Loggers Trace at Springport Hills Beckons Golfers to the Sunrise Side of Michigan
HARRISVILLE – Steve Ashford of Loggers Trace at Springport Hills first purchased the nine-hole Springport Hills part of the 27-hole facility 30 years ago and soon found that the golfers in the area and those who visited in the summer wanted more.
Steve and his brother John formed a partnership, bought the 157 acres across Springport Road – and armed with the advice of the Michigan State University extension service to build tees and greens and clear in between on a perfect setting for golf – created the Loggers Trace 18 holes.
“We fit the holes to the lay of the land,” Steve, a former builder said while seated with his wife Ann in the cozy, functional clubhouse that he also designed and built just off U.S. 23 on the sunrise side of the state.
The result is a 6,401-yard Loggers Trace course with a front nine that fits naturally through hardwoods and across rolling hills demanding some straight-line golf, and a back nine that opens up across natural meadows and former farm land to offer pleasant variety and more challenges from the winds and weather dictated by Lake Huron just across the road.
“As we were building it I said to John we need to come up with a name, and it was John who came up with the Loggers Trace,” he said. “This area had obviously been lumbered, and there were some of the old pine stumps still out there all hollowed out. John thought we should call it Loggers Trace because there was still a trace of the area’s history here.”
Steve and his wife, Ann, are celebrating their 30th season running the operation. The first nine of Loggers Trace opened in 1994, 21 years ago, and 10 years later in part due to more golfer requests for yet another nine to go with the new nine, opened the back nine.
They did it as Steve calls it, in house, purchasing the bulldozer and climbing aboard, and buying a dump truck, tree spade and ditch witch, too. A retired surgeon, Dr. Merle Childers of Rochester who has a home on the golf course, did the irrigation system wiring as sort of a hobby.
“It has strictly been a labor of love by all, and of course once we got it up and got it going with 27 holes, the economy kind of petered out,” Steve said and laughed. “So now, we are in rehab.”
Steve and Ann are 65, but brief thoughts of retirement have been put aside. They go 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for a limited Northern Michigan seven-month golf season and try to come up with new ways to attract golfers.
“Golf is in a transition,” Steve said. “We are seeing here that younger couples in their 30s are not playing, not into it, but we are finding grandparents who are bringing their grandchildren out. It seems like golf is skipping a generation, and that’s been part of the challenge.”
The challenge continues with the Ashford’s keeping a positive attitude. They see added tourist development in Alpena to the north as a good omen, and U.S. 23 that runs just east of the property remains a major coastal route up the state’s east side for those Mackinaw Island bound.
They have the golf course waiting for more golfers to find it. It is challenging, especially through the rolling woodlands on the front, but offers a great variety of looks and shots to the golfer in a rustic, natural setting that is delightfully serene and peaceful. To top things off the deep blue waters of Lake Huron are a visible backdrop over the trees on at least three holes.
“Our course is just like this area, peaceful, beautiful and a nice place to visit,” Ann said.
Rick Sedgewick, a school teacher from the area, is a regular. He walks and plays almost daily through the golf season. He’s a character of sorts, and has given a key four-hole stretch on the front nine he has deemed “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” names. No. 3 through 6 are to him “Death Valley,” “Feast or Famine,” “Belly-Up Bend,” and “Top Flight Golf.”
“I love it here, and those four holes determine your score each time,” he said.
Instruction is available. Teaching pro Sue Treciak, a former school teacher and standout player, has been at the facility for 11 years. The superintendent is Dave Hanson. Daughter Lindsay Nardi works at the course, too, and especially likes hopping on a mower and working outside.
“Come and visit,” Steve said. “Once people play here, we find they really like it.”