubhouse which will expand its fitness center, provide two indoor simulators and other member-driven amenities. On the course side, the 8th green will be expanded to its original size and a right front bunker, last seen in club photos from the 40s, will be added.  As Hammon observed, “Greens shrink over the decades and this will be our first endeavor expanding one of our old greens.”

Such forward-thinking measures have been rewarded over recent years by the addition of approximately 45 new members. I picked up this tidbit in the club’s TeeTalk. In it, I also read President Ed Price’s column where he defined the acronym BHAG as “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” and specifically “to become the finest club in Northern Michigan…a small club with big club quality in superior service and an outstanding array of fine amenities.”

“A small club” may be misleading given all that’s going on there but I understand the cozy sentiment. Excuse the old boxing analogy, but I’d prefer to say it’s a club fighting and winning above its weight.


Image by Traverse City Golf & Country Club

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