The Friendliest Course in the North
By Greg Johnson
It just makes sense that the friendliest golf course in the north, Indian River Golf Club, would have the friendliest guy in the north as its general manager.
Meet Corey Crowell, a PGA professional, Ferris State University Professional Golf Management graduate and a Kalamazoo native who recently turned 60.
After going back and forth from work in Chicago and Pine Tree Golf Club in west Palm Beach for a number of years, he returned to Michigan. He then worked at courses in Leland, Rockford and Manistee, while often spending winters teaching in Florida.
It was 2004 when he landed in the Gaylord area and he has been an up north guy in the Gaylord Golf Mecca since. This will be his fifth summer running the show at Indian River Golf Club as the friendliest guy at the friendliest course.
Corey enjoys the friendly, down-to-earth members along with the classic golf course, too.
“I’m one of the few that regularly play the blues (back tees) and I find this course can be pretty darn challenging,” he said. “It’s fun for me and then I move up and play with the members and have a ball because the course can still challenge you no matter where you tee it, and yet it won’t crush you. It gives you a chance to enjoy the game.”
History intrigues Corey, and Indian River provides. The original nine holes were first built in the 1920s by Wilfrid Reid, a legendary member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, and Corey can take you up on the hill near what is now No. 17 and show you where the other nine holes started being constructed.
“I love the history of this place,” he said. “There is still that element that these holes have been here for a very long time. It was nine holes for a long time, but then in the 1980s a guy who owned a lot of land in the area traded some with the club so he could develop houses and they could build another nine holes (Warner Bowen, architect).”
Corey said the trade worked out great for everybody.
“The club got a really beautiful nine holes, on the plateau up here in the woods, and different from the original nine, but together it gives you a nice collection of holes that work.”
The course remains beside a cemetery and the route to the range still goes up and around part of the cemetery. Corey said for years the only road to the cemetery cut right through the original part of the golf course.
“Cemetery Road,” he said. “It’s been rerouted now, but it’s part of the cool history here.”
“It only made sense,” he said. “The Gaylord area has this amazing place for golf, so we need to get the word out and this is just such a great area for tourism. Being part of the Mecca has been a win-win. They let people know about us, and we added another classic course.”
Corey loves the north, and Michigan. He missed us when in Chicago and Florida.
“I missed being able to talk with everybody about the Tigers, the Lions, MSU football,” he said. “Most of the people around here are from Michigan, though we do have a big contingent historically from the Columbus, Ohio area.”
Did we mention Corey knows the history?
“There’s the Columbus Beach Club formed after a bunch of families came up here about 120 years ago for the summers to get away from the heat down there,” he said. “One of the guys from the Columbus Beach Club originally owned this land and donated the area for the first nine holes. Like I said, cool history and this place has always been about being a friendly place to get away and enjoy yourself.”
Corey said his pride in Indian River is in line with that of the membership.
“There are a lot of members who help us take care of the place and work on the different gardens,” he said. “It’s a pride thing and it makes the place look good and feel special. And they are always looking to upgrade things. We are getting a new deck. It’s 25 years old and a beautiful deck, but it needs some work and a new one will keep it a great place to relax after golf.”
Corey has a favorite hole, by the way, and it’s not a surprise that it is No. 9 which returns to the clubhouse, the deck, and the popular Greenside Grille. A short, downhill par 3, it’s essentially the signature hole of the place and one of the original holes next to the cemetery.
“It’s fun because you are usually in front of a little crowd on the deck,” he said. “It’s downhill, it’s only about 140 yards max so anybody can reach the green. It adds something special to the round. It has the history. It’s been here the whole time and people have hit the same shot for all these years.”
You can hit the shot, too, and meet all the other friendly folks who work at Indian River. Make the visit part of a Gaylord Golf Mecca package. The Mecca features 17 courses and 21 lodging partners in the area. Reach out at indianrivergolfclub.com or call 800-305-4742. Learn more about the Mecca at gaylordgolfmecca.com.
Say hey to Corey for us.