When golfers think of Augusta, their first thought in all likelihood is The Masters and Augusta National on a bright sunny day in April. I doubt it’s that small town in Michigan, midway between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. But maybe it should be because Augusta, Michigan is home to one of the largest golf resorts in the country: Gull Lake View Golf Resort. There are 108 holes within a 12-mile radius of Augusta, Mich., and offers more holes than Bandon Dunes, PGA National, or Pebble Beach Resorts. It is among the five largest golf resorts in the country. Five of the six courses have been certified as Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries since 1995.
Gull Lake View Golf Club and Resort has been owned and operated by the Scott family for over 50 years. Every day, four generations of Scotts go to work at the resort in one capacity or another. There were no big-name golf course architects called in to build the golf courses; no Tom Fazio, no Pete Dye, no Ron Garl. Gull Lake View is a did-it-themselves golf resort. Except for Bedford Valley – which was purchased by the Scott family in 1988 and with a little help from Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design on Stoatin Brae – the golf courses were designed and built by the Scotts. Renaissance helped out with the bunkering and greens on Stoating Brae, as well as doing some of the labor. The shaping and contouring of the golf course were done by the Scotts.
Darl and Letha are the matriarch and patriarch of the Scott family and were the first generation of Scotts to be involved with the property. Darl used to be the superintendent at nearby Gull Lake Country Club and the couple also owned the Gull Lake Motel. The Scotts sold the motel to get the funds to build their first course, Gull Lake View West, which opened in 1965.
Darl and Letha began work on the first of Gull Lake View’s golf courses in 1962 and three years later, Gull Lake View West was opened for public play. Gull Lake View West plays through fields and valleys, up and down hills, and around woods and ponds. You’ll encounter several blind tee shots, so course knowledge is at a premium. The back nine plays much harder than the front with considerably more elevation changes. It’s not often that a par 3 is the #1 handicapped hole on a golf course but that’s the case with Number 6. From the Back Tees, the hole plays 192 yards. The small green is protected by bunkers on either side. Your best bet is to hit your tee shot short and right of the pin as balls tend to bounce hard left. Gull Lake view will have you hitting every club in your bag at least once.
The success of their first course gave the Scotts a vision of how lucrative a Michigan golf resort could be. Knowing that they need more than one golf course to be a successful golf resort, they purchased the land across the street, and Darl and his son Charles started on their second course. Ten years later Gull Lake View East opened and has consistently earned high praise from golfers and raters alike; it has been ranked as high as Michigan’s 10th best course. At only 6,032 yards (68.9/124) from the back tees, Gull Lake View East isn’t going to overwhelm many players. Length isn’t the big factor out here, in fact, on at least 5 or 6 holes you’ll likely hit something less than driver off the tee. It’s all about playing for position and leaving yourself a clear shot and a manageable distance into the green. Number 8 is a good example. From an elevated tee box, you’re playing downhill to a small landing area. The water on the left comes into play at about 235 yards with trees on the right. Water comes into play again, guarding the front of the green. It may be one of the shortest par 4s out here but it’s also a good test of golf. Director of Golf, Dean Kolstad feels that number 18 is the toughest finishing hole of any of the Gull Lake Resort courses. It’s a dogleg right that plays slightly downhill off the tee then at least one club extra into the green, which is protected on the left side by a bunker. There’s nothing wrong with a par to end your round.
With two courses under their belt, the Scotts believed that their dream of a fabulous Michigan golf resort was well within reach. Now they needed a place for golfers to stay so Darl and Letha designed and constructed the Fairway Villas, located across the street from the East and West courses. These 2-bedroom, 2 bath villas boast fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and patios overlooking the golf course. They are the perfect accommodations for groups of four to relax and enjoy everything Southwest Michigan’s finest golf resort has to offer. Since then, about 24 2-bedroom, 2-bath villas have been added which has increased the number of lodging options to 67 units.
