Conferences and Golf -- Are they synonymous in Michigan?
By Kelly Hill
The golf course is a great place to do business. Where else can you monopolize at least four hours of an executive's time? Okay, but to do serious business, the action must begin at a comfortable meeting space.
Corporate and other professional conference and meeting planners understand the intimate relationship between golf and business meetings -- particularly in Michigan -- and they are planning their conferences accordingly. Here's a quick tour around the state, from information provided to Michigan Golfer, and a look at what conference planners may find between the tees and the meeting room.
Golf Digest recently ranked the public and municipal golf courses in Ann Arbor as No. 4 in the nation among cities with a population between 250,000 and 1 million people. Dave Serino of the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau knows that great golf courses mean great conference activity. "Golf is crucial to what we do because of the fact that almost every conference, seminar or corporate meeting has golf associated with it," Serino said. "Four or five hours in a golf cart means a lot of 1-on-1 time that you can't get otherwise." Serino noted that Washtenaw County offers conference goers 23 golf courses and 3,400 hotel rooms. "We cannot sell conferences without viable golf,"Serino said.
Meeting planners looking for good golf, convenient location off 1-75, and reasonably priced meeting facilities should check out Bay Valley Hotel & Resort in Bay City. Bay Valley has 11 meeting rooms, totaling over 3500 square feet, that can accommodate a variety of groups and conferences.
And when the charts and overheads are put away, the golf clubs quickly appear. "Yes, golf is an important aspect of our meeting business," said Director of Sales Karen Moore. "Our head pro Rick Quellman works with meeting planners and organizers to ensure a successful golf event as part of the day's agenda." 1-888-373-1220. The Inn at Bay Harbor
Scheduled to open this year, this newest Boyne property features six conference rooms: the Cushman Boardroom, measuring 450 square feet; The Arlington, at 3,600 square feet; The Occidental (West), 380 square feet; Occidental (East), 640 sq. ft.; The Clifton (North), 648 sq. ft.; and the Clifton (South), 729 sq. ft. The Inn staff promises "impeccable service and uncompromising thoroughness." And if you've seen Bay Harbor, the surroundings certainly are uncompromised. Call 1-800-GO-BOYNE.
Located at the west edge of the Ferris State University campus, with Katke Golf Course on its property, the Holiday Inn in Big Rapids is often a favorite conference destination. "When we try to market conferences, having a golf course on the property is very important," said Bob Everin, the general manager. "We are a reasonably priced property and we have all the tools here so that everyone will enjoy their stay." This property features 118 hotel rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space. The facilities can accommodate up to 1,000 people for a conference or 110 people in an auditorium setting. 1-800-999-9069.
Eight conference rooms commemorating legends of golf such as Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan characterize the conference facilities at the Heather Highlands Inn. Whether a large slopeside exhibition hall or a small, plush board room, these facilities can accommodate from 6-600 guests. Boyne Highlands' convention center features seven meeting rooms ranging from 505-5,298 square feet. All of these areas can be arranged in classroom, lecture, exhibit or roundtable seating configurations. 1-800-GO-BOYNE.
The Meadows Exhibit Area measures a spacious 11,170 square feet and can accommodate as many as 800 people in a reception or in theatre seating, 300 for a banquet or 400 in classroom seating. The Meadows Exhibit Area is part of a two-story convention center that features four rooms on the upper level and four rooms, in addition to the Meadows, on the lower level. The resort's convention coordinators assist guests who need overhead projectors, VCRs, special lighting equipment, exhibit booths, lecterns, easels and even a print shop. 1-800-GO-BOYNE.
In the last four years, Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville has channeled more than $3 million into improving its conference facilities. A recent winner of the "Golden Links" award presented by Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine for superior golf and meeting facilities, Crystal Mountain will soon complete Level III of the Crystal Center, the resort's conference facility that features rooms with individual climate control, multi-level lighting and sophisticated but user-friendly audio-visual systems. "Crystal Mountain is a retreat area," said marketing manager Kim Gerberding. "People often bring their families to enjoy the resort when they are meeting." Meeting attendees will surely enjoy Crystal's new 18-hole championship Mountain Ridge GC, opened this season to rave reviews. 1-800-YOUR-MTN.
The Ypsilanti Marriott and 18-hole championship Eagle Crest Golf Club combine to form Eagle Crest Conference Resort. With 236 hotel rooms and 32,000 square feet of conference and meeting space, Eagle Crest is becoming a favorite conference and golf destination in the southeast corner of the state. The Marriott offers meeting space for 8-1,300 guest in the Lakeshore Ballroom, salons and parlours. The Eastern Michigan University Corporate Education Center features two auditoriums, an executive boardroom, seven conference rooms, smaller seminar rooms and a sophisticated computer lab.
