Gaylord Golf Mecca Celebrates 25 Years of Golfing Excellence

The Gaylord Golf Mecca, one of the premier summer golf destinations in the country, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Twenty-five years of Gaylord hosting more than 3,600,000 golfers at northern Michigan's collection of outstanding courses, according to the Gaylord Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Golf is the big draw in America's Summer Golf Mecca, which embraces 17 courses with four resorts and 21 hotel properties for Stay and Play packages. It's all anchored by Gaylord, a lumber town from the late 19th century known as the Alpine Village, a nod to the Otsego Club that started as Hidden Valley with Swiss-style buildings and a restaurant with a spectacular view of the Sturgeon River Valley.

When Michigan golf began booming in the 1980s, Gaylord was in the perfect location on Interstate 75, an easy drive from the populous southern part of the state plus Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The question was how to spread the news to market the region as a golf destination.

A group of local owners led by Otsego Club's Keith Gornick came together with Paul Beachnau, a Michigan State University graduate who was hired to oversee the Tourism Bureau, and take a page from Myrtle Beach, SC, the most successful golf-marketing program in the country. Gaylord, then with seven courses, began setting up a Stay and Play hotel and golf packaging program. That was 1987.

The courses over the years have been designed by the best. Robert Trent Jones Sr. started it all with his course at Treetops. Jones gave Sylvan Ski Resort owner Harry Melling the name that captures northern Michigan golf. "Treetops" Jones said when he looked out from the tee site of his par 3 sixth hole and saw nothing but green tree tops as far as the eye could see. Melling renamed the resort Treetops and named the course the Jones Masterpiece.

Other leading course designers include Rees Jones, Tom Fazio, Rick Smith, Tom Doak, Gary Koch and partner Rick Robins, Don Childs, Al Watrous, Jerry Matthews, Michigan's most prolific designer, and the oldest course, the Classic at the Otsego Club was designed by William Diddel. There are wide fairways, drop shots galore and views that stretch to the horizon.

Golf Channel launched its popular "Big Break" series in Gaylord and ESPN's "Par 3 Shootout" at Treetops both helped spread the Mecca name across America. Treetops head professional Rick Smith, nationally known instructor to PGA Tour players and never without an idea, helped develop both the Big Break and Par 3 Shootout on Threetops, the resort's award winning short course designed by Smith.

The Shootout featured superstars Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus over the years and scored its biggest ESPN national replays when Lee Trevino aced the seventh hole in 2007. It's regarded the richest payday ever for a single shot, $1 million.

Barry Owens, Treetops general manager who was in on the Mecca from the beginning with his father-in-law, Ron Otto, at Garland Resort, credited Beachnau for the Mecca's continuing success despite some difficult economic conditions.

"I've always believed in cooperative marketing when you have a unified cause," Owens said. "You make the pie bigger for everyone so you don't beat up each other. Other organizations have tried it over the years but Paul is the glue who holds it altogether and his leadership style is the big reason for our success."

"The Mecca marketing is what put Gaylord on the map," said Larry Bowden, owner of Marsh Ridge and The Natural resorts."

Bowden said Treetops developer Harry Melling gave him good advice: Build something affordable for the average person.

"I have and it shows that in the Mecca, there's a course for everyone," Bowden said.

For 25 years, the Gaylord Golf Mecca has offered something for everyone - award winning resorts, high-quality public courses, fine and casual dining, and quaint inns. It's an experience golfers of all skills and tastes can enjoy. For more information, visit or call (800) 345-8621.


Please Share