At this point, there is no stopping the Scotts! Their next course would be located about three miles down the highway from the original two courses. Stonehedge South was built by Darl’s son Charles and opened in 1988. Stonehedge South has been included in Golf Digest’s list of the top 75 most affordable courses in the United States. There are several tight tree-lined holes to keep you honest off the tee and thinking about your next shot. The greens are well-undulated and worthy of a look from more than one angle. Although it’s ranked as one of the easier holes on the course, Number 17 has a lot of character. It’s a 478-yard par 5 double dogleg right with a fairway bunker on the left side off the tee. Woods and out of bounds on the right. A good drive down the left side past the bunker will give you the green light to go for the green in two. You’ll need to hit it high as a large tree sits about 100 yards from the green. There’s a very deep bunker that guards the front of the green, which is long and well sloped. Hit it over the green and par becomes difficult. Like all the courses at the resort, the South is well-maintained and staffed by truly friendly people. It’s part of what makes this family-owned resort so popular.
Bedford Valley was the fourth Gull Lake View course and is the only course not on the Augusta property. It’s located about 20 minutes away in Battle Creek and was designed in 1965 by William Mitchell. Bedford Valley was purchased by the Scott Family in 1988 and is known for its fairways lined with majestic oak trees, oversized bunkers, and large, sweeping greens. Since purchasing the property, the Scott family has added a complete practice facility with a full-length driving range and large putting green.
I’ve spoken with several golf pros who are familiar with Bedford Valley, and they all seem to agree that Number 13 is the hole that can make or break a round. In most cases, at least for them, it was break! From the back tees, the hole plays 496 yards; 456 from the White Tees. With water on the left and a large tree on the right, most players will not be able to hit a driver. Longball hitters may have a chance but it’s about a 275 carry over the water from the White tees. To complicate matters, the fairway is only about 10 yards wide where the trees meet the water in the landing area. A “safe” tee shot will leave about 250 yards to the green, which is guarded by a large, deep bunker about 30 tards short of the green as well as another trap front left and a third trap back right. The green slopes left to right so play your approach shot accordingly. Play smart and par or better is a possibility.
Gull Lake View’s fifth course, Stonehedge North, was designed by Charles and Jon Scott and opened in 1995. If you like golf courses with a lot of trees and dramatic elevation changes, you will fall in love with Stonehedge North. The course is made up of six par threes, six par fours, and six par fives and is wide open compared to the South Course. The front nine is relatively open and flat, while the back nine is wooded with significant elevation changes. The greens tend to be on the large side and can leave some long putts on poorly hit approach shots. The course ends with an interesting par 5; a 527-yard dogleg left. Calling it a dogleg is an understatement; the hole turns 90 degrees to the left at the top of the hill. The fairway bunker on the left side is about 200 yards off the tee, so if you can carry it off the tee, you can shave some yardage off. Fairway bunkers also come into play on your layup shot on either side of the fairway. Navigate them successfully and you’ll leave a short pitch into a green. A back-left pin position may pose a problem as you’ll have a large tree and bunker to contend with. Par is a great way to end your round.
Stoatin Brae is not only the newest course at Gull Lake View but also their crowning jewel. The course was built by the Scott family with a little input and help from Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Company. Translated from Gaelic, Stoatin Brae means Grand Hill and since the course sits on the highest point in Kalamazoo County, it just makes sense! The course can be described in 4 words: fast, firm, and wide open (and doesn’t count)! When the wind is up, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like to play golf in Scotland. The course plays 6,667 yards from the tips with a course rating of 71.5 and a slope of 122. You’ll have to shoot a 71 if you want to play par golf here. And it’s priced right too. It’s probably one of the best golf values in the country. There are no water hazards at Stoatin’ Brae. But what it lacks in water, it makes up for in strategically placed bunkers and challenging green complexes. And if the wind’s blowing, you’ll forget all about the lack of water. At 336 yards, the 10th hole is relatively short however as you stand on the tee, you can’t help but wonder where is the best place to hit your tee shot? As it turns out, a long drive down the left side and over the hill provides the best angle into the green. If you can see your tee shot when it lands, you’ll probably have a tougher approach shot. Several rugged bunkers guard the green.
Although the majority of Gull Lake View’s guests come from Detroit, Chicago, and Toledo, it’s not uncommon to meet golfers from Cincinnati, and Wisconsin, and Canada while you’re there. Golfers may come out to just play Stoatin Brae but once they get a feel for one of the other courses, they’re hooked! And at Gull Lake View, there is something for everyone. For more information or to book your next golf outing or vacation at Gull Lake View Golf Resort, visit them online at www.gulllakeview.com.