Shanty Creek's future in doubt, but resort will remain open for now

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

BELLAIRE, Mich. - The news didn't surprise anyone remotely familiar with the golf industry in Michigan.

The rumors of Shanty Creek Resort & Club's financial troubles have been swirling for more than a year. On Aug. 21, Comerica Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against several properties of Shanty Creek Resort, once a proud Golf Magazine Silver Medal winner, for reportedly defaulting on a $20.35 million mortgage.

The properties in question include all four of Shanty Creek's courses - Cedar River, The Legend, Summit and Schuss Mountain - and the Summit and Cedar River Village lodges and the Schuss restaurant and ski slopes, along with a number of individual condominiums throughout the vast resort.

In a public auction on Sept. 24, nobody matched the bank's $18 million bid, keeping the resort's long-term future in doubt.

But what does all the legal red tape mean to golfers and visitors today? Well, not a whole lot.

The LaVanway Capital and Trade Corp., which owns the major portions of the resort, released a statement indicating the financial proceeding "does not change operations or ownership of the resort."

Marketing manager Dave Nyquist told the Associated Press Shanty Creek is seeking to reorganize its debt through new lenders. "Refinancing is the next step," he said.

During my visit in August, Shanty Creek was amazingly empty for the high season in northern Michigan. It was obvious that the problems have taken a toll.

The restaurant service was slow and appeared to be overwhelmed. The golf pro shop at The Legend rarely had someone at the desk to check in golfers. The Legend also showed signs of spotty conditioning, especially at the par-4 second hole. But none of the problems weren't fixable.

While many of Michigan's top resorts are spending millions of dollars on capital improvements, it remains to be seen if Shanty Creek will get left behind.

Shanty Creek, which was merged with Schuss Mountain Resort in 1986 by Club Resorts Inc. and moved into private ownership in 1997, certainly has the facilities to recover with proper leadership. Its two older villages, Schuss Mountain and Summit, are showing some wear, but the grand Cedar River village, built in 1999, is spectacular.

And both the Cedar River and The Legend golf courses are two of Michigan's finest. Here's a closer look at this unique property in the armpit off of M-88 between Traverse City and Boyne Country.

The verdict

There's no doubt Shanty Creek will survive this storm of financial trouble. Its golf courses and facilities are too good to waste away. The economy has battered this once great resort, as has the competition. An adjustment in its green fees, better golf packaging prices and a renewed marketing plan might speed up its recovery.

Must plays

The Legend, designed by Arnold Palmer, opened in 1986 and really put Shanty Creek on the map. For years, the 6,764-yard design ranked as one of the nation's top 100 public courses.

Throw out the controversial second hole, a distressing 350-yarder that demands two carries over wetland, and The Legend's rolling terrain might have one of the best personalities in all the state. Trees reign in two tee shots at the opening and closing par-5s, the 496-yard first and the 480-yard 18th.

The 501-yard seventh might be the state's best par-5. A creek snakes its way through the hole, cutting the fairway twice. A rock wall and four bunkers guards the tiny green.

Others believe that Cedar River, a Tom Weiskopf design opened in 1999, is superior. The 6,989-yard course features all the modern characteristics on its 580 acres - fairways as wide as runways, delicately sculpted bunkering and large, slick greens.

The 357-yard sixth supposedly ranks as one of the easiest holes on the course, but the large pond staring you in the face off the tee indicates otherwise. The tiny 297-yard 13th and the testy 163-yard 14th, a downhill par-3 with hidden trouble everywhere, stand out.

Both courses cost $145 in high season, a stiff price to pay for a region of the state that is so off-the-beaten path.

Solid seconds

The 6,922-yard Schuss Mountain golf course opened as two separate nines - the first completed in 1972 with the second half in 1977. Architects Warner Bowen and Bill Newcomb crafted a course filled with doglegs left - seven to be exact - to hamper any slicer's game.

The course, which costs $90 in peak season, really sleepwalks through the first 10 holes until No. 11, a 581-yard double dogleg par-5. Then the terrain takes over, creating dips and swales, humps and hills that demand more strategic shot-making. Water encircles the green at the 397-yard 18th.

The Summit, Shanty's oldest course with its 1965 birth date, will probably more suit beginners and seniors than skilled players. William Diddle only had 120 acres to create the 6,276-yard par-72.

Places to stay and eat

The best place to stay really depends on where you're playing golf. Deluxe villas and condos or hotel rooms are available at each of Shanty Creek's three villages.

The main lodge and shops at the Summit Village are just a short walk from The Legend/Summit pro shop. Gorgeous views of Lake Bellaire make a meal in the main lodge's Lakeview Restaurant a treat.

The Lodge at Cedar River, right next to the golf course, houses 85 luxury suite condominiums and features La Vigna, a new Italian bistro.

The Schuss Village, at the foot of Schuss Mountain, offers up some European charm with a Bavarian feel. Ivan's Food, Fun & Spirits, a sports bar with live music on weekends, also showcases performances by the SchussyCats from June 18-Aug. 28.

Each pro shop - Arnie's at The Legend, the Weiskopf Grill at Cedar River and the Golf Deck at Schuss Mountain - has your standard lunch fare with burgers, soups and sandwiches for a meal on the go.

Off the course

Shanty Creek boasts all the amenities you'd expect from a large resort - two indoor and three outdoor pools, functional fitness centers and a small spa. New horseback riding and fly fishing excursions will entertain the adventurous.

Beaches are nearby at Lake Bellaire, home to the Summit Village Beach Club, and Torch Lake and Elk Lake.

Day trips include hiking at the Grass River Nature Area; shopping in Alden, Bellaire or Charlevoix; or a pontoon boat ride through the Chain of Lakes. Other specialty programs like kid's day camps, hayrides and campfire sing-a-longs are available. Tubing, canoeing and putt-putt golf are nearby as well.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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