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Review: The Inn at Bay Harbor, Northern Michigan

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, October 9th, 2017
Categories: Golf For WomenGolf LifeGolf LifestyleReviewsTravel
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Northern Michigan is one of my favorite places in this great country of ours. It’s a special recipe featuring the waters of Lake Michigan, dense Michigan forest, fresh air, interesting topography, and friendly people. It is always a fantastic time when I can take the HOG World Tour to Northern Michigan, an opportunity I’ll always take advantage of.  On the last World Tour leg to the area I had the pleasure of staying at The Inn at Bay Harbor, an elegant resort right on the shore of Lake Michigan, minutes from the town of Petoskey.

Inn at Bay Harbor Map

Inn at Bay Harbor Overview

The Inn offers nine different types of accommodations, from a standard guest room to a penthouse suite.  The property offers access to some great recreation in the area, like golf in the summer and skiing in the winter.

The Inn at Bay Harbor

Located directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, guests can enjoy the pool or take a dip in the Lake. Other activities on property include kids activities, spa, dining, biking, shopping, and wine tasting from local vineyards.

Accommodations

I’ve been in the Penthouse Suite and the Master Suite, so I can speak to what they offer and show a few photos.  Let’s go big first, with the Penthouse Suite.

The Inn at Bay Harbor

Penthouse view

Suitable for large groups, the 3,000 square foot Penthouse offers five individual bedrooms and common living and dining areas.  There are two full kitchen areas for food prep (below).

Penthouse Suite Kitchen and Living Areas

Penthouse Suite Kitchen and Living Areas

There is also a laundry room with washer and dryer.  The best feature of the Penthouse is the huge deck area overlooking the grounds and Lake Michigan.  The view is stunning, especially at sunset.

The 720 square foot Master Suite offers a single isolated bedroom and large bathroom. The living area is spacious, including a kitchenette, fireplace, large screen TV, and a Murphy bed.

Master Suite

A comfy deck is also enjoyable for enjoying some fresh air.  Unlike the Penthouse there is no washer/dryer in the room, but down the hall is a shared washer/dryer setup. This was great for me as I had been traveling for many days, and ran out of clean threads.

Master Suite

Dining

There’s some excellent dining on property at The Inn:  Vintage Chop House & Wine Bar, Sagamore Room, Inn Cafe, Cabana Bar.

The Vintage Chop House served up amazing cuts of beef which I really enjoyed, and the atmosphere overlooking Lake Michigan was terrific.  The breakfast buffet at the Sagamore Room had a large selection of very well prepared breakfast items.

Final Thoughts

There are many great reasons to visit northern Michigan: golf, water sports, skiing, biking, or just relaxing on a hammock on the shore of Lake Michigan. I strongly recommend staying at The Inn for your northern Michigan trip.

Sunset on Lake Michigan as seen from The Inn at Bay Harbor

Sunset on Lake Michigan as seen from The Inn at Bay Harbor

Think golf buddy trip here. Your group of buddies could all chip in and book the Penthouse Suite. Golf in the day and poker, or whatever your fancy is at night in the shared living space.


Review: Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa, Dominican Republic

Written by: Tony Korologos | Friday, October 6th, 2017
Categories: Golf For WomenGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourLifeReviewsTravel
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If you were considering a Caribbean vacation but thought otherwise due to recent hurricane damage, think again.  The Dominican Republic was not directly hit by Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, and their tourism industry is 100% open for business. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive Caribbean resort suggestion or Caribbean stay and play golf ideas, read on.

Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa

Overview

Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a sparkling brand new all-inclusive, adults only Dominican Republic resort which opened in November of 2016.  The resort features 457 suites in several different buildings.  Some rooms feature lovely swim-outs as seen below.  In addition there is a spa, fitness area, beach, and massive pool area with bars all over so one isn’t far from a tasty and refreshing island beverage of choice, all included of course.

The resort features a spectacular open-air lobby area which contains resort registration, a bar, shops, coffee shop, and live entertainment most evenings.

Suites

My suite at Secrets Cap Cana was comfortable and spacious.  The bed was so fantastic I wish I could have taken it home with me. I slept so well on it.  Inside the room is a desk, sitting furniture, linen closet, large screen TV, safe, dressers, and secret box. The secret box is where you can request staff to put items you request, like room service.

The shower in the room was huge with three water spouts, two in the ceiling. The bathroom featured two very cool sinks, great lighting, and an isolated toilet.

The deck area in my room had a great view (night shot above).  On the deck was a nice sitting area as well as a bathtub.  I quite enjoyed my evening outdoor bath. It was, liberating.  Yes I washed behind my ears.

