Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Lost Dunes Golf Club, Speckman Photography
To many, golf is an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Breathing in fresh air while out on a golf course with a club in one’s hand often re-energizes the soul, and for a lot of people, is the ideal way to spend a free day. With membership at a private club, golfers can step onto the course to play a round whenever is most convenient to them, eliminating long wait times or feeling rushed from playing on a crowded golf course. Membership with a private club allows golfers to make the golf course their second home, strategize new ways to play a course, and enjoy the game anytime they want, however many times they want during the season. At Lost Dunes Golf Club and LochenHeath Golf Club, two private clubs in Michigan, golfers can choose the membership that is the right fit for them.
Lost Dunes Golf Club
9300 RED ARROW HIGHWAY | BRIDGMAN, MI
Offering a fairly quiet golf course, Lost Dunes Golf Club in Bridgman, Michigan, allows golfers to immerse themselves in nature and focus on the game, leaving the pressures of the city behind the moment they step foot on property.
A 6,900-yard, par-71 course, Lost Dunes features 18 holes carved through a reclaimed sand quarry, surrounded by rolling 60-foot natural grass dunes. Varying pin placements, elevated tees, and strategic hazards presents new challenges with every game.
“It is a well-maintained, beautiful golf course that is highly rated. Tom Doak is the architect and he just did a great job of routing the golf course through this property. [Membership] gives you access to the golf course any time you want,” said Bill Korbel, general manager at Lost Dunes Golf Club.
“It requires you to be a little more tactical and think about your strategy as you play the course, which makes it fun for members who play it repeatedly. You never get tired of it, because every time you play it, it seems like you find yourself in a circumstance or situation that you haven’t been in before and you have to think about it differently on how you’re going to approach that particular hole,” Korbel added.
For those hoping to golf at Lost Dunes, there are a few types of membership available. These include a non-equity membership, which allows families—such as two parents and children under 25-years-old—to play whenever they choose. There is also a national membership for people who live 150 miles or greater away from Lost Dunes; it has some limitations on the amount of times one can play the course during a given season, but is more cost-efficient than the local membership options.
Currently, the membership program at Lost Dunes is at full capacity. However, people hoping to join aren’t completely out of luck, according to Korbel. The waitlist program at Lost Dunes allows golfers who would like to become a full-time member of the club to pay a minimized spot-holding fee, allowing them to use the club on a limited basis until they get accepted as a full-time member when spots become available.
Aside from access to the golf course, membership also includes the perks of dining at the full-service restaurant and bar inside the clubhouse, making a splash or laying out in the sun at the onsite pool, and using the locker room to freshen up.
“I think what sets us apart is the service. Our staff returns almost every year, so we have a lot of people that have been here a long time,” Korbel said.
“When members come here, they feel that they can just relax and let their guard down and not have to worry about too many rules as far as, ‘can we wear jeans in the clubhouse? Do I have to take my hat off? Are cell phones allowed?’ We think common sense prevails for the most part, and if you want to wear jeans, wear jeans, just look presentable. If you want to use your cell phone, then use your cell phone, just don’t be rude about it. We try to create a place for people to just enjoy all those amenities, and relax out here while they’re doing it,” Korbel added.
At Lost Dunes, members also have the option of renting an onsite cabin, allowing them to host family and friends on property and stay overnight. There are five onsite cabins total, each with four private bedrooms and baths, and a commonplace area with a kitchenette.
“[The cabins] are very popular to come over with a foursome or two foursomes, and you can literally be here 24 hours and feel like you have been away for a mini vacation,” Korbel said. “Our members love to bring out their friends and families and entertain, it is a great place to do that.”
Korbel indicated that Lost Dunes is planning to have one-to-two member events each month of the upcoming golf season, including member-to-member tournaments, or events where members can bring guests to compete.
“It took a pandemic to revitalize the golf industry, and it certainly has. We have been fortunate that people now have more time and maybe a bit more of a flexible schedule; we’ve seen our members utilizing the club, getting out here and taking advantage of what we have to offer,” Korbel said. “We feel fortunate it has made the club that much more fun to be at, just because there are more people here and more opportunity to play golf with your friends and do what you want because you now have the time and flexibility to do it.”
