Black Lake experiences upswing in stay-and-play despite late season start

Black Lake experiences upswing in stay-and-play despite late season start

Text: Greg Johnson

Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, Michigan—like most of the golf courses in the state—had a late start to the season.

“We’ve caught up fairly well,” said Nick Aune, general manager at Black Lake Golf Club. 

When the golfers finally returned for the 2018 season they found a renovated clubhouse, new landscaping around the building, and new patio furniture.

“We opened in 2000, and we wanted to maintain the comfortable and welcoming atmosphere,” Aune said.

Black Lake Golf Club, which is about 18 miles off northbound Interstate 75, features the award-winning golf course designed by Architect Rees Jones for the UAW Black Lake Conference Center at the turn of the millennium.

It’s a classic design with imaginative bunkering, top-notch conditioning, and a get-away-from-it-all feel on each isolated hole just an hour from Gaylord and an hour from the Mackinac Bridge. The club is also part of the award-winning Gaylord Golf Mecca marketing effort.

The course has made more than one appearance on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses in America list, and is annually listed among the Best Courses to Play in Michigan by Golfweek. It also continues to be regarded among the top 100 by Golf Advisor.

The course was designed to provide a challenge for golfers of all skill levels, with five sets of tee markers part of most holes. The course plays from nearly 5,058 to about 7,030 yards.

“The holes were here, we just had to find them,” said Jones after course opened. “We strive for holes blending with the natural terrain. There is nothing artificial or contrived at Black Lake. We were trying to build an old-style, course. You’ll notice we don’t have mounds or moguls. We just have sweeps and natural grades.”

The condition of the course is also a point of pride for the UAW, according to Aune.

“It has been in great shape this year despite being dry,” Aune said.

Complementing the big course is The Little Course, which is a nine-hole, par-3 meant to introduce young people to the game as well as sharpen veteran players’ short games. New tee mats were added this year.

Black Lake also has a practice area with a 350-yard double-sided, bentgrass tee range; four practice bunkers and four chipping and putting greens; a clubhouse with dining room and lounge; and men’s and women’s locker rooms.

The UAW Conference Center, with its many lodging options, has been open to the public for the last few years and has been remodeled to offer new beds, flat screen televisions, and other such amenities. Aune said as a result, stay-and-play golf continues to increase.

Aune also noted the most popular stay-and-play deal is the package in which golfers head to the Gaylord Golf Mecca with three days to enjoy. It is full of traditional, classic golf and is called the Tour Golf Package.

The first day includes arrival to the Mecca, a round of golf at either Gaylord Golf Club or The Pines at Michaywe’, and the finish of the trek to Onaway and the Conference Center.

The night is spent in remodeled lodging at the Conference Center and the next day features play on the Black Lake course, which just last year added a new fleet of golf carts with GPS systems. Golfers also get the choice of working on their short games or settling some new wagers by playing more, this time on the Little Course—all holes 33 yards to 117 yards.

After another Northern Michigan slumber, golfers depart and play Gaylord Golf Club or The Pines on their way home.  The price starts at $234 per golfer based on double occupancy with a weekend in the mix price, or $204 midweek. There are discounts for UAW members and retirees, but on the golf only.