Much-traveled golf instructor back in his hometown
Bill Baldwin gives a lesson to Mike Neumeyer, the contractor who built the new indoor facility at Lake Nepessing Golfland. Photo by Dan Nilsen ELBA TWP. — Bill Baldwin has come home — part-time, at least.
The 1970 Lapeer High graduate and renowned golf teacher is back in town this winter, working as an instructor at newly remodeled Lake Nepessing Golfland, where a 3,100-square-foot expansion has turned the miniature golf course and driving range into a year-round facility for hitting balls and learning to play better.
Baldwin brings with him more than three decades of golf instruction that have taken him from Lapeer to Flushing Valley Country Club, to Boca Raton, Fla., to Bloomington, Ill., to Franklin Hills near Detroit, back to Flushing at King Par and, most recently, to The Jewel of Grand Blanc.
Golfland owner Steve Carlson lured him home with just the kind of winter facilities Baldwin needed—heated tee boxes, a stateof the-art golf simulator, indoor teaching stations and a 1,000-square-foot indoor putting green, where Baldwin can ply his trade regardless of the weather.
“ We just thought it would be a good match,” said Carlson. “I had heard he might be looking for a place in the winter, so I gave him a call. He already had a fairly large clientele, and he’s got some great credentials. He likes our facility, and we like having him here.”
Baldwin was impressed upon his first visit. He had been giving winter lessons at the dome in Auburn Hills, but Golfland’s outdoor driving range beats that by a country mile.
“ What this offers to players of all levels is ball flight, and that’s very rare in Michigan throughout the winter,” said Baldwin. “They can go to the dome, which is great, but that’s 100 yards, and that’s it. The majority of my students are college players and good players, and they want to see ball flight.
“I think Steve will be successful because they can see full ball flight and get instruction in a great environment here. It’s something Lapeer has really needed.”
Baldwin was already at work last Sunday, giving lessons and tips during the Grand Opening of the new facility. The day also turned into a homecoming of sorts.
“I’ve seen people I haven’t seen since high school,” he said with a big smile. “It’s like going to a class reunion in golf. It’s just nice to come back home, so to speak.”
Baldwin went on to Western Michigan University after graduating form Lapeer and got his start in the golf business by mowing greens at Rolling Hills Golf Course.
“It just grew from there,” he said.
His accomplishments are numerous. He is a PGA Certified Instructor, a Hank Haney Level 1 Instructor, and a Certified SAM PuttLab Instructor, with proven ability in teaching all levels and facets of golf. He mentored under Golf Digest top instructors Haney, Jim McLean, Martin Hall and Jimmy Ballard. He was the 2009 Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year, and was runnerup in 2007 and 2008. He has multiple Golf Digest awards for Best Teachers in the State (Michigan) and has been nominated for Top 100 Golf Magazine Teacher of the Year in 2011-12.
On the course, he has won PGA Section events in Michigan, Illinois and Florida, qualified and competed in the 2003 USGA Senior Open at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, qualified and competed in the 1982 Buick Open, and competed in three Club Pro National Championships and a Senior Club Pro National Championship.
Lately, though, he prefers teaching.
“I’ve given up a little bit of my play,” Baldwin said. “To me, it’s more exciting to see my students win the trophies than me. I’ve won my share, but I’m very happy to hear their successes and their stories.”
Some of his students include current LPGA Tour player Shasta Averyhardt; this year’s Michigan Amateur champion, Willie Mack III, and the three Bauer sisters of Grand Blanc who played at Michigan— Ashley, Meagan and Shana. In all, he’s developed over 30 scholar-athletes who have gone on to set new standards for performance for their respective high school and college teams.
Baldwin foresees the new Lake Nepessing Golfland facility having an impact on area high school teams.
“If we look at the golf teams from Lapeer a couple years from now, having this at their doorstep, if they’re not already a powerhouse, they will become one,” he predicted.
Baldwin figures he’ll start out giving lessons two days a week and see what develops. He and Carlson have nothing etched in stone beyond this winter.
“It could develop into more,” Baldwin said. “It’s tough to say right now where home will be. Right now, Grand Blanc is home. But I’m going to certainly utilize this as much as I can, and if it turns out where I can get a good student base here, there’s no better place to be than my old hometown.”