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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Bottrall

Golf & Silver Birches

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

So, I did a thing. I golfed with my husband on Mackinac Island.

Poor David. We golfed together once, more than 25 years ago, and let’s just say we promised to never do that again! But Monday he was supposed to golf with a friend and after a last-minute cancellation I agreed to go with him instead. David golfs at the Wawashkamo Golf Club as often as he can, but he had agreed to show a friend the course at the Grand Hotel. This would be his first time there and he didn't want to give it up just because the friend had cancelled.

Now, those who really know me, know that I'm not athletic. But it didn't matter. I only agreed to ride in the cart, keep him company and enjoy the views. And what beautiful views! The Jewel at the Grand Hotel really is a jewel. The course is perched on the top of the island like a diamond in a beautiful ring. The Grand Hotel is visible from every hole, providing many photo opportunities.

Number four with its slight dog leg to the right has a new stream bubbling down boulders at the back of the green. To sit and listen to the cry of gulls, the clop of horses feet, and the babble of the brook while breathing in the scent of freshly mowed grass....I didn't want to open my eyes and let the world back in. Sublime.

We ran into the golf course superintendent, Drew Butterfield, at hole number seven. He told us that their maintenance crew was down to 15 people this year. But the new owners have supplemented the missing staff with lots of heavy equipment enabling them to make improvements to the course that Drew has been envisioning for years.

The views down the sides of the hills were breathtaking. Hole number seven was a 245-foot par three drive to the green surrounded by water. The wind blowing across the big lake and onto the tee box brought with it deep breaths of the purest air you will ever breathe. It's totally deserving of its reputation as one of the top 18 holes in the state of Michigan.

As we approached the Jockey Club coming up the ninth fairway it was wonderful to see one of our favorite restaurants from a different viewpoint. Alvin, our favorite waiter, recognized us out on the green and waved us in. We just couldn't resist having lunch there. By the way, if you haven't tried the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at the Jockey Club you have to give that a go. It's absolutely my new favorite. The tomato is cut almost 2 inches thick and is slathered with tomato jam, crispy bacon, and a spicy dressing. Oh my! Click here for my copycat recipe to tide you over until you can make it there.

Later that week we attended an event put on by the Mackinac Arts Council at Silver Birches. Silver Birches is a private home owned by the Ware family since 2013. Originally, built between 1906 and 1912 by Mrs. Edna Troop as a lodge on the North side of Mackinac Island, it sits tucked behind the bike path right near British Landings. Over the years the lodge has been operated as a resort, a girls camp and a summer rental. But in the early 2000's it was boarded up until discovered by Liz Ware, whose family are also the owners of Mission Point Resort.

When our carriage pulled up to Silver Birches our breath caught. Having never laid eyes on the home, I had no idea what to expect. The beautifully restored log and shingle home was breathtaking. Over 200 well-dressed party goers milled about on the lawn and the balconies that wrapped the residence were filled with people sipping on champagne. Speaking of well-dressed people - I had purchased a dress just for the occasion and Kathy Wawrzyniak, our friend from Mackinac's Little Gallery apparently had the same idea! If I had to copy anyone, there is no one classier than Kathy! (See photo below)

The carriage dropped us near the glorious flower gardens that flowed from the foundations of twin barns. On one barn was a plaque with a poem written in tribute to Suzanne Ware, the matriarch of the family who passed in 2019. There is a photo of the piece below. Thank you to Michelle Walk for remembering to record the poem. The homage was also recited by Arts Council Board Member, Jeri-Lynn Bailey, who emceed that night.

Walking into the party we strolled past an elaborate bridge that connects the main house to a small cottage behind it and another small cottage sits over to the left.

Entering through the front door of Silver Birches one is greeted by a stone fireplace that wraps around the corner from the foyer into the dining room. One can just imagine being greeted by the warmth of a snapping fire back when the home was built. Filled with natural light from the many mullioned windows, views to the outside take on a magical quality when peering through the original wavy glass. Much of the furnishings appear to be hand hewn from gigantic pieces of timber. There is a computer station in the house with a desk that seats four. The top is bowed by the wear of past users and the wood has a sheen that only years and years of use can bring. One can imagine the owners spending a lifetime searching for just the right pieces to fill this space.

The bedrooms all have beds covered with the most luxurious, overstuffed, white duvets you just want to jump into. Each room has their own adjoining bath with all new tile and free-standing tubs that any romantic could while away an evening soaking in. Kudos to Suze Oostendorp and Chris Mann for agreeing to pose in the copper tub.

The kitchen, which was an addition at some point in the homes 100+ years, has been beautifully restored with new countertops and tile, new appliances, and a center island large enough to have four caterers comfortably working at. One whole wall is filled with an oven that is rumored to have cost more than most homes and was shipped from France. Of course those are just the rumors, but I could easily die happy cooking at that oven.

Also of note that night was the chance to meet Jim Bogan, author of several volumes of poetry and a lifelong Mackinac Island summer resident. Bogan is a legend on Mackinac Island, and I found his tales of living far away from the "hustle of the downtown city," quite entertaining.

All in all, it appeared to be a very successful night for the Mackinac Arts Council and many thanks go to the Ware family for allowing their beautiful home to be showcased.

The copycat recipe for the Jockey Club’s Fried Green Tomato Sandwich is below. I couldn’t find green tomatoes on the island so substituted a very firm red tomato and a few small tomatillos. Still a great sandwich. By the way, the Kale and Cherry Salad recipe I did earlier this summer would go really well with this. Get that recipe by clicking HERE.

To enjoy all the beauty of Silver Birches, make sure to scroll through the many photos below.

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