Monday, August 07, 2017

Day 1: Head to Michigan, Forest Dunes [and travel adventures]

Like clockwork begins Michigan (only this time when Tony and I pick up Tom – it’s light!). Head to DFW Airport, check in. Tom and I are upgraded to First Class. Did learn that unless you’re executive platinum, you only get two bags to check in at First Class, not three. And, if you add a third, an extra $150. Stupid. Pete has to go and check his second bag instead of using one of ours.

Flight to Chicago is uneventful. Bloody Mary for me (and one sent back to Paul in 13 D) and Screwdriver for Tom (and one sent back to Pete in 11 D). Tom and I try and put together the groupings each day. We want to mix things up so that no one is playing with the same person more than three or four times.

And, yes, I took the blanket with us, just in case it gets chilly in Michigan.

Then to Traverse City. Boarding is uneventful, but then we wait at least 20 minutes because we have no drinkable water on the plane (a requirement) so we’re waiting on the “water guy.” And then wait to take off. We realize we were already going to be cutting it close getting to our 5:03 pm tee times at Forest Dunes (the Black Loop). It’s over an hour from the airport. Clock ticking.

We make up time flying over Lake Michigan to Traverse City and land. And then, stop on the tarmac. It appears that there is still a plane our gate loading up. We are told it’ll be about 10 minutes and if we want to get up, we can. This is not good. And then we’re told that they are still loading and it’ll be another 20 minutes. The flight attendant comes out with water for us (the water we didn’t have). And then we’re told that they had to refuel and now have to do more paper work. Another 20 minutes. The flight attendant comes out with cookies (I guess snacks are good). American Airlines ( ) sucks.

I call Forest Dunes. We are not going to make our tee time since it’s 4:00 pm and we’re still on the plane. We don’t know when. Sandy picks up. “Are you Ms. Kline?” – we decide that we will get there when we get there and see how much we can play. May be 9 holes. May be 18. Sandy was great, saying that “We’ll see when you get there.” Meanwhile, I download Twitter on my iPhone (yes, first year in Michigan without my Blackberry). And tweet. Not exactly the scathing tweet I wanted to for American and their lack of communication, but a tweet.

Finally off. Traverse City is a small airport (Cherry something or other). And baggage claim is pretty slow. Car rental is even slower. My golf bag is first off (sigh – being left handed, I’m pretty selfish about my bag not being left). All bags accounted for. Tom still waiting at car rental. We haul everything out. I head back in.

Next challenge: Alamo. Way back when, our flight was a lot earlier and getting to Forest Dunes was not a challenge. Then it changed. Tom called Alamo about our mini van and our flight changes. Shouldn’t be a problem. Well, according to the cocky young man, we were supposed to get in at 11 am. We didn’t get to the counter until after 4 pm. They released our mini van and only had a Traverse. If you’re going to change time to pick up, at Alamo you have to call the branch, not main number. Really? Need to check into this. That just sounds wrong.  [After the fact, the FAQ on Alamo for Changing and Modifying a Reservation sucks. Here it is:]

We’re going to make it work [and Tom and Pete and Paul do!]. Meanwhile, I get a call from Ohio. It’s the Caddie House (service Forest Dunes uses) – they are asking our ETA. I tell them I don’t know. They are going to need to cancel our caddie service for today (can’t blame them for not wanting to have caddies sitting around not getting any action). BUT, they have pull carts we can use (even on the loop) – that needs to go on Forest Dunes’ website! I want to play the Loop in both directions on a few holes at least.

We get everything in. Thankfully. And off we go. Have to do a slight detour in Greyling because of some “race.” Pull into Forest Dunes. Unload. I go into the Pro Shop to figure things out. They are so accommodating and we’re trying to figure out how we can play the Loop. The problem is that if we only play the first 9, we end up two miles from the clubhouse. They could have a shuttle come and get us, but don’t know the timing since they don’t know how fast (or slow) we play. We could also play Forest Dunes (but I don’t want to do that). We’re pondering. And then Alex has this brilliant idea: shuttle us to 10 and we can play the back nine and end at the clubhouse. Brilliant. We check in and Garrett shuttles us over to 10. There’s a halfway house there, but it’s unfortunately closed because it’s too late (I think close to 7 pm is when we started off). You can see the empty case of Oberon. Garrett gives us some details, score cards and points to the direction we’re heading. I have my Sky Caddie, so hopefully it’ll be helpful. The back 9 of the Black Loop, here we come.
We were pretty blind, especially on the first hole, not knowing where we were going, what the course was like. And, having just slammed into the parking lot. But, couldn’t have had a better way to shake off the awfulness of American Airlines (and Alamo). Forest Dunes took care of us (and our pissy moods) by accommodating this group.

The Black Loop is pretty hilly. Hillier than I expected. Quite a bit of gorse “stuff” on either side, with dunes. Some of these dunes you can see when you hit and they jump up at you (BUT, you may be able to see them when you play it in reverse). I kept looking backwards to see if I could figure out the Red Loop, but couldn’t quite figure it out. Sunday we’ll have caddies, so looking forward to that.
The back nine loops you back to the clubhouse. We probably could have gotten in 16 holes, but didn’t want to be left in the middle of nowhere (yes, Forest Dunes is in nowhere) in the dark, walking back to the clubhouse. Nice way to get our trip back on track and we head into the clubhouse for a beverage (Oberons for me, Paul and Tom and screwdriver for Pete). They have an event (some sort of Ryder Cup thing amongst guys) that has tied up the kitchen in a major way. They apologize for the delay and we sit out on the patio and enjoy our beverage. When they say it’ll be over an hour before we are served, we understand and then plot. It’s after 9:00 pm and I’m not that hungry anyway. Ice cream for dinner? Can they serve that without messing up the kitchen? Why yes! And Paul asks about the chili. Is it ready to serve? Why yes! So, bowls of chili (a nice smoky flavor to their chili)  for us, followed by ice cream. And a free round of drinks courtesy of the Ryder Cup thing that held up the kitchen! Sandy, Edna, Alyssa, and everyone at Forest Dunes were a great way of showing that things can happen and customer service can, as the cliché goes “turn a frown upside down.”

The place we are staying: it’s a four bedroom, four-bathroom condo, with a kitchenette, living area. All of the rooms are identical, which is perfect for a golf trip because everyone gets their own bedroom and you don’t have to worry about the hierarchy we have to at other places. For us, Tom gets first pick, I get to pick based on my own bathroom, then it’s based on how long you’ve been going on this trip (at Boyne tonight, Paul gets last dibs). The beds: AMAZING. Great mattress and pillows. I don’t think I woke up after going to bed. The showers: BIG with a great showerhead (kinda rain, but better because I don’t have to get my hair wet). The coffee: I set it up last night and it’s solid. The WIFI: nope (but, you shouldn’t want to have to work anyway, right?). You can see the fresh deer tracks outside leading almost to the front door (but no bear tracks sighted).

Night, John Boy. The Red Loop and Forest Dunes on Sunday.

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