Next time I get back, and I hope it is soon, I hope to get a “swim out” room.  They’re rooms on the ground level with their own semi-private swimming area. See picture below:

Dining

Secrets features eight gourmet restaurants, all included with the all-inclusive resort fee. If you want to eat sushi every day of your vacation, there’s no extra cost.  There are also restaurants featuring French, Italian, Japanese, buffet, snacks, and more. I really enjoyed the spectacular buffet for breakfast and lunch (below).  There are numerous themed areas for meats, fruit, beverages, breads, entrees and custom prepared items.  The meats and cheeses were fantastic.  My go-to places were the buffet and the coffee shop. I enjoyed numerous lattes, shakes, and snacks in the coffee shop.

The resort occupies a massive acreage on the southeastern shore of the Dominican Republic, just 30 minutes or so from the Punta Cana airport. The Punta Cana airport is home to flights from most major airlines.

Activities

Naturally the fantastic weather and warm shallow waters of the Caribbean provide many possible activities.  On property of course is the beach, with soft, fine sand.  The water is very shallow and warm, and the shallow area extends hundreds of feet out. My guess is 500 feet. I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach as the service folks came by with my beverages of choice. One must stay hydrated of course.  Other water activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, yachting, water sports and even working out in resort provided classes on the beach.

My group enjoyed a catamaran excursion which was very fun.  The excursion included a scenic cruise along the shoreline, snorkeling, and even chilling out sipping beverages served up in a floating bar.

Secrets Cap Cana features a huge pool area.  Sections and slivers of the pool wind in many directions.  Numerous areas have a small connected pool area which is surrounded by a small number of lounge chairs.  The pool could easily accommodate hundreds of people, yet each person would feel like it isn’t crowded because of the layout. 

There are several bars in the pool area and plenty of service people to make sure the fun is flowing.  There’s also a hot tub, but it didn’t make sense to use it when I was there.

The Dominican Republic is undoubtedly the golf capital of the Caribbean.  It’s home to the 39th ranked golf course in the world, Teeth of the Dog, the masterpiece of famed architect Pete Dye. Teeth of the Dog is located at Casa de Campo, roughly a 60 minute drive from the resort.  A mere 30 minutes away is Punta Cana, a Jack Nicklaus signature design which is ranked the #1 course in the Caribbean and Latin America.  These two courses produce some of the most scenic and dramatic oceanside golf you’ll ever experience.  There are nearly 30 other courses to choose from in the Dominican as well, including another famous Pete Dye called Dye Fore.

On most nights one can enjoy live entertainment at Secrets, ranging from small combos to full bands, and DJ’s.

Meetings/Banquets

If you have a group or business need, there is a business area with computers.  There are some great meeting areas and banquet rooms which can handle very large groups.

Staff

Service is very important in the travel industry. The staff at Secrets works hard to provide their part of a fantastic experience. Despite only being open for about a year, the management at Secrets has their system down and have trained their staff to be courteous, knowledgeable, and ready for anything. 

Photo courtesy of Greg Corbo

I was warmly greeted by every staff member and all were extremely polite and helpful throughout my entire 5-day stay.

Weather

The weather in the Dominican Republic doesn’t fluctuate much, except in rainy season.  I was there in rainy season and it rained for 10 minutes on the way to the resort from the airport. That was it. Year-round the temperatures are always going to be somewhere between 75-90.  The humidity is quite high and I did have to adjust, coming from a desert. Be ready to sweat when not in the pool or the ocean. Stay hydrated and bring plenty of sunscreen.

Final Comments

Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa is a fantastic choice for a romantic, all-inclusive trip with your loved one. The crisp new facilities are warm and welcoming with great dining and activities and of course, great weather.

Secrets and the fantastic golf courses nearby would also make for a great golf buddy trip.  Forget Florida, South Carolina or other golf destinations.  Make the Dominican Republic the location of your next golf buddy trip.


Review: Nicklaus Apparel Men’s Staydri Polo and Shorts

Written by: Tony Korologos | Sunday, September 24th, 2017
Categories: Golf ApparelGolf GearReviews
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From Utah to Michigan I’ve had this pair of men’s golf shorts and golf polo in play, both on and off the course, and in the air.

Retail price on these two is extremely affordable. The polo is at $24.99 and the shorts $29.99.

Polo

I’ve quite enjoyed sporting the Staydri Polo.  I’ve worn it in temps above 100F and down to as low as the 50’s.  Still comfortable all the way.  During the golf swing there is no binding, pulling or any restriction.  Plus it’s long enough that it won’t untuck after being pulled in a full rotation.

