The Medalist Golf Club Comes Through with an Olympic Effort
MARSHALL, Mich. - The Medalist opened in 1996 but under another name. Originally, a consortium of local investors engaged Bill Newcomb to design what was then Wishbone Glen Golf Club about 8 miles east of Battle Creek.
Newcomb has designed many Michigan courses including the Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands and the Alpine and the Monument at Boyne Mountain. The terrain Bill Newcomb had at his disposal was diverse with hills, woodlands, wetlands and an adjoining lake and wildlife sanctuary.
In spite of his inspired use of the land, Wishbone Glen fell on hard times and its financial status and condition deteriorated. In the fall of 1998, Tim Condit, a retired computer entrepreneur and Craig Kilmer, owner of a landscape company in Walled Lake, acquired the course, renamed it The Medalist and began its resuscitation.
General Manager Lowell Weaver says, "Our goal is to provide the best of personal service while bringing the course back into competitive condition as quickly as possible." He sees the course as a "destination course" and it is one of a few select courses that the Battle Creek Conventions Bureau includes in its package offerings, others being Gull Lake View, Marywood and Stone Hedge, all quality courses.
Management has implemented policies that support their claim of providing personal service. In addition to the expected club pick up and cleaning service, the course provides each cart with small towels, a small cooler and ice to help with hot days and delivers larger towels to players on the course when rain catches them mid round.
Also, greens fees include complimentary range balls. They are stacked and ready to hit at the well-designed (and marked) practice range, as they would be at a private club. One appreciated feature is that the scorecard includes a hole placement scheme for the entire course. Newcomers don't have to guess whether the pin is up front, in back or tucked to one side or another.
Yardage markers in the center of the fairway are helpful, but they are not visible from the tee which would be of help to newcomers. A patio restaurant has been added overlooking the 18th green, its pond and a hillside of special grass named Little Blue Stem. It is a peaceful setting to enjoy their regular menu which includes a rarity, lake perch fillets as an appetizer, but on Friday and Saturday nights, they add live entertainment on the patio and a special menu of ribs and steaks grilled in their fresh air kitchen.
For the most part the fairways and greens (bent grass) were in excellent condition. There were a few fairways with repairs under way and a very few thin spots in the greens, which were fast, smooth, reasonably receptive and undulated enough to be challenging. Traps are plentiful, well placed, full of soft sand and well maintained.
Management's biggest challenge is filling in bare spots in the rough and maintenance staff seemed to be hard at work doing so. The course is stunningly beautiful, secluded and at 10:30 on a hot Friday morning there were remarkably few players taking advantage of it.
This combination made for a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on your game and enjoy the scenery.
Scenic Front Nine
The course doesn't threaten on the straight relatively uneventful first hole at 330 yards. A driver is thankfully unneeded on the first hole when we are probably not ready to hit it anyway. But the approach shot should err on the long side since there is little space between the left and right traps up front and the green.
The second hole begins to challenge the golfer at 381 yards. Favor the left side of the fairway because there are only moguls there. One can carry the bunkers on the right with a good drive, but their sides and the moguls there can kick your ball out of bounds right even if you don't hit it that erratically. Several traps guard the right front portion of the green, but they are preferable to the pond just left and long of the green.
Number 3 is a par three that plays a bit longer than its 182 yards across that pond and slightly uphill to a green surrounded by six traps. Number 4 is a challenging 549-yard par five that might tempt one to pull out the driver. Unless you consistently draw the ball, that could be a mistake. The fairway opens up a bit at 250 yards over the hill, but it slants significantly to the right directing your drive to the wetlands that are better left to the sandhill cranes.
The Medalist adopted its sandhill crane logo because the birds use the adjacent sanctuary for a fall migration stopover. Problems continue with a forced carry of marsh intruding nearly across the fairway about 150 yards from the hole. And if you stray into the left rough, wetlands come into play beginning about 130 yards from the green.
Watch out for the swans and their signets. One of the swans saved a playing partner's ball from a watery grave, but the comments on his next shot were of the hissing variety. The approach is the easy shot, uphill to a very large deep green guarded by only one trap, front left. All this accounts for the hole being the #1 handicap hole on the course.
The 160 yard seventh is the Medalist's signature hole. From an elevated tee, one looks down on at least 100 yards of marsh between the tee and the green which angles slightly left to right. A lake sparkles through the trees on the right. It is a beautifully laid out hole. Don't miss the green right because you will be fortunate what follows is only a tough bunker shot and not a lost ball.
Making the Turn
The back nine starts with a 396-yard hole that strongly favors a draw, but punishes a hook with wetlands. Number 15 is a short par five which at 475 yards is very reachable. But favor the left side of the fairway with drive and don't miss the approach right.
The sixteenth fairway is split with the choice dependent on pin location. If the hole is behind the trap, favor the left half of the fairway and the left side of the green for the approach. If the pin is up front, the right half of the fairway provides an advantage with the back slope of the green helping to stop the approach.
The tee shot for number 18 plays uphill. Traps along the right side seem less threatening than the woods and later the water on the left. The pond reaches further from the left side into the fairway and the green than is obvious.
The danger from the right is that everything tends to kick the approach towards the water. A drive to the left side of the fairway may force a play over the water a bit, but with enough club to hit the green, there is less danger from there that the shot will bounce towards the pond.
The course is beautiful, challenging and the minor remaining conditioning problems (principally the rough), do not negatively impact the experience or its playability.
Given the lack of distractions, free practice, excellent service and the reduced play, the atmosphere is that of a country club, not a public course. Weekday greens fees are $45 including cart (walking permitted). Seniors (50 years and over) teeing off before noon on weekdays pay only $30 including cart.
On weekends carts are mandatory and the fee for all players is $55. Memberships are available for a $2,000 initiation fee and $1,400 per year.
October 17, 2001