LochenHeath Golf Club
7951 TURNBERRY CIR | WILLIAMSBURG, MI
Resting on land covered in native grasses and overlooking East Grand Traverse Bay, LochenHeath Golf Club is named after the environment that surrounds it. Kevin O’Brien, general manager at LochenHeath Golf Club, indicated the name of the course comes from “loch” meaning “lake,” and “heath,” meaning “native grasses.” Originally opened in 2001 and reopened with new owners in 2011 after being closed for two years, the golf club has recently transitioned to a private club.
“January first [of 2021], we made that complete transition to a private club, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” O’Brien said.
“When we announced it, it was amazing. We had sent an email out to those that had played [at LochenHeath] before, letting them know the change and thanking them for their past support. The phone rang off the hook immediately, I was blown away. We had probably 48 solid leads just from that email,” O’Brien added.
Four types of membership are available to those wanting to make LochenHeath their private club. These membership options include a national membership, a seasonal resident membership, a resident membership, and a corporate membership.
“A national membership is someone who would not have any type of residence or long-term rental in the area. When they come up here, they are going to stay in the cottages and entertain friends or clients or golf buddies, and have the ultimate experience,” O’Brien said.
The seasonal resident membership is for those who spend less than 40 days of a year within 50 miles of LochenHeath, such as someone who visits the local area on the weekends, or for a few weeks’ vacation, but have some type of residency nearby. For golfers that permanently reside in the area, a resident membership allows them to utilize the club’s services whenever they choose.
The last tier of membership option at LochenHeath is a corporate membership, which is for companies that would like to utilize the course and club for client relations. With this membership, companies can name two designees as their corporate members to use the club’s services.
O’Brien noted that after LochenHeath announced their shift to a private club, their goals for signing on new members were blown out of the water. The club’s initial goal for the 2021 season was to establish 28 new golf memberships, and they ended with more than 60 new private members for the year.
When applying for membership, people do have to interview with O’Brien to make sure they are a good fit for the club, and likewise, the club is a good fit for them. For O’Brien, it is important that everyone at LochenHeath has a good attitude and positive energy when on property, so he has five rules for all members. The rules include respecting the other members, respecting the club staff, supporting the club, having a good time when on property, and leaving egos at the door when they walk in.
Originally opened in 2001, LochenHeath is a links-style course with some parkland-style holes tied in, designed by Golf Course Architect Steve Smyers.
“Steve [Smyers] is a very talented architect and to this day still one of the best playing architects in America. The golf course has great strategy to it, it is all about the angles coming into the greens, as opposed to just hitting the golf ball. The fairways are very wide and generous. There are really no forced carries over water, so it is very playable. The greens have a lot of movement to them, then you pair that with the overall land it possesses—there are elevation changes up to 85 feet,” O’Brien said.
“It is a fun golf course to play, but the vistas are spectacular. You can look behind you, forward, to the side, and you’ll see the East Grand Traverse Bay on 13 holes in some shape or form,” O’Brien added.
At LochenHeath’s practice facility, golfers can practice in the short game area, which features six varying target greens, and at the large teeing area.
O’Brien described the restaurant at LochenHeath as casual fine dining, serving lunch and dinner with a menu that utilizes locally sourced farm-fresh ingredients. The drink menus include a carefully curated wine, bourbon, and single malt Scotch list. An attached patio allows guests to dine outside, enjoying views of Grand Traverse Bay and the golf course.
Just a short stroll from the clubhouse and private practice tee, the cottages at LochenHeath offer space to accommodate up to eight overnight guests, with four suites that each have two queen-sized beds and a private bathroom, and an expansive living area and guest bathroom as well. O’Brien indicated by 2023, they hope to add one to two more cottages at LochenHeath, so that the club can host more overnight guests at a time.
LochenHeath plans to host a variety of golf events throughout the upcoming 2022 season, including more competitive events like club championships and tournaments that will range from members-only to allowing both members and their guests. The club will also host seven nine-and-dine events, which is a social event that entails a nine-hole scramble for couples.
“We were entering uncharted waters [becoming a private club], and credits to the ownership group to take this leap of faith; it started off great,” O’Brien said. “There are a lot of people moving here, and we are a part of a lifestyle for them. It is our job to make sure they are having a good time.”
First published in The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf, Volume 6