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Michigan Golf Resort History
Double JJ Resort

Mike Terrell

Is it a golf resort or a dude ranch?

Bob Lipsitz, who along with his wife Joan own and operate the popular Double JJ Resort, don't really care what you call it, "just call," he chuckles.

The truth is the Double JJ, home to the Thoroughbred Golf Course, is an immensely popular family dude ranch, and one of the few golf resorts--with lodging--in the southwestern corner of the Lower Peninsula.

The Lipsitzs bought the resort in 1988. It was than, as Bob describes it, "an adult dude ranch, the original Club Med."

"It had been operating as an adult dude ranch since the late 1930s, and it was our intent to make it more family oriented," he explained as we had breakfast at the Chuck Wagon, a large barn-like building that serves guests staying at The Ranch and the Back Forty.

"When we first took over the guest allocation use to be about 70-percent female, and most had children with them. Dads were off on separate golf vacations. We wanted to offer something that would attract the whole family," he said in between greeting guests, some of whom had been coming to the Double JJ for over 50 years.

"We decided to build the golf course, and the combination has worked well. It's one of the few golf resorts that truly cater to families. Most of the time mom and the kids won't care if Dad is out golfing all day. They have plenty of activities to keep them more than busy."

The Thoroughbred Golf Course opened in 1993, which was quickly followed by 24 condo units, the 32-room Loft Hotel and a large conference center overlooking the golf course, which houses the Sundance Saloon and Steakhouse.

That just takes care of the golfing guests. Double JJ is actually three properties in one. Each is sequestered in its own area.

There is also The Ranch, which was the original adult dude ranch still operateing as an adult exclusive area, and the Back Forth Family Ranch, which was opened in 1998.

"We are the largest dude ranch in the nation," the former builder proudly pointed out. "With the property we've added over the years, it stretches for three-and-a-half miles along U.S. 31 and is two miles wide. We can put a lot of horse trails in that much land."

What about another golf course to go with the award-winning Thoroughbred?

"I've routed a couple of other courses, but we're just in the discussion stage at this time," Lipsitz said thoughtfully. "I'm not sure what type of course we want to build at this time. It would have to compliment the Thoroughbred."

The Arthur Hills designed course has a reputation for being one of Michigan's most challenging courses. It's not for the timid, but if you want a course that's got both bite and beauty, this is a "must play" course. And, for women, it's a Golf Magazine Top 10 Women's Course.

Laid out through a hardwood forest, there are lots elevation changes, a few forced carries--none for women. Water and marshland comes into play on nine of the holes. More than a couple of the tees allow you to bite off as much as you can chew. With the risk and reward layout, it's the type of course you will want to play again as you learn the lay of the land.

Hills is best known for his Bay Harbor 27-hole layout near Petoskey, which was ranked one of the top 100 golf courses in the United States by Golf this past year.

"We get a lot of repeat business. People have been coming back here for years. They don't seem to get tired of it," said Lipsitz. "We package with other nearby area courses. So if a group wants a variety of courses, we can accommodate them."

The recently opened Ravine, an Arnold Palmer layout, is located just up U.S. 31 near Saugatuck, and just a little to the south in South Haven is Hawkshead another terrific Hills layout with many Pine Valley touches. It winds through sandy dunes and protected game areas.

Lipsitz just finished building 16 new two-bedroom cabins that are located on the Back Forty, which also handles golfing families well.

"The Back Forty is really geared towards the kids and families with lots of activity areas and the Western theme. There's something for every member of the family," he stressed.

Horseback riding is king here. It's what got the place started in 1937. Horses still have the right of way on the golf course, and, as you will note when playing the Thoroughbred, riding trails crisscross throughout the fairways and rough.

It's one of the most unusual golf resorts--teamed with a dude ranch--that you will find anywhere, or is it one of the most unusual dude ranches that include a championship golf course?

Whichever you choose to call it, you will find it enjoyable and refreshing. You do, by the way, get a free drop out of the horseback trail. For more information on Double JJ Resort and the many, many combinations of programs that you can sign up for, call (800) DOUBLE JJ or click on http://www.doublejj.com.

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