Grand Hotel Reflects on First Season of Miniature Golf
Grand Hotel, an iconic 135-year-old wood structure hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island opened an 18-hole miniature golf course to the public. (Some may recall Grand Hotel as the site for the 1980 film “Somewhere in Time” that starred Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer.) As the first season of the mini golf course named the Gem came to a close, Grand Hotel reflected on the goals of the course and the design and installation by Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) using their Modular Advantage® Mini Golf system. “Guest reactions have been fantastic” says David Jurcak, President of Grand Hotel.
“Grand Hotel has traditionally hosted a generational guest,” says Jurcak. “We wanted to find things that the next generation would enjoy, that are entertaining but quality, that don’t separate ourselves from our history, that connect our guests to nature…which was always the purpose of Mackinac Island, and bring them to the beautiful clear lake, clean air and clean water on Mackinac Island.”
The area designated by Grand Hotel for additional recreation was the Woodlands Center area – an area beyond the Grand Hotel Tea Garden that separated it from the Grand Hotel tennis courts.
Says Jurcak, “We wanted to find something in the Woodlands Center to enhance not only the tea garden and celebrate the ‘secret garden’ that’s there, but to bring more people into that area so that they can experience a little bit of what our island is about, which is featured around a state park…
“We looked at that space and said, ‘we should put a miniature golf course here.’ But then it took a while to really think it through. Because you couldn’t just put any type of miniature golf course in there. Working with AGS and understanding what the needs were and their ideas of what they have built in the past allowed us to find something that fit. It works.
“Everybody that walks up and sees it says, ‘it was meant to be there.’ We could have done it where you would be putting a square peg in a round hole and forcing a mini golf course that had brick borders, which is not indigenous to the island…and creating something that doesn’t belong on the island.
“We created something that actually blends into the island and blends into the area almost as if it was cut in like the golf course was over a hundred years ago .… Immediately when we spoke to them (AGS), they got it. It wasn’t in a way in which we had to convince them of something we wanted.”
An AGS spokesperson says because the miniature golf course had to blend-in environmentally and not disrupt the natural flora and trees in the area designated by Grand Hotel for the course, AGS recommended their eco-friendly Modular Advantage® Mini Golf system. This system features flexible, interlocking, patented panels that are made of recycled materials and are permeable for water drainage.
“What I really liked about it (the AGS Modular Advantage system) is we still allowed a pervious system on the floor of our island,” says Jurcak. “So we didn’t bring in a lot of concrete and pour concrete in it. So water that comes into that area can still flow off or go through the product onto our island. Nature wasn’t interrupted by what we did on the golf course
“We didn’t clear cut anything. We wanted everything to meander through the wooded area amongst the natural flora and the natural island floor. So a lot of ferns and indigenous plant life works its way through the trees…
“It’s a great product. It’s wearing well. We made them (AGS) jump through a lot of hoops. We’re not the normal area where you can pull up a truck or trailer and go to work since Mackinac Island bans all automotive vehicles. AGS did the extra work in order to make it happen. We’re easy people to work with but it’s all the logistics involved in getting something done and they did an incredible job and created a great product.”
“…And our miniature golf course isn’t what you would consider a miniature golf course you would see anywhere. There’s no windmills, no dragons mouth, no bumpers, no banks on either side of it. It is really a natural look that comes through the woods.
“This is a par-61 miniature golf course. The record is a 44 so no one’s going out there and hitting a bunch of hole-in-ones. But you have to play it similarly as you would a golf course.
“Like a golf course, it goes from a fairway which is a lower cut artificial turf into a higher artificial turf so you can see where the fairway goes to rough and then beyond that is just mulch, actually the floor of the island. So if you hit the ball hard enough, you might end up in a fern. They have little sand traps with softer, sand-looking artificial turf,
but it’s still not easy to hit out of, because you still have to hit out of it to avoid the rough.
“It’s a great course. Not a single person has said anything other than ‘spectacular.’ It’s a great look. It lays out well. It’s challenging for both adults and kids. Everybody can play it. It’s fun, not hokey, not chintzy. Ours is really cool for the area in which it is located.
“From the beginning and planning stages, they (AGS) immediately responded to our needs. They were on board with it. They talked through with us what our wants and aspirations were for this golf course, what our vision was. They didn’t come back and say, ‘You know what. We can’t do that.’ They were solution-based in everything we threw out there, whether it be for this and they also did our recreation court. So whether it be the golf course or the recreation court, they found solutions for what we needed and never took us down a path of something we didn’t want…
“We had great communication when they (AGS) were on site. It’s difficult to work on the island, you have to get product on the island. It’s cold most of the time in our off season. They worked well with our team here and delivered in incredible time.
“AGS started clearing some stuff as early as late last fall. Got product onto the island in January and February (of 2022). Started cutting it in in March and April, and May and June they were putting artificial turf down.
“(AGS) product came up on a freight boat, landed at the coal dock, loaded it on a dray and hiked up (to the hotel property).”
According to Russell Ferrell, AGS Senior Construction Supervisor, their installation crew had to ferry to and from the island daily. “Our crew was on the last ferry
to the island before the lake froze over and on the first ferry to the island after it was deemed the lake was passable” says Ferrell. “Our crew was on the ferry when it was breaking ice both times!”
“There were a lot of logistic issues and things on our side that slowed us down (last year),” says Jurcak. “We had some clay tennis courts that were in disrepair… and tennis has not been a popular sport at Grand Hotel for quite some time and pickleball is really taking off. But you can’t play pickleball on clay. So we had AGS put a temporary court on (last year), which is basically their interlocking panel system. We have two pickleball courts on one side and a bocce ball court and two shuffleboard courts on the other side.
“We would certainly recommend AGS,” says Jurcak. “Everything they have delivered from the first interaction to the delivery of the product and even after that in follow-up has been absolutely fantastic.”