In the high temps the Staydri fabric helped keep me cool and dry with its moisture wicking properties.  If only it provided natural bug repellant too. That would have come in handy in northern Michigan a few weeks ago.

Golf Shorts

The shorts are very comfortable and fit true to size with a nice loose fit. They too flex during the swing.  Nothing worse than tightness at the belt line, causing restriction in the body’s rotation.

The fabric in these shorts is very light and smooth to the touch, but still durable and wrinkle resistant.  The pockets and buttons do their job nicely.

Finishing Holes

In a wide variety of conditions on and off the course, the Nicklaus Staydri polo and golf shorts are very comfortable, stylish, and high performance.  Nothing beats them for the very reasonable pricing.


Review: Forest Dunes Golf Club in Northern Michigan

Written by: Tony Korologos | Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel

On the recent HOG World Tour stop in northern Michigan I had the pleasure of staying at Forest Dunes resort, and playing the unique Tom Doak designed reversible course there called The Loop. Check out my review of The Loop.

While The Loop may be the attention grabber, Forest Dunes is home to a Tom Weiskopf design simply called Forest Dunes Golf Club. Forest Dunes Golf Club sits inside 500 acres of land within the Huron National Forest. The course is a 7,116 yard par-72 design which is quite different than The Loop. For one it isn’t reversible.

A Tale of Two Nines – Forest and Dunes

The front nine (Forest) is carved through some fairly dense northern Michigan trees in more of a traditional American parkland style of golf, less links influence. So there’s more carrying the ball and little running up shots. Due to the dense trees lining most holes, each hole is isolated. No parallel holes. It’s quite serene.

The back nine (Dunes) exits the forest and turns to a more rugged and exposed experience.  The dunes on the back feature large sandy waste areas and native vegetation which line and sometimes cross the fairways and surround the greens.

Speaking of serenity… Forest Dunes occupies about 500 acres and there are no homes on the course.

Tee

The look and feel from the tee of the Weiskopf course is very pleasing to the eye. Most often it’s WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Tee shots need to be fairly accurate or they’ll end up in the dense forest, waste areas, water hazards, or some of the terrific fairway bunkering.  There are a few situations where from the tee one doesn’t realize there are two different paths to take, split fairways.  A better familiarization with the course would really help in those situations.

There’s also a nice bit of elevation change from tee to fairway or tee to green on the front nine. The elevation changes make the tee shots even more interesting.  More rolling hills and dunes are on the back, which hide some of the native areas.

Fairway

The fairways on the Weiskopf course were in terrific condition when I played there, and I found most of them thankfully. Only on the 9th did I run into tree issues. Lies on the shortgrass were like lies on high quality carpet. The only difference is you don’t want to take a divot out of high quality carpet. It won’t grow back.

Most of the fairways are not terribly penal or unforgiving. There can be positions in the fairway which are not optimal; ones that perhaps bring overhanging trees into play or bad angles to the green. A little course knowledge helps for those situations. Same goes with some of the small native areas and waste areas which can jut out from the sides of some of the fairways, especially on the back nine.

Green

I really enjoyed the green complexes at Forest Dunes. Many of the greenside bunkers are Robert Trent Jones Sr.-like large. There can also be more rugged bunkering with native grasses around the edges and less pristine and precision in the shaping on the back.

Some greens are guarded by forced carries, water, and of course sand, so flying it all the way in those situations is required. Other greens offer options for chipping, pitching, or even putting off the surface (one of my favorite shots because chipping is one of my least favorite shots).

Despite the fact that I couldn’t make any putt for birdie inside of 10 feet, and there were a lot of them, I still enjoyed the putting surfaces. They rolled very true and well. Putts that were on line dropped but puts, like mine, that were off by even a fraction of an inch, did not.

19th Hole

One very unique feature at the Wekskopf course is the 19th hole. No that doesn’t refer to the bar. The bar is the 20th!

19th Hole at Forest Dunes

19th Hole at Forest Dunes

The 19th is a short par-3 which is used to settle matches or bets in the event that there’s a tie after the 18th is completed. What a cool idea.  My group was hitting sand wedges into the green but it looked like the hole could be stretched out a bit more.  One fun part, hard to see in the photo above, is the bunker in the middle of the green which made the green’s shape like a donut.

Amenities

Forest Dunes has a tremendous practice facility. From numerous practice greens to a solid and interesting driving range to a very detailed and creative short game area. The answers to your game’s issues are there somewhere.

I also noticed a putting course which had just been seeded. I imagine it will be fully operational by the 2018 season, if not sooner.