Zender's of Frankenmuth is billed as the world's largest family restaurant, capable of seating 1,500 people simultaneously, but the restaurant is joined in this picturesque town by The Fortress Golf Resort and Zender's Bavarian Haus Hotel. Ten rooms, available within the restaurant, are available for meetings of 4-400 people. "September and October are the busiest times for our conference space," said Zender's John Shelton. "Our most active season is June through October." According to Shelton, approximately 1,800 golfers played The Fortress in June as part of outings. 1-800-863-7999.
Vaulted ceilings and panoramic views mark the conference and meeting rooms at Garland in Lewiston. "Those ceilings and windows are a bit different in the conference business," said Greg Herning, the resort's vice president of sales and marketing. "It makes for shorter meetings," he joked. "We can produce nice executive board meetings of eight people or meetings up to about 200 people," Herning said. "We also specialize in upscale conference and brainstorming sessions. Conferences accounted for 55 percent of Garland's business last year, according to Herning. The resort features 160 lodge rooms, suites, villas and cottages, as well as four 18-hole championship golf course and a fifth under development. 1-800-968-0042.
The Jewel is probably the only golf course in the world that offers a horse-drawn carriage to transport its players the 1.5 miles from the ninth green to the 10th tee. That unique course, combined with up to 7,000 square feet of conference space and the splendor of Mackinac Island make the Grand Hotel a popular conference destination. "Fall seems to be a really big season for corporate retreats," said the hotel's Ken Hayward. "The month of September is particularly busy as corporations move into the fourth quarter." With 14 meeting rooms available, the Grand Hotel has board rooms available that measure 600 square feet. 1-800-33GRAND.
The resort hosted the National Governors' Convention in 1987 and since that time the facilities main conference facility has been referred to as "Governors' Hall." The hall measures 20,160 square feet, has 20-foot ceilings and doors big enough to drive tractor trailers through. "We have 49,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space and that is dedicated meeting space," said J. Michael DeAgostino, the resort's public relations manager. "We have intimate board rooms for 10 people or we can accommodate 2,250 people in theater seating or 1,750 people for a banquet." Grand Traverse Resort features 36 holes of golf, including The Bear, designed by Jack Nicklaus and the home of The Detroit Newspapers Michigan Open. The resort also features 660 tower, main resort and condominium accommodations. 1-800-968-2327.
In an effort to bring traveling business people back to Marsh Ridge, the Gaylord resort has established the "Business Travelers Club," which offers its hotel accommodations for just $58 per night. Marsh Ridge offers business people two conference centers which can accommodate up to 150 people and an additional meeting space of similar size. While not in meetings, Marsh Ridge guests can enjoy 18 holes of championship golf, a lighted driving range that is open until midnight, a 12-month, outdoor heated swimming pool and in-room jacuzzis. 1-800-743-PLAY.
Situated on 4,000 acres in Bellaire, Shanty Creek offers 28,000 square feet of meeting space, three 18-hole championship golf courses and 600 hotel rooms, suites and condominiums. The resort is also in the process of constructing a fourth championship (designed by Tom Weiskopf) golf course as well as a new hotel, The Lodge at Cedar River, which is scheduled to open in mid-June of 1999. The Lodge also will feature 5,000 additional square feet of meeting space. "That will be geared to corporate retreats and board meetings," said Barry Godwin, Shanty Creek's director of marketing. "Our market is primarily Michigan, but we have some national groups that meet here." 1-800-678-4111.
Perhaps best recognized for the quality of its 81 golf holes, Treetops Sylvan Resort just east of Gaylord also offers a 10,000 square-foot convention center and another 10,000 square feet available for meetings and banquets. Small gathering can utilize one of five board rooms while groups of more than 1,000 can be accommodated in the 10,017 square-foot convention center. The resort also features 242 guest rooms including standard rooms, deluxe suites, condominiums and resort homes and nearly every room on every level provides a view of one of those 81 golf holes or the surrounding woodlands. 1-800-444-6711.
Located on the bay, just northeast of Traverse City, this property features 4,000 square feet of meeting space that can accommodate up to 320 people. The inn also features a 1,000 square-foot foyer used for gatherings prior to conferences or meetings. Three smaller rooms within the hotel are available for board meetings or smaller sessions. The hotel's restaurant also features a meeting room for up to 45 people. The Waterfront includes 128 hotel rooms, 47 of which feature king-sized beds and six of which are suites. And golf packages and tie-ins are available for post-meeting agendas. Call 1-888-45- LINKS.
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