John Dodd has played a lot of golf courses. The coordinator at Northville, MIbased FPS Training, which develops and plans training programs for major companies such as Ford and Chrysler, was a participant in this year's inaugural Boyne Classic Golf. This is the U.K. native's assessment of Boyne USA's newest course, The Links at Bay Harbor: "It's the finest round of golf I've played in a long, long time."
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.
Showing off these new jewels in the Boyne USA crown was the primary purpose of the Boyne Classic golf tournament, which attracted senior meeting decision-makers from companies such as Ford, GMAC Educational Services, and Maritz Performance Improvement.
The gracious, 200-room Inn at Bay Harbor, set for a late summer 1998 opening, will become Boyne USA's five-star offering, targeted toward high-level corporate and incentive meetings. 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, next page.)
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.
"There is an acceptance that one feels in the Midwest--a welcome that's unparalleled," says Jack Findlay, vice president of VSI, a marketing services firm in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and a participant in the Boyne Classic tournament. The way this natural Midwest hospitality emerges as impeccable service at Boyne USA is its greatest feature, says Findlay--after the golf, of course. "Boyne offers exceptional golf, a great variety of course styles in one of the most beautiful parts of the country."
That's what the corporate executives had come to see.
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, which has drawn vacationers since 1895, when they came by train and steamboat. The Victorian-style Inn at Bay Harbor, part of a complex that stretches along five miles of Lake Michigan coastline, 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 at the Boyne Mountain's Beach Club. The venue's patio and lawns open onto the shore of Deer Lake, into which the red summer sun sets gloriously. Cocktails and dinner were complemented by fine cigars and cognacs offered by a local aficionado.
On Tuesday, the golfers headed out for their morning round at the Heather Course at Boyne Highlands. The Robert Trent Jones designed 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 hosts during the tournament.
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 USA.
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.
BOYNE USA 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