Clubhouse

The clubhouse is large and elegantly appointed inside and out. Inside the clubhouse are a few rooms, a restaurant, and the pro shop. The shop is fully stocked with great gear and apparel.

Forest Dunes Golf

The clubhouse as seen from the 18th fairway

I enjoyed several great meals in the restaurant. Two of them were smoked filet mignons with baked potato and French onion soup.  The reason I had a second one was because the first one was so good.  No, they weren’t at the same sitting.

In addition to the rooms in the clubhouse, there are “villas” which are about a one minute walk from the clubhouse or any of the courses’ first tees. The villas have numerous rooms, with shared living space. Each room has its own shower. The shared living space in the villas feature large cushy reclining chairs, couches, a large flatscreen TV, kitchen, microwave, refrigerator, and kitchen table.

Villa sweet villa

I stayed in one of the villas (photo above) and loved it, sans a closet or somewhere to hang up my expensive golf shirts.

Pro Tip

Bring bug spray.

Conclusion

I had a fantastic time taking on the challenge of Forest Dunes Golf Club. The variation between nines, immaculate conditioning and maintenance, and fabulous design made it one of my favorite golf experiences of the year.

Forget boring flat Florida golf or the other traditional golf travel locations. The Loop and Forest Dunes golf club are the perfect recipe for a memorable golf buddy trip.

Related

The Loop at Forest Dunes review


Review: The Loop at Forest Dunes Michigan – Reversible Golf Course by Tom Doak

Written by: Tony Korologos | Sunday, September 3rd, 2017
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenReviewsTravel
Tags:

What a fantastic opportunity I was able to take advantage of on the recent HOG World Tour stop in Forest Dunes, Michigan.  Forest Dunes is located in rural northern Michigan (map below).

I had the chance to play perhaps the most talked about new course in the last several years, The Loop.  The Loop is a course designed by one of my favorite golf course architects, Tom Doak.  Doak is as much a mad scientist as he is a brilliant golf architect.  I’ve played many of his courses and always enjoyed his designs.

The Loop Overview

While only 18 physical holes, The Loop plays as two distinct par-70 18 hole golf courses, the Red Course and the Black Course.  It is reversible.  One day The Red is the play (counter-clockwise) and the next it’s The Black (clockwise).  Reversible courses aren’t new. Even the Old Course in St Andrews played two directions, though they only do it once a year or so these days.  The Loop is the first fully reversible course in the United States.

Challenges

There are certainly unique challenges when trying to make holes that play in both directions and Doak’s genius in making that happen is impressive.  Think about it for a minute.  When facing a hole going one direction there are many factors to consider.  The tee must setup appropriately and the sight lines from the tee must produce the look and feel the architect intends, but on The Loop it has to do the same thing backwards.  Fairway bunkers and waste areas showing in one direction may not show or be in play going the other direction and vice versa.  Some fairway bunkers and waste areas are visible from both directions. Those must play and look appropriate clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in a reversible golf course is designing greens and green complexes that are approachable, playable, and visually pleasing from both directions. Green side bunkers, false fronts, and collection areas present the approaching golfer challenges and opportunities to be creative in one direction, but must not ruin the playability coming from the other direction.  Doak does very well here, with the exception of a couple of greens which fall off in both directions making the effective surface quite small.

Reversible Hole Comparison

My first round on The Loop was the Black Course.  The Black course plays The Loop in a clockwise direction, starting left of the 18th green.  See first photo below, from the first tee. It was early in the morning so the photo is a little dark.

Now contrast the look above with the view from the 18th tee on the Red Course below. It was a little brighter when I played the Red.

Interestingly, the elevation from the Red tee to the bottom of the fairway and back up to the green seemed to be more than it was going the other direction, on the Black tee down and back up to the putting surface.  It’s the same elevation change of course, but it “seemed” different.  It looked different too as you can see.  The fairway on the Black looks more narrow from the tee than the fairway on the Red looks from the tee, and its the same fairway!

Every hole seemed quite different when comparing the Red vs the Black.  Even the tree-lines looked different.

Despite occupying the same real estate, the Red and the Black courses look, feel, and play differently.

Tee

I felt like driving the ball was a little easier for me on the Black course. Somehow the fairways felt wider.  The ball runs and bounces hard on the links-style hard ground.  Love that.  As I mentioned, the look from the tee from the Black is very different than it is from the Red.  The landing areas are quite wide and forgiving on both courses.  Some course knowledge would help in knowing where to aim.

