Boyne Resorts aims to book 75% of summer play by Masters week

The golf season in Northern Michigan has ended, but the marketing for Boyne Resorts’ 2018 season has only just begun.

Boyne owns and operates a quartet of four-season resorts within a short drive of its home base in Boyne Falls, and these days its call center is busy. The traveling golf groups that are central to the company’s business typically reserve their vacations during the winter, so everyone who’s vacationed at any of Boyne’s properties in Michigan is being contacted. The goal, says Bernie Friedrich, the company’s senior vice president of golf, marketing and retail operations, is to book roughly 75 percent of the resorts’ tee times by the time the Masters is played in early April.

Boyne focuses on golfers in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and New York, because the airport in nearby Traverse City gets direct flights from those cities. The pitch, according to Friedrich, is simple: “The earlier you book, the cheaper the price.”

The groups usually arrive on Sundays, in numbers as large as 20, many of them on five-day vacation packages that include hotel rooms, golf rounds and lots of summertime activities. Boyne’s properties in Michigan are located within 35 miles of each other, so it’s easy for golfers to play six or seven rounds while they’re on holiday.

In Michigan, golfers can choose from eight courses. The star of the collection is Bay Harbor Golf Club, a 27-hole, Arthur Hills-designed complex whose Links/Quarry loop is, according to Golf Digest, #15 in the state and #72 among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. Boyne Highlands offers four courses, including the Robert Trent Jones-designed Heather track (#23 in the state) and the Donald Ross Memorial, which features replicas of famous holes created by the legendary designer. Boyne Mountain has two courses, both of them designed by Bill Newcomb, and Crooked Tree has a Harry Bowers layout that was redesigned by Hills in 2014.

Boyne’s first golf courses opened in the mid 1960s, and they played a key role in making Michigan “America’s Summer Golf Capital.” In addition to its properties in Michigan, however, the company owns and operates an Arnold Palmer-designed course at Big Sky Resort in Montana, and it manages the municipally owned Sugarloaf Golf Course, Golf Digest’s #2 track in Maine.

Boyne’s venues attracted 145,000 rounds last year, which means that golfers have plenty of elbow room.

“We aren’t interested in putting as many people on our courses as we possibly can,” Friedrich explained. “We focus on the experience we offer. We don’t want to overload the courses.”

That being said, Boyne has increased play by “a couple of percentage points” over the past three years, according to Friedrich, who happily reports that revenues during that time have increased by a larger amount.

Friedrich says that the properties in Michigan “represent the most significant revenue growth,” a fact that he attributes in part to dynamic pricing. Like airlines, hotels and Lyft drivers, Boyne sets prices according to demand, a model that allows it to charge whatever the market will bear at its most popular courses while offering price-sensitive customers some attractive options at less-popular courses. Bay Harbor, for example, typically charges $100 to $125 per round, but Friedrich says that last year it rang up roughly 100 rounds at $325.

To ensure that its customers continue to pay top dollar, Boyne has embraced an old idea: Fun. Over the past year or two, it’s relaxed the dress codes at its courses, so vacationers can now wear jeans. (“Even the fanciest restaurants in Michigan let you wear them,” Friedrich acknowledged.) It’s outfitted its golf carts with USB ports and speakers, so golfers can enjoy their favorite music at what Friedrich calls “reasonable levels.” It’s even letting golfers negotiate their rounds via GolfBoards instead of golf carts.

Boyne has also invested in improvements to its courses in recent years, and more renovations are on tap for 2018, as upgrades will be done at Boyne Mountain and Crooked Tree. What’s more, Boyne is considering new development. The company has a routing for a Pete Dye-designed course at Boyne Mountain, a venture that Friedrich calls “a possibility,” and it has some property at Boyne Highlands that may become a layout playable in six-, nine- or 12-hole loops.

“It would be a shorter, family-friendly course with lots of playing options,” Friedrich said.

Next up for Boyne, however, is hotel construction. In late 2016, a fire effectively destroyed 71 rooms at Boyne Highlands’ main lodge. The hotel will be rebuilt, probably in 2019, with luxury accommodations to attract deep-pocketed travelers from all over America. By going upscale, Boyne figures that it can better compete against nearby regional resorts such as Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek and Treetops and, more broadly, against national destinations such as Pinehurst in North Carolina and Kohler in Wisconsin.


Boyne Resorts

3951 Charlevoix Ave.  Petoskey, Mich. 49770  231-439-4750 phone / 231-439-4786 fax





Bay Harbor Golf Club / Bay Harbor, Mich. / Daily fee, 27 holes

Big Sky Resort / Big Sky, Mont. / Daily fee, 18 holes

Boyne Highlands Resort / Harbor Springs, Mich. / Daily fee 72 holes

Boyne Mountain Resort / Boyne Falls, Mich. / Daily fee, 36 holes

Crooked Tree Golf Club / Petoskey, Mich. / Daily fee, 18 holes

Sugarloaf Golf Course / Carrabassett Valley, Maine / Municipal, 18 holes


Add new comment

If you enjoyed this article and would like to sign up for a FREE digital subscription, click here!