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A Day of Cadys

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
David Leadbetter and Cadillac XLR

A DAY OF CADILLACS AND GOLF By Steve Purdy and Joe Chagnon Detroit Bureau Photos By Joe Chagnon

Luxury car makers love to court golfers. We found ourselves last week behind the wheels of a bevy of new Cadillacs and on a half dozen tee-boxes at Knollwood Country Club, a premier suburban Detroit golf course, for an opportunity to learn about both the cars and the game. The Detroit area Cadillac dealers and Callaway Golf invited a few hundred of us (golfers, not journalists) to a ride-and-drive combined with a half day of golf clinics headlined by one of the worlds top golf instructors, David Leadbetter.

Our day started early – before dawn. We were directed into the dark parking lot of the golf course by a cadre of youngsters in matching Cadillac garb. Lined up in the circle drive in front of the clubhouse a variety of Cadillac products awaited us, everything but the V-Series models, the truck-like ESV/EXT and the XLR. Waiting at the curb the CTS, STS, and DTS sedans, Escalades both long and short, and SRX crossovers were ready for us to drive them around the block one by one.

We had a grand time hopping from one to another making the four-mile loop in each. The CTS, starting around 30-grand, is a well-appointed entry-level sport sedan with a wonderfully edgy design. The full-size STS starts at 42-grand and represents the best in luxury car design. DTS, also starting in the low 40-grand range, evolved from the more traditional Cadillac DeVille, is the last remaining front-wheel-drive Caddy. The Escalades come in two lengths, think Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans with lots of bling. Escalades, particularly with the 22-inch wheels, appeal to the hip-hop culture represented by the fellow in front of us in line with the overdone body art; piercings, tattoos and earlobe inserts. Cadillac’s version of a “crossover SUV” is the SRX, essentially a CTS built higher off the ground and with an SUV shape and ambiance – the perfect upscale vehicle for a young family.

With each drive we were accompanied by either a salesman from one of the sponsoring dealerships or by a youngster, college students hired for the day mostly. The former knew about the products and could answer most of our questions but the latter were just there for looks, I guess, and perhaps to keep us on course for the test drives.

After driving all those Cadillacs back to back it’s easy to see why GM’s luxury division is doing better than the rest of the corporation. Those products are all well-designed, tightly built and have loads of character and personality. Materials are first-rate, and workmanship is excellent. Three of those products, CTS, STS and SRX are built by GM’s top quality plant in Lansing, Michigan.

Now, on to the golf course.

We were organized into groups of about 20 and guided from station to station. We pulled up at the tee where well-known professional Randy Erskin, a touring pro who teaches at a local course, gave an enlightening lesson of proper driving technique using some big Callaway clubs. Joe, whose handicap is in low single figures, smacked a few impressive drives but Erskin still had some advice to make them a bit straighter. Steve, whose handicap is considerably more stratospheric got a couple of decent shots off the tee without embarrassing himself. Erskin had lots of advice on improving that ragged swing.

We had a lesson on the green for putting technique and the fine points of reading the green. We had one in front of the green for short chips and another out in the fairway enlightening us on good iron play. The morning was well spent with both of us garnering a few tips that might improve our afternoon round.

Then we headed for the bleachers at the driving range. The Cadillacs that we didn’t get the chance to drive, the XLR roadster (Cadillac’s version of the Corvette) and the high-performance V-Series cars, CTS-V, STS-V and XLR-V, all with under 5-second zero-to-sixty times, were lined up along the driving range in front of the bleachers while the Cadillac PR folks introduced the day’s feature - the group lesson by David Leadbetter.

The personable and entertaining Leadbetter spent most of an hour on some very basic but often misunderstood mistakes that hurt our games. Even though his microphone didn’t work most of the time we barely noticed as we were enamored with his lecture and demonstrations.

Now, let’s go use what we learned. We have an afternoon tee time at The Orchards Golf Club in Northeastern Macomb County, an 18-hole championship course designed by internationally acclaimed golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. In 2002 The Orchards hosted the 77th US Amateur Public Links Championship and the course has hosted many other tournaments and PGA qualifiers.

From the championship tees the course is extremely challenging rated at 74.5 with a slope rating of 136. It stretches just over 7-thousand yards from all the way back. After some warm-up time at the well-appointed range we moved onto the course. From the first tee we looked down the pristine fairway to see downtown Detroit 26 miles to the south. Joe, an accomplished golfer, tees up from the tips. Steve modestly moves two tees forward to the whites. No sense in abusing himself, he figures.

The front 9 meanders through woodland and open areas with gracefully undulating fairways lined and crossed by many “sensitive areas,” that is, nature areas where birds nest and wild flowers thrive. Every hole has its own unique challenge. Lots of deep bunkers with steep lips make escape extremely difficult when we get caught in one.

The course is beautifully manicured and abundant with wild flowers and natural habitat just starting into its fall glory. Small ponds near the picturesque par three #2 and par four #16 holes accommodate turtles basking in the sun and blue herons hunting in the shallows near the bank. An occasional red-tail hawk screeches as it passes by looking for a snack. The #9 hole is the number one handicap on the course, a 450-yard beast uphill into the prevailing wind with well-placed bunkers.

The back nine is more open but more hilly. The fall colors are rich along the 602-yard #11 hole sweeping along small wet lands - a hole not for the weak of heart. The #18 hole is a great finishing hole with water, plenty of bunkers and trees encroaching on the edges of the down-sloping fairway. An out-of-bounds area guards the narrow approach to the green.

The Orchards is exquisitely designed and accented by its surrounding natural beauty. Even though The Orchards is long with plenty of trouble for an errant shot the course plays fairly with each hole offering its own risks and rewards.

Back in the bright, airy clubhouse we quaff a pitcher of brown beer and add up the scores. As usual, Joe shot in the 70s and as for Steve’s score; let’s just say he enjoyed the golfing experience at The Orchards.

What could be better than a day of driving Cadillacs and playing golf.