The Inaugural Boyne Classic Invited Association Meeting Executives to Play the Pebble Beach of the Midwest Steve DeHaan prefers a golf event with the personal touch. That's what he got during this summer's inaugural Boyne Classic Golfat Boyne USA in northern Michigan. "It's like a big family up there. They really reach out to groups," says DeHaan, executive vice president of the Michigan Association of Home Builders in Lansing.
DeHaan should know. The association's summer conference for 450 people (members and families) has been held at Boyne with great results. One highlight of the most recent meeting--golf lessons for spouses. "We bought two hours of instruction, and billed it as a way to just go out there and give it a try," DeHaan says. "It went over big. We'd booked space for 50 and had 70 show up."
DeHaan--and the rest of the roster of association and corporate meeting planners who played 54 holes during the Boyne Classic--had a particular interest in checking out the new Inn at Bay Harbor, a property that will give Boyne USA's Michigan operations a five-star experience to offer meeting groups. "With the location, the golf, Lake Michigan--you can't miss," DeHaan says.
In fact, the entire Bay Harbor project--the reincarnation of a cement plant and limestone quarry into high-end residential communities with spectacular golf and Boyne USA's exclusive Inn at Bay Harbor--has been drawing rave reviews since long before its scheduled completion.
The gracious, 200-room Inn at Bay Harbor, set for a late summer 1998 opening, will be targeted toward high-level meetings and incentives. With the addition of this property, says Michael Choiniere, director of sales and marketing, Boyne USA becomes "the Midwest's premier collection of resorts." The collection also includes Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain. (See box)
Bay Harbor * Inn at Bay Harbor
* 200 suites opening late summer 1998
* 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space
* Bay Harbor Golf Club, with 27 holes of golf
* Crooked Tree Golf Club, with 18 holes of golf
Boyne Highlands * 360 rooms
* 30,700 sq. ft. of meeting space
* 72 holes of golf
* 42 ski slopes
Boyne Mountain * 240 rooms (plus 200 opening in early 1999)
* 27,200 sq. ft. of meeting space
* a new conference center, opening early 1999
* 45 holes of golf
* 40 ski slopes
Other Boyne Holdings * Big Sky Resort, Mountain Village, MT
* Crystal Mountain (WA) Resort
* Brighton Ski Resort, Brighton, Utah
* Boyne South Golf Club, Naples, FL
Travel to Another World Participants who flew in for the Boyne Classic, held in early June, landed in Traverse City. The drive to Bay Harbor is less than an hour--a little longer to Boyne Highlands, where the group was housed for the two-day event. It's a relaxing ride along the Lake Michigan waterfront, past a string of charming resort towns.
Midwest hospitality reigns at Boyne. It's an attitude that DeHaan, for one, notices. "They're great people," he says, noting the presence of Art Tebo, Boyne USA's chief operating officer, on the course one afternoon during the Boyne Classic. "He takes the time to come out and meet the customer. Art Tebo taught my kids how to hang spoons from their noses."
Likewise, Stephen Kircher, general manager of Boyne USA's Michigan operations (and son of founder Everett Kircher), joined the group for the opening-night dinner. In a welcome address, he touched on the history of the site, a vacation spot since 1895, when visitors came by train and steamboat. The Victorian-style Inn at Bay Harbor, part of a complex stretching along five miles of Lake Michigan coast, is meant to re-create the grandeur of that era.
Rise and Drive Participants began the next day with several hours of golf instruction from the pros of the renowned Nicklaus/Flick Golf School, based in North Palm Beach, FL. After short-game drills and some time at the driving range, the group enjoyed lunch grilled out on a patio atop the Country Club of Boyne--a private clubhouse open for group events.
Following lunch, Boyne Classic golfers rode the short distance to Boyne Mountain and the Monument Course. You know you are playing a mountain course when you have to drive a mile up to the first tee. "The course meanders along the hillside with great views of Deer Lake and the hills of northern Michigan," says Bernie Friedrich, Boyne USA's director of golf. "What's different about this course is it plays downhill the whole way, with undulating greens and a lot of breaks, all influenced by the mountain."
That evening, the group gathered on the patio of the Boyne Mountain Beach Club, on the shore of Deer Lake. Dinner was followed by fine cigars and cognacs offered by a local aficionado.
Tuesday's morning round was at the Heather Course at Boyne Highlands. The Robert Trent Jonesdesigned Heather Course is consistently named one of the top 100 courses in the country, Friedrich says. "It plays around bogs and blueberry bushes with large greens. It's one of Boyne's most popular courses, because it requires long, accurate drives and long iron shots."
The Midwest's Pebble Beach The culmination of the tournament was a chance to play the Links nine at Bay Harbor. Overlooking the Caribbean-blue (honest!) Lake Michigan, The Links unfolds along sand dunes and lakeside bluffs. It might even remind a Scot of home--so said Pam Wright, an LPGA player sponsored by Boyne USA and a native of Scotland. Wright added her own hospitality and charm to that of the many Boyne tournament hosts.
The Preserve nine joined The Links this summer, and rounding out Bay Harbor's 27-hole offering will be The Quarry, scheduled for play early next year. (In fact, The Quarry's three finishing holes are already open--and winning kudos.)
The elegant Bay Harbor Golf Club--with its paint barely dry--was the stunning setting for the final-night dinner and awards ceremony.
A Year-Round Experience Guests at any one of Boyne's Michigan properties have privileges at the other two, and meetings with a golf component can offer attendees a new type of golfing experience each day. The Arthur Hills Course at Boyne Highlands, for example, is reminiscent of a desert course, with only one water hole. The Heather Course, by contrast, brings water into play on 14 of 18 holes. The Donald Ross Memorial Course features recreations of the renowned architect's 18 best holes around the U.S.
While Boyne's golf is top-notch, its wintertime activities are just as popular. With more than 80 ski slopes, slopeside rooms, and the same great service, a winter meeting at a Boyne property still provides a first-rate business setting with a season's worth of recreational opportunities right outside your door.
If the sudden national attention paid to the Boyne USA resorts since the Bay Harbor development project makes it all seem like an overnight success, don't believe it. The reputation this collection has long held in the Midwest is now deservedly spreading to the rest of the country.
"This is an overnight success story built on 50 years of hospitality," Choiniere quips.