GAM Travel - Michigan

    The four lakes at Fore Lakes Golf Course and Banquet Center were created when sand was needed for construction of the new span of the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron to Canada back in the 1990s. At the time natural long grasses covered the meadows amid the trees.

  Paul D’Anna, the new owner working through his second year at Fore Lakes, has not only brought the golf course back to prime condition, he has brought back the long grass with the planting of 10 acres of fescue.

  “I think the true character of the course because of the water in the four lakes and the links to land with our fairways and greens is a links look so we are bringing that back in the rough areas around some of the hazards,” he said.  “The previous owner mowed everything. I like the natural look. We’ve tried to keep it from making the golf course more difficult and I think we have done that. We just want that beautiful, natural links look and it is coming.”

The clubhouse looks over a sprawling golf course

Strategic bunkering is a subtle part of the golf course.

The links look around the greens and water is growing in well.

A lone pine stands sentry at hole No. 15.    
  Fore Lakes is looking good, from an improved playing condition on the bent grass fairways and tees to the flowing grass and vistas created via a combination of Michigan hardwood trees, sand and beautiful blue water on the 300-acre site.

  Originally designed and created by Angelo Torello’s construction company in 1999, the course opened in 2000 and enjoyed some early popularity. In 2006 a large facility became even larger at 25,000 square feet with an impressive ballroom addition that can host large events and has hosted weddings with 600 or more guests.

  “They did well at first, but then came the depressed economy and while the banquet center is the top banquet center in St. Clair County, the golf course suffered from a lack of maintenance and some of the golfers quit coming,” D’Anna said.

  Along came D’Anna, a good golfer with a 5.0 handicap index, and a dream to own his own golf course. The former design engineer in the automotive industry and Mt. Clemens resident went into the Amish furniture retail store industry in 1999 with a home equity loan and prospered. He still manages an on-line Amish furniture sales system, but the golf course was his dream.

  “This has been a dream since I was eight-years-old,” he said.  “I got my dream, but now I worry and I tell my wife sometimes that my dream might have been a nightmare and I didn’t know it at the time. I’m 44. Everybody has to have goals and dreams. Now I have to come up with a way to make this work.”

  D’Anna has the golf course and banquet center to make his dream a reality. Golfers should come back. It’s a Golf Association of Michigan must-play because it offers 6,711 yards with five tee positions to a very fair 4,289 from the front tee positions. While those afraid of hitting golf balls into water face a few challenges, it’s not near as intimidating of a golf course as it looks from the tees or the impressive wrap-around balcony of the banquet center.

  “It’s very playable,” said D’Anna, who is trying the addition of 15-inch cup options on his greens for those who want a much easier putting option.

  “That’s just trying things to get more golfers and I’ve gotten some good feedback. We have several leagues that play here and get around very well and love it. Seniors like it, especially with our senior rates. It’s a very good golf course, and we have regular cups on the greens for the traditional golfer, and it is public. I think people get a look at the huge building and the beauty of the place and think it must be private. We’re public and we want that public golfer.”

  The rates are maximum at $44 this year for 18 holes and a cart at prime time in the summer, and as low as $30 in twilight and other seasons. GPS technology has been added to the carts and it is easy to book on

  The par 5 first hole measures 544 yards with a third and final shot over water of about 150 to 160 yards. It’s a serious starter hole, but things get golfer friendlier from that point on. In fact, a second green exists on the hole that doesn’t require the water shot for those less skilled.

   The par 5 15th stands out on a tour of the course. It measures a slightly twisting 529 yards with a big fairway and a large pine frames a beautiful vista near the green. Two short par 4 holes also were appealing for different reasons. The par 4 No. 3 hole has a short shot over water, but demands a smart tee shot. The par 4 17th is void of water issues, but is well-bunkered with a welcoming green setting.

  The conditioning is outstanding. The ice storm that hampered many Michigan courses before Christmas of 2013 missed Fore Lakes, and D’Anna hired the reputable Davey Golf Maintenance Division to handle his golf course.

  “My number one goal when I took over was to get the golf course in the best shape possible as soon as possible,” D’Anna said. “We’ve done that. Now it’s getting the golfers to come back that is the challenge.”

  D’Anna gets some golfers from Port Huron, and many from Canada, but would love the Detroit metro market to drive the 35 miles north of Mt. Clemens to check out the place.

   His facility is ideal for groups and outings of any size and type. The golf course will not disappoint any level of golfer, and the restaurant, Bunker’s Burger & Banquet Co., offers a sports bar setting with big screen televisions coupled with large-window vistas of water, willows and more, not to mention burgers, barbecue and even pig roasts. Weddings and golf outings can be going on at the same time, and likely not interfere with each other even slightly because of the two floors and the deck and patio areas around the sprawling building. The mad-made rock fountain is a perfect photo backdrop as well.

   “I really believe we have a great golf destination here, a great public golf course, a great place for groups, everything,” D’Anna said. “We just want people to come on over and check us out.”
Put 5810 Flinchbaugh Rd., Kimball, Mich., in your GPS device to find the latest GAM must-play destination. It’s just through the trees, framed by the long grass and waiting off I-69 to be rediscovered.