Text: Greg Johnson
The Gaylord Golf Mecca, a division of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau in Gaylord, Michigan, 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 Lodge & Golf Resort in Lewiston, with four golf courses, and Lakes of the North Golf Course near Mancelona, bring the number of courses available through the 33-year-old cooperative marketing effort to 20 destinations.
“The Mecca turned in another outstanding year in 2019 and there are some exciting, and even better things on the horizon,” said Paul Beachnau, the executive director of the Mecca and the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau.
The Mecca sails into 2020 off another gangbuster year that generated more than 200,000 rounds and total golf expenditures of almost $13.8 million among its 15 golf course members and 20 lodging partners in 2019.
“Numbers were up and we are planning another aggressive marketing campaign with one of the biggest budgets we have seen in our history,” Beachnau said. “Our cooperation among members remains at an all-time high. Together last summer we employed over 750 people with a payroll over $9.5 million, which makes us one of the top tourism businesses in Michigan.”
Garland Golf Resort in Lewiston features four golf courses at its sprawling resort aptly named Fountains, Monarch, Reflections, and Swampfire; and Lakes of the North harbors a versatile course that combines design work of Michigan architects Bill Newcomb and Jerry Matthews on its two sets of nine holes.
“Garland and Lakes of the North are excited to be part of the Mecca and simply make us stronger,” Beachnau said. “We are unique in this country as a destination in the north because of the quantity and the quality of golf. Only Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has been together as a cooperative marketing effort longer, and I see and feel a resurgence in cooperative action, in golf travel and a good economy.”
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 it is back in the fold.
“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,” Diroff 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.”
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 or distance combinations, including a maximum challenge of more than 7,000 yards.
“We want to bring golfers for stay-and-play with the Mecca lodging partners and work with the people in Gaylord,” Diroff 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 more than 400 golf courses.
“The back nine is old style, has a country club look and is kind of open with beautiful landscape and really nice greens,” Diroff said. “The front nine is cut through the trees with rolling fairways and gives you that 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 golfers who come to the region as a golf destination.
“Obviously the Mecca has been a great success in the way they have increased distribution and widened the market,” Sanderson said. “We need to participate financially to support the group in that.”
Sanderson also noted Garland adds a resort to a group that already includes great resorts, adds four 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,” Sanderson 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.”
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,” Sanderson said. “It’s four different experiences for the golfer. That’s the real plus for our resort.”
Featured image Courtesy Garland Golf Resort