Text: Greg Johnson
In West Branch, Michigan plans to add on-course lodging at two resort style destination golfing venues are in the works for the near future. The expansion for the courses—The Dream and The Nightmare—was prompted in order to attract more golfers, according to Kyle Middleton, director of golf for the family-owned courses in West Branch.
The Courtemanche family, which also owns the nearby West Branch Country Club and started in the business with Green Hills Golf in Pinconning, would like to attract more stay-and-play business for the trio of West Branch venues. The courses currently have stay-and-play options, such as The Triple Play with a local Quality Inn hotel, as well as local houses and cabins to house tourists and golfers. The collaborative partnerships are anticipated to continue.
Middleton said the golf courses, especially The Dream and The Nightmare, offer an up-north experience closer to home and they want to showcase it to more golfers.
“Now with the third course we offer three very great conditioned fun courses to play that we view as destination golf. I can’t get into too many details, but now we are looking to build on-course lodging, which will offer something that hasn’t been an option in the past,” Middleton said.
“With the three courses located within 10 minutes from each other, a full-service restaurant and bar attached to the West Branch Country Club, the option to bring your own beverages to The Dream and The Nightmare, and a casino located just 30 minutes south of the courses, it creates a very unique and pleasurable experience. All of this while offering championship golf closer to home,” Middleton added.
The Dream opened in May of 1997 and The Nightmare came on board in 2003, both of whihc are carved from the natural woodlands of Michigan. Middleton said 2018 was a very productive year, but they would like to reach more exploring golfers from the West side of the state, particularly in the Grand Rapids area.
“While attending the [West Michigan] Golf Show we realized our reach hasn’t carried to that part of the state as well as we would like,” Middleton said. “I’ve noticed many golfers from that area tend to stay on the West side of the state. That and golfers who travel and are looking to stay the night and play more than one course. We’re hoping with the addition of on-course lodging we can reach more people in that area.”
Middleton also noted The Dream and The Nightmare have great layouts and are well-conditioned.
“Our superintendent Justin Bickel and his staff do a great job keeping the courses in phenomenal shape,” Middleton said. “Elevation changes, and tree lined fairways give both courses give you that up-north feel. Something we consistently hear from the ‘city golfer’ is they can tell they’re up north.”
Customer service, including free range balls, comes first, Middleton said, starting from the top with the owners, down to bag staff.
“Everyone tries to bend over backwards and treat all of our customers like family,” Middleton added.
While The Dream and The Nightmare do not have liquor licenses, Middleton said players still have the choice of bringing their own beverages onto the courses, which is a feature a lot of customers like since it saves money. The courses also supply ice and coolers for each cart.
Middleton, who came on board in 2017, noted group business has a high volume and has been amazed by the number of groups who book for the following year directly after their visit.
“The owners’ view of creating beautiful courses and providing great customer service, all offered to the consumer at a fair price, has evolved into a successful business model,” Middleton said.
The rates for the courses are in-line with other destination courses: weekend rate is $80, regular weekday rate is $70, and there are discounts available for seniors, twilights, groups, and military personnel.
“For that $80 range, balls are included and instead of paying $25 for a six-pack, you pay whatever it cost you at the local convenience store. That is where the real savings and uniqueness come in,” Middleton said.
“In my three years at the courses, I can proudly say I have never heard one golfer get done playing and say, ‘the course wasn’t worth what I paid, or ‘this course wasn’t worth $80.’ I can however say that many players stop in and say that for the value of what is offered they are the best courses in the state or that one of them are now ‘my favorite course’,” Middleton added.