Photo by Brian Walters
Laid out across steep, heavily forested hills, The Legend at Shanty Creek Resorts is prized as much for its scenic qualities as for its challenges.
By MIKE NORTON
All right! THAT was a great weekend! I think I may even have a bit of a sunburn!
One thing that I do know for certain is that the people running the region’s golf courses are happy. All that spring rain has made those fairways and greens very lush and sweet, and now they’ve got warm weather to bring the golfers streaming in. And if YOU’RE a golfer, you should know about one amazing deal that’s going on for the next week or so: a chance to play Arnold Palmer’s The Legand for an unheard-of $25.
When Palmer first laid eyes on the steep hills of Michigan’s Chain of Lakes region in the 1980s, he decided it was the perfect setting for his first Midwestern course. It certainly proved to be a memorable choice. His 1986 design at Shanty Creek Resorts, named The Legend, was named one of America’s top four resort courses (and the number-one resort course in the Midwest) by readers of Golf Magazine and is still considered his best work in Michigan.
Shanty Creek is commemorating the 25th birthday of The Legend with a year-long season of special deals and packages. But in a sense, the celebration evokes memories of a whole series of high-end course designs – from Jack Nicklaus’s work at The Bear in Traverse City to Tom Fazio’s layout at Treetops near Gaylord – that transformed northern Michigan from a sleepy backwater of the golfing world into a world-class destination.
“The Legend was built at a time when a lot of really fine courses were being created in this region,” said Shanty Creek golf director Brian Kautz. “What makes it stand out from the others is that Palmer’s design was created for a very unique piece of property with a great many elevation changes.”
The Legend weaves its way through a beautiful series of hills and ridges, offering stunning views of Lake Bellaire and the surrounding northern Michigan forest and featuring two of the prettiest holes in a region famed for the aesthetics of its courses. The par-4 thirdhole, which angles downhill from left to right, features panoramic lake views, while the seventh hole (arguably the best par 5 in northern Michigan) doglegs to the right, with a woodland creek winding around the hole and in front of the green. Actually, says Kautz, seven of the 18 holes at The Legend are doglegs.
“The greens are very small,” he adds. “And some are elevated, so they require excellent iron shots – which is important to golfers who enjoy a challenge.”
Nevertheless, one thing that has preserved the popularity of The Legend over the past 25 years is that it remains an eminently playable course. That’s how Palmer designed it, and that’s why he chose such a spectacular natural site for his first Michigan design.
“I feel strongly we should build courses that everyone can enjoy, not just low amateurs and professionals,” he said at the time.
To celebrate The Legend’s 25th birthday, Shanty Creek Resorts is offering special 25th anniversary rates throughout the 2011 golf season. Through May 12, golfers can play the course for just $25 any time of day, and for the rest of the season that $25 rate will be available anytime after 4 p.m. (Remember, in northern Michigan, summer evenings are so bright that golf can be played until well after 9 p.m.)
And although it’s the most famous course at Shanty Creek, The Legend is far from the only place to play golf there. The resort offers 72 holes of championship golf, including The Summit, which opened in 1965, and Tom Weiskopf’s challenging design at Cedar River, which opened in 1999. For more information, visit http://www.shantycreek.com.
For help with lodging and dining options, and to learn about other adventures, activities and attractions in the Traverse City area, contact the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-TRAVERSE or on line at www.TraverseCity.com