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  • Writer's pictureRobert Adams

Old Baldy Vision

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

HOW FUN IS IT TO GET THE WHEELS turning in planning a nine-hole golf course with a year-round rental cottage complex in greater Frankfort. It has been a dream of mine for a few years. The concept would enter my consciousness for a day or two, then would go away as quickly as it came.

This time it has stayed in my sights and has led to a written document that describes the endeavor in a vision statement for Old Baldy - a Frankfort golf course and cottage rental complex. It should be a wild success. Hell, you got to think that way as the amount of stomach lining it takes to launch such a development is considerable. I think I still have some.

I am motivated by ROI. It is very much the American way.

I have researched trends in our golf industry and visited with a very experienced golf course architect, Greg Martin, during the spring months of 2021. The vision statement has been amended regularly, and now the supporting numbers are suggesting a profitable development making the proposition both tempting and intriguing as I begin to birth the dream through various actions.

The popularity of golf has taken some bumps and bruises over the last two decades and golf courses have closed in record numbers. Building and maintaining a course is often at the absolute mercy of Mother Nature and comes with serious expenses that need to be factored. Even with these challenges there are examples of successful developments in the region. Arcadia Bluffs is one such story. Their hotel and cottages, fine dining, and amount of play is just such a shining example of a successful development. The real question for me is can a smaller footprint 9-hole course be profitable? I think it can if it offers lodging in the form of attractive cottages. Quite simply, they need each other in the mix.

In the 1970s, while learning about the nuances of a golf course's upkeep, I helped “grow in” the new north course at Oakland Hills CC in Bloomfield Township. A few years later, I interviewed with Jack Nicklaus’s Golden Bear Enterprises for an agronomic position to build golf courses in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I just could not get the recent war out of my thoughts, so I stayed state-side helping a seed company launch a turf grass division for professional users.

After three years of unending travel and facing an unraveling marriage a relative's funeral brought me back to Detroit where I met with an older acquaintance who offered me a sales job.

He brought me into his business representing suppliers to OEM automobile manufacturers. It was not exactly what I had planned, but I accepted the offer and made a great living selling parts and enjoyed rounds of golf with customers. A quarter century of hard work and play afforded me the opportunity to move to NW Michigan at the turn of the century. It certainly began several new chapters in my life.

One such chapter was helping an owner of a beach resort in Frankfort handle reservations during winter weekends. My job was basically telling hopeful inquiries that we were 97% booked for the following summer and I could place them on a waitlist in case we had cancellations. Sometimes there were a dozen names on that list for certain weeks in the summer before we stopped recording them all together. That was my first real exposure to the hospitality terminology, “hi-season” and “wait-listing.”

The last few years brought Lake Bluff Preserve into my field of responsibility. The property specializes in wedding-cations and family reunions. The stunning views from the secluded high bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan is the absolute attraction. Weddings are reserved and booked by our property management team well over a year in advance. To our joy it became sold out in the hi-season during the pandemic.

With these varied experiences and the abundance of tourism in our region I’m off to find that ideal piece of property to build a unique golf course joined by higher-end rental cottages. I wonder what will come first, the cottages or the course?

This should keep me out of trouble well into my seventies.

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