A Classic Hotel Adds Mini Golf
In May 2022, the iconic 135-year-old Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island opened an 18-hole miniature golf course, earning accolades from guests.
As the first season of the mini golf course—named the Gem—came to a close, the Grand Hotel reflected on the goals of the course and the design and installation by Adventure Golf & Sports, using the Modular Advantage Mini Golf System.
“Guest reactions have been fantastic,” said David Jurcak, president of Grand Hotel. “Grand Hotel has traditionally hosted a generational guest. 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.
“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,” Jurcak said. “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.”
An AGS spokesperson said that 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 is we still allowed a pervious system on the floor of our island,” said 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.
“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.
According to Russell Ferrell, AGS senior construction supervisor, the 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,” said 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),” Jurcak said. “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.”