If you spend any amount of time at the Tamaracks Golf Course the laid-back vibe of the course and the family that run it make you want to stay a while. On my recent visit I spoke with Mike Hawkins and his daughter Megan Hawkins-Morris about their 40-year anniversary.
The course was opened by brothers Tom, Mike, and Steve Hawkins and along with their wives in 1981. Mike Hawkins recalls they opened on Memorial Day weekend.
“We had a little bitty plywood shack out here at that time. No building. You might as well say no grass. There wasn’t much grass, no watering system. We had no power carts.” Hawkins even recalls the first customer, Ed Rogers, who paid $5 to golf. When asked if he framed that $5, he laughed and said, “We needed that $5, we had to have it.” They even sold firewood to buy grass seed.
His daughter Megan points out how old the brothers were in 1981. Mike was just 27 and the oldest brother. His parents had just sold their golf business, so with some experience they had to decide to get real jobs or go into business for themselves. They bought their first 80 acres on the site and with an old pick-up truck and a few tools began their course.
“Over the first year and a half we kind of made it look like a golf course. The biggest thing we had to do here was come up with pull carts. At one time we had 30 or 40 pull carts. And people would wait for them to come in. Power carts just weren’t used.”
The course had 9 holes until 1991. They purchased another 80 acres to bring the course to a full 18 holes. Around 2000 they put an addition on the club house and got their liquor license. They also took on a partner in the Ashcraft family. They added a subdivision with lots and homes for development.
“The success story to it is, if there is one is really the maturity of the trees. You look out now and all these trees are nice but in 1981 there were itty bitty trees. The place has matured a lot in 40 years. We dug a lot of ponds, there’s water on half the holes.”
Everyone in their family has had some hand in the operation. The family is busy during the 120 days of summer with a nice break in the winter. All their children and grandchildren have worked on the course at some time or another. Mike points out the excellent job his brother Tom does on the grounds. Steve moved on to another job after designing the course and is nearing retirement.
Mike shared the Tamaracks motto, “We’re not the Country Club, just a nice club in the Country. We try to keep our prices reasonable. We are just a nice place; we have our little bar here and a great nucleus of people who come here for hamburgers and beers.”
“None of us have ever really made a lot of money here at all but however to pick a lifestyle, I don’t know where you’d go to beat it. Our friends come to see us and pay us money. We hang out with our family. It has been an awful good ride.”
Megan agrees, “Who has more fun than we do?” Mike considers himself lucky to be living a job most might consider their retirement dream job he’s been able to do for 40 years. His one complaint? He wasn’t blessed with a better golf game.
“I was never any good. I play in a league every week and we have so much fun. I guess I would hope to be average, no better than that and it’s a shame.”
Certainly, the Tamaracks Golf Course is not an average place. It has a Cheers television show feel in a beautiful northern Michigan setting.