Fairway

Many fairways have some fun humps and bumps which can result in interesting bounces and lies. A few others are very wide and flat.  There are numerous fairway bunkers and waste areas which can eat up strokes and the smart player will aim for the fat part of the fairway, away from those round killers.  It’s quite fun to examine the fairway bunkers and realize they can be seen and in play going one direction, but invisible going the other.

Approaching the greens is more challenging than hitting the fairway.  Often times approaches must land short or at a different angle to the pin to allow for bounces and release.  But if one releases too far the ball may go over the other side of the green and end up in bunker normally in play for the opposite direction.

Green

The green design is so interesting because the greens have to be able to take approach shots from two directions.  Most approaches can be run ups which I really like since I’m a low-ball hitter and links lover. There are a couple of approaches over hazards or waste areas that require forced carries. Course knowledge or having a caddie can really help around the greens because often times aiming at the flag when chipping on or putting isn’t the best play.

Click to see more photos of The Loop

The bunkering around the greens is so unique. Like the fairway design, bunkers can be in play and visible from one direction but not the opposite. I really like the rugged styles of the bunkers with rough edges and native grasses growing around the edges.

A few of the greens roll off on both sides, which can make finding the right spot on the green tough.

Putting is fun on The Loop.  I struggled with my reads from shorter distances because there are situations which look uphill but are down, and there are nuances and subtleties which can move the ball just enough to miss. I found long distance putting to be a blast, even putting from several yards off the putting surface, just like in Scotland.  The highlight putt of both rounds was my birdie putt on the short par-4 15th on the Red.  The pin was far left-front and I blocked my approach to the back right.  I was 90 feet downhill with a good 10 feet of break and nailed it dead in the jaws for birdie. Easily the longest putt I’ve made in years.

Speaking of putting off the greens, there are a lot of opportunities to do that because of the short grass and hard ground.  That’s why I love Scottish links golf.  I chi-putted many times on the Red and Black.  One really fun one was the par-3 17th on the Red.  There’s a half pipe in the back of the green (front on the Black).  The pin was right in the middle of it and I missed the green left.  I putted over the hill, down to the green, back up the hill on the other side.  From there the ball rolled back onto the green and nestled to a foot or so for an easy par.  Very fun.

Playing Tips

Bring bug spray.  There were lots of bugs when I was at The Loop. In fact some of my photos have dots in the sky which are gnats flying around the camera. I also managed some nasty mosquito bites.

Having played both courses once now, play the fat areas of the fairways.  Don’t take on hazards or waste areas unless you’re sure you can carry them.  That would have saved me several shots.

Walking Only

Have I mentioned I hate cart paths?  In my opinion cart paths ruin golf courses.  Yet another reason I love golf in Scotland and now The Loop… there are no carts or cart paths.  The Loop is a walking-only course.  Make sure you have good shoes and socks, and take a caddie.  You’ll enjoy it.

No cart paths! Great!

Rates

Rates on the courses at Forest Dunes run between $69-149/round, based on time of year and day of the week.

Amenities

There is a massive practice area at Forest Dunes for sharpening all aspects of one’s game: large driving range (below), short game area, practice green… and a soon to be opened putting course similar to the Himalayas in St Andrews.

The clubhouse is large and spacious with a finely appointed pro shop.  Inside the pro shop one can find any kind of Forest Dunes logo items from apparel to accessories, as well as high end golf clubs and balls.

The clubhouse as seen from the Weiskopf course

The restaurant at Forest Dunes is great.  I enjoyed two smoked filet mignons there (not in one sitting mind you). Fantastic. The burgers are great too and even the salads.

Lodging

I stayed right on the property at Forest Dunes, just a 1-2 minute walk from the clubhouse in a “villa.”  The villas are multi-room buildings which have common areas and individual rooms with showers.

The common areas have couches, a kitchen, fridge, sink, microwave, and TV.  My villa had four rooms and was very nice and comfortable with a big shower.

Critiques

I always try to point out areas of improvement when I do my reviews.  In the villas there is no internet-wifi available and the wifi at the clubhouse was very weak and undependable.  I dig the remoteness of the resort, but no wifi is painful for doing business or keeping in touch with the outside world.

Also in the villa rooms there are drawers but there is no closet or anywhere to hang clothing.

As I previously mentioned, a couple of The Loop’s greens with false front/backs can be pretty extreme, making the effective target area on the greens very small and difficult to hit.

Conclusion

Add The Loop to your golf bucket list.  Forest Dunes makes for a tremendous golf buddy trip.  Hit the Red and Black, and the Weiskopf course (review coming soon).  The experience of playing Doak’s mad scientist creation is one of the best you’ll have in golf.

Related

The Loop Image Gallery

 


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