Who says you have to wait until warm weather to play golf in Northeast Michigan?
For nine consecutive years, a sociable group in Hubbard Lake has braved the elements for one Saturday in February to participate in an unusual Winter Golf Outing. The catch is the golfers aren't wielding the expected golfing implements nor are they playing on well-manicured greens. Instead, the hardy participants take to the ice on Hubbard Lake and try their luck with tennis balls and hockey sticks.
"A friend of mine from Indiana showed me how to make a course on the ice," said Hubbard Lake resident Jerry Miller, organizer of the event. "He made all the flags for the course."
Miller tried the event out in his community and found others willing to embrace it. Each year since then the Winter Golf Outing continues to grow, with this year featuring a total of 28 four-person teams participating.
"We've added music, a bonfire and snacks, with everything donated," Miller said.
About 100 spectators also showed up for this year's event. Not only did everyone enjoy the experience, but it also was held for a good cause. Since Miller came up with the concept nine years ago, it has been held as a benefit and provides funds to numerous charities.
Money is generated through food concessions and the $5 entry fee charged per person. This year's recipient of the $1,312 collected at the event was the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena. Miller recently presented the funds to the club's executive director, Susan Nielsen.
"It was just amazing to receive this totally unexpected gift," Nielsen said. "The club, like all non-profits, is struggling and we can use all the help we can get. We are so appreciative."
Some of the other past recipients of the fundraising efforts include Hubbard Lake Lions Club, Hubbard Lake Community Center, Hospice of the Sunrise Shore and Hospice of Michigan.
When it came to designing this year's course, Miller relied on Dan Addis, Jimmy Poole, Mike Town, Al Fletemier, Kenny Mathewson and Brian Meldrum to help him. Participating golfers worked their way through nine holes, including one with a tunnel. Other on-the-ice holes sported sandtraps and challenging curves.
"There's actually a fairway, too," Miller said. "If the ball goes off the fairway, the golfers might have a little bit of trouble getting it back on the course. Everything is just done for a lot of fun."
Two trophies are given out for the lowest score among the men and the women, although not all golfers keep score. A 50/50 drawing also is distributed to the person with the longest drive.
So far, Mother Nature seems to have smiled on the event as Miller reports good weather for all nine years.
"Every time we've had it, the weather has just been a great day," he said. "For some reason we've been lucky out there on the ice."
As the organizer, Miller is appreciative of all the volunteers who help out and all the individuals and businesses who donate to the cause with either refreshments or others goods and services.