Chuck Olson and Leelanau Golf
Chuck Olson figures he has one of the best-kept golfing secrets in Michigan. The professional at King's Challenge Golf Club, who came on board this past season, said he has a major marketing effort ahead of him.
"We've got a beautiful course in one of the most beautiful counties in Michigan," he said. "A lot of people don't know about us ... we're underutilized. One of my major jobs here is to get the word out, to create a clear marketing voice."
King's Challenge, designed by Arnold Palmer and opened for play in 1967, is a companion layout to the Sleeping Bear Golf Course, which many will remember being part of the now-closed Sugar Loaf Golf and Ski Resort. Basically, there is one course on each side of the mountain.
Like most Palmer courses, King's Challenge is player-friendly. Some designers seem to get delight in torturing golfers by putting in as many stroke-eating impediments as possible.
"Palmer's philosophy in designing courses is to create a fair test of golf," Olson explained. "It's a course that any golfer can enjoy and have fun playing and not leave feeling they have been beat up."
Both fairways and greens tend to be liberal. Fairways are not humped to the outside to create problems for slightly erratic tee shots.
"He (Palmer) didn't have people push dirt simply to push dirt," Olson explained. "The course takes advantage of a lot of elevation changes and offers plenty of pretty views."
King's Challenge offers four tee boxes and plays from 4,764 to 6,593 yards, with a par of 71. There is bent grass the whole way, with native grasses utilized in the rough.
"The course really has two separate sections, about four or five holes at the top and a lot flatter layout in the valley," he said. "There is a little bit of everything."
The eighth hole is likely the toughest test on the course. Playing a whopping 570 yards from the back tees, golfers must blast a good drive to carry over a valley on this dogleg right if they have any chance to make par. Conservative players will lay up, but will have to contest with bunkers left and water on the front and right of the green.
But King's Challenge truly saves the best for last.
The par 4, 16th plays 418 yards with a sharp dogleg to the left. Dense woods line the left of the fairway and golfers shoot to a small green. The 168-yard, par 3, 17th is a beauty where golfers, sitting high on the mountain, have to pause a bit to suck in the region's beauty. The downhill shot makes club selection difficult and there are large bunkers from front to back on the right of the green. Winds can make tee shots tricky.
The finishing hole plays 454 yards and once played as a par 5 but is now a 4 as strong golfers can often reach the green in two.Ball-eating rough lines the left and woods on the right make an accurate tee shot essential. A bunker left of the green gobbles up second shots and water surrounds the green on the right, back to front.
The good news? The largest putting surface on the course at least gives golfers a good target.
"Many of us are joining with nearby courses to help create golfing destinations," he said. In addition to sister course Sleeping Bear, The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms in Suttons Bay and The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor formed The Links of Leelanau to promote the region. Homestead offers top-class accommodations and a fun little par 3 layout. A new clubhouse at King's Challenge, complete with a steakhouse, makes for a nice place to swap tales after your round.
For 2003 rates call (888) 228-0121 or check http://www.kingschallenge.com.
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