CONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT: $10 million LochenHeath Golf Club tees off King’s Challenge and Crystal Mountain plan posh clubhouses

Golf courses used to be pretty simple affairs. You’d drive up, pay your green fees, golf a few rounds, then maybe stop for a bite to eat at the clubhouse before heading home.

But nowadays, it seems that many of the best courses are also likely to boast retail centers, luxury vacation condominiums, planned residential communities, and gourmet dining establishments.

Keeping in step with the times, three Grand Traverse area courses, King’s Challenge, Crystal Mountain, and the soon-to-be-completed LochenHeath, all have major new development plans in the works.

• Construction on Acme’s LochenHeath Golf Club–the $10 million private golf course and residential development being built by Jim and Barb Maitland on their former cherry orchard–is well under way, thanks to the unusually dry weather the area has seen so far this spring.

“The weather has been very kind to us,” said LochenHeath Golf Pro Doug Grove. “A lot of people don’t like it because it’s been kind of cold and yucky, but because it’s been dry we were able to get started a month ago. We’ve almost got all the infrastructure done now, the roads, electric, and sewer, and we’re about a month ahead of schedule.”

LochenHeath features an 18-hole course and 84 home sites, ranging from $125,000 to $825,000, on 2,400 feet of East Grand Traverse Bay frontage.

According to Groves, the homes will comprise a private, gated community with its own water and sewer systems and 1,400 feet of shared beach front. The lots are set to go on the market this summer; the golf course probably won’t be open to members until next year.

“We seeded nine holes last year,” Grove said. “We’ll seed the back nine in May when the weather warms up. We got 90 percent of the cart paths put in last year, and the irrigation will be done in a few weeks. If we played it at all this fall it would probably only be as an invitation sort of thing. We’re really looking at 2001.”

• Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville recently unveiled plans for a new multi-level, Scottish-themed clubhouse and pro shop that will feature a bar and grill, a large patio and upper-level condominiums. The clubhouse will eventually serve as the southern anchor for Crystal Village, an extensive new development nestled at the bottom of the ski slopes. It will include restaurants, retail shops, and condominiums.

The development, slated to begin construction in spring of 2001, is a much-needed addition, according to Public Relations Manager Joan O’Neill.

“We’re really looking forward to beginning construction,” she said. “We’ve been needing something like this for a while now. We feel that it will really round out the golf experience for our guests.

“We already have a great 36-hole course that was given three stars by Golf Digest and named one of the top 100 women-friendly courses in America by Better Homes and Gardens. Now we just need to keep up with the times.”

• Meanwhile, King’s Challenge Golf Courses Director Tom Kleinfelter has grand plans in store for the south course.

“We’re constructing a 6,000 square-foot clubhouse,” he said. “It’ll be a full service clubhouse with dining, food and beverage service, and eventually locker rooms. It’ll also have a patio with views of the 16th fairway, the 18th green and the adjoining naturally-landscaped lake.”

In addition to the clubhouse, which breaks ground next month, Kleinfelter said future plans include a residential development with its own community center, pool, and bathhouse.

“We’re also planning down the road for a condominium development with Lake Michigan views,” he added. “There’s been a number of lots sold around Leelanau County recently. Activity here has also been increasing, as well as memberships.” BIZNEWS