Thanks to NCAA Tournaments and a Litany of Championship-Level Courses

On Monday, May 6th, at approximately 6:37 a.m., 12 large vans descended upon the Forest Akers West parking lots in East Lansing, Michigan. They were donned in collegiate colors with recognizable mascots, carrying approximately 72 ponytails, 66 golf bags (filled with top notch equipment), and somewhere in the range of 232 protein snack bars for the three-day, 54-hole challenge that lies ahead. The 24 coaches and their 60 players had all prepared thoroughly for the NCAA women’s regional tournament, one that most coaches asterisk and highlight as the most important test of their season. Six different regional tournaments were happening at the exact same time across the country, each with 12 teams battling for the top four spots in their region. Those lucky, surviving four will punch their tickets into the NCAA National Championship field.

What is immeasurable is the number of hours that each of those women golfers and their coaches have invested into preparation for that exact moment, tournament, and level of pressure. Playing in the National Championship is a top goal for a collegiate golfer and her team. Forest Akers West golf course was sure to present the ultimate test for these players, promising thick rough, fast greens, and Michigan’s signature: unpredictable spring weather. Little do the other teams know, the Lady Spartans had made roughly 47 trips around this track already this season, and they did not intend on letting that edge go to waste. They surely had a game plan to attack the reachable par 5, 13th hole; they knew the incoming wind pattern and how it would alter the tricky approach to the 18th. Not only had they conquered the ins and outs of Forest Akers West’s lush grounds, but they have used all of Lansing’s golf offerings to prepare for the challenges they may face during their conference and post-season championship run.

Golfer about to putt on the edge of the green

In her 27 years of coaching, Michigan State Women’s Head Coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll has used the variety and high quality of golf in and around Michigan’s capital city to help her team prepare for every kind of challenge they may face. Between Eagle Eye, Hawk Hollow, College Fields, and Timber Ridge Golf Courses, all within 15 miles of East Lansing, there is a different championship level challenge around every corner. If the Spartan Women were to go on to qualify for the National Championship, they would need to find a way to prepare for the NCAA challenge of the Champions Course at San Diego’s Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

East Lansing’s Timber Ridge may be Coach’s first stop with the team, to emulate the narrow fairways and reachable par 5s they will see out West. Timber Ridge’s many dogleg holes, hidden corners and quirks could be just the trick to broaden their preparation. If Coach Stacy thinks her team needs to improve their lag putting for the post season, history shows she will make the short drive to Hawk Hollow for the large greens that always promise to be rolling at a great pace. While the team visits Hawk Hollow, they will also find benefit in playing the tough par 3s with forced carries over water and hopefully conquer a few of the tricky lines off the tee. A trip across the street to Eagle Eye guarantees great practice in the wind, and with the open links-like views, may be a good visual variation from most Midwest golf designs. The elevated, undulated greens and complex approach angles at Eagle Eye are the best championship preparation a golfer could ask for.

Coach Stacy’s eight Big Ten championships and 13 NCAA tournament appearances speak for themselves, but the successes of Coach and her team were elevated when they took the top spot at last year’s Palm Beach regional tournament. Besting the field by three strokes and winning a regional tournament for the first time in program history added this tremendous accolade to the long history of Spartan Golf success. This is surely a reflection of the five-time Big Ten Coach of The Year and her ability to prepare her team to compete with the best in the nation – straight from the fairways of Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan State Women's Golf Team Hugging

The greater Lansing area may not be known as the “Home of Golf ” like Scotland or the “Golf Mecca” like Pinehurst, North Carolina, but for the lucky few who live there, Michigan is known to be golf ’s hidden treasure trove. There are golf gems aplenty in Northern Michigan, the West Michigan Lakeshore, and right in the heart of Lansing. As the Lansing golf scene has grown, so has its reputation – which was bolstered when the Michigan State Men’s golf team was granted the rights to host a 2023 NCAA regional at Lansing’s premiere golf destination, Eagle Eye Golf Course.

It’s hard to imagine a greater golf test than what you face in the closing stretch of the final six holes at Eagle Eye. It surely provided fireworks for the teams vying for a spot in last year’s NCAA Championship. With the last six holes all being guarded or lined by water, including the marquee 17th hole, a complete island green replica of the TPC Sawgrass premiere 17th hole. When players play Eagle Eye they will always remember what they did on the difficult, but thrilling 17th. A challenging round wouldn’t be complete without the cherry on top: the par 5, 18th hole is the longest on the course with water completely lining the right side. A blind approach to a 3-tiered green will ensure that when you walk off and sign your scorecard, you’ve earned it.

Golfer hitting ball across water to the putting green.

The Lansing golf lovers and supporters came out to Eagle Eye in droves, and not only supported the MSU Men Golfers, but proved that the quality of the Lansing golf scene might not be so secret anymore. Not long before this, the MSU Women’s regional was announced to be at Forest Akers Golf Course for 2024 Spring season. The opportunity to host an NCAA regional is an immense honor and privilege for a university and its surrounding areas. It involves a bid and selection process that takes into consideration all aspects of hosting a tournament – from the hotel and local restaurant selection to the ease of travel and ability to recruit volunteers. Pulling off a golf tournament of that stature is no easy feat. To host both the Men’s and Women’s regionals in back-to-back years is a testament to Lansing, its golf community, and its golf prowess.

On April 24th during golf ’s version of Selection Sunday, Notre Dame Women’s Head Coach and former Spartan stand out Caroline Powers found out she will be accompanying Graduate Student Lauren Beaudreau to East Lansing as she competes in the individual portion of the regional. “Forest Akers West and East Lansing are the perfect place for an NCAA Women’s Golf regional. Coming back to my alma mater will be great, as the venue and hospitality are second to none. I am sure many teams are hoping for East Lansing.” She went on to say, “MSU and Choose Lansing do an incredible job hosting and welcoming in the field from all over the country. It is a great showcase of the university and city.”

Path through Forest Akers West golf course

With all the changes happening in the world of golf recently, golfers find themselves looking to hold onto something pure and traditional to the game of golf we all know and love. Yet, we see the importance of moving forward in today’s ever-changing society and acknowledge that it is natural to crave something new and fresh. Staying true to golf ’s traditions is at the heart of the game, but the “Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden” G.O.L.F. acronym that has been the brunt of many bad jokes is now a thing of the past. The PGA of America estimates that over 800,000 women golfers joined the game between 2020 and 2022. The PGA Golf Show Instagram account shared, “With a rapid increase of women-owned golf brands at the 2024 PGA Show and a growing inclusion of women into the sport, it’s clear that women’s golf is on a massive upswing.” That growth is proudly reflected in Michigan and the Lansing area with new ladies’ golf leagues popping up at courses all over town, and more women’s foursomes represented at weekend fundraisers and corporate outings. It’s safe to say the new wave of ladies and their appreciation of the game may have been the refresh the golf world didn’t know it needed.

Lansing is a city with pride, loyalty, and a long history of athletics. From Magic Johnson to Ryan Miller, and coaches like Tom Izzo and Bruce and Mary Fossum, there is never a shortage of local support from the sports lovers and followers. With a community of athletics worth writing stories about, the greater Lansing area promises to continue to champion all sports, whether youth, high school, college or professional. The growth in women’s athletics has been refreshing and long overdue - and as it is worth celebrating, let’s keep the pedal to the metal. Not just for the MSU ladies and college golfers with dreams of playing in a National Championship, but for all the women in Lansing and beyond, walking the fairways together toward the future of golf.

For complete NCAA Women’s Tournament results, head to

Photo credits: Choose Lansing and Tom Gennara

Reprinted with permission from Midwest Golfing Magazine.