News and Information
Interlochen couple donates course
NMU takes over Chocolay Downs
BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY -- Joe and Patsie Gibbs were in a giving mood this past holiday season.
The Interlochen couple donated their 18-hole golf course near Marquette -- Chocolay Downs Golf Club -- to Northern Michigan University.
The transfer was completed Dec. 31, said Gavin Leach, NMU's vice president of finance.
The property's valued at $1.6 million.
"Usually, donations are in the form of (cash)," Leach said. "We've had some land donated, but nothing in the nature of a golf course. It's very unusual, but very generous. This was appealing to us for our academic programs. We're very excited about this gift."
Joe and Patsie Gibbs built the course in the early 1990s after purchasing 600 acres in Chocolay Township. They eventually acquired another 200 acres. The couple donated the 220-acre golf course and kept the remaining acreage for development.
"Joe and I just thought it was the right thing to do," Patsie said.
The couple, who had earlier opened the Crystal Lake Golf Club in Beulah. contacted the university about purchasing the development a few years ago.
"We talked to them quite a bit, but they weren't that interested," Patsie said. "We didn't know it at the time, but it was the development property they weren't interested in. They would have been interested in just the golf course."
In 2006, the couple sold the course on a land contract to a group from California so they could move back to the Grand Traverse area. However, they re-acquired it when the new owners stopped making payments.
"It was a friendly foreclosure, if there is such a thing," Joe said. "They're very nice people, but they lived in California and it's difficult to run a business (in Michigan) from California. When we had it, we ran it."
Now they had it back. And it didn't take long for Patsie to come up with a novel idea of what to do with it.
"On the way home (after re-acquiring the course), Pat brought up the idea of donating it," Joe said. "She said Northern wanted this (golf course) at one time and it didn't work out, let's see if they'll take it if we give it to them. Obviously, they were very happy to talk to us about it."
The deal took just two months to be finalized.
"We heard about it in late fall and from there it progressed rather quickly," Leach said. "We think this will provide great opportunities for our students."
The university plans to keep the course open to the public with proceeds to be used for student scholarships and academic programming. The course will also become the home for the school's golf team and will be utilized for other outdoor recreational programs like cross-country running and skiing. "They're excited about it and that's great because that's a beautiful piece of property the golf course sits on," Patsie said. "There are some rolling hills back in there that it make interesting. The first time (designer) Jerry Matthews looked at, he said this was one piece of ground that God made for a golf course. It's beautiful up there. We realized they (university) could take it to the next level and that's where we wanted it to go."
Chocolay Downs becomes the ninth golf course in Michigan to be owned and operated by one of the state's public universities.