MESICK — Between the trees and the rolling hills, early-morning light creates a lot of shadows on a golf course.

New owners of Antioch Hills Golf Club just east of Mesick are looking to lift the 18-hole tract out of the shadow of three years of bank ownership.

Tom and Sandi Spencer took over ownership of the golf course on M-115 in Mesick in September. Formerly Briar Creek and Briar North, the couple is breathing new life into the renamed course.

The draw of bringing the course, which first opened in 1989, back was something the long-time Mesick residents couldn’t resist. Sandi Spencer said the couple live “a mile behind the 12th hole.”

“If it was anywhere else, we wouldn’t have bought it,” said Tom Spencer, a 1984 graduate of Mesick High School who grew up hiking and hunting the property before it became a golf course.

“It’s good for the community. Sure we’ve made some mistakes. But we thought there were enough people to play golf, so we could learn as we go.”

“That’s what we do,” Sandi Spencer said of the couple’s entrepreneurial spirit and self-employed history. “We go for it.”

One thing the Spencers don’t have is experience owning a golf course. A long-time golfer, Tom Spencer started working for his father Chancy’s company, Mesick Molds, after graduating high school. He launched Spencer Plastics in 1998 and moved the company to Cadillac nearly five years ago.

So the Spencers have been leaning on the community as it brings back the old golf course with a new name. One needs only to look at the revamped entrance to see that.

Signplicity in Traverse City is responsible for the new sign along M-115. Randy Miles, the fire chief from Cherry Grove Township west of Cadillac worked on the landscaping, Dean Jurik and Tom Spencer put in new blocks around the entrance that features a gate fabricated by welder Jim Abraham.

“It’s been great seeing people in the community willing to invest with us,” Sandi Spencer said.

“There seems to be a lot of good, solid community involvement,” Tom Spencer added.

The grounds crew is composed not only of Mesick natives, but of three generations of the same family —assistant superintendent and irrigation specialist Ron Hoskins, son and superintendent Todd Hoskins, and grandson Tyler Hoskins.

“We have a very busy, capable, knowledgeable maintenance staff,” Sandi Spencer said. “They’re working their tails off to get things rolling again.”

Sandi Spencer said she’s also been working to get leagues, outings and the club team from Mesick School back on the property. She said Tuesday and Thursday are popular league nights.

“We’re not necessarily starting from scratch,” she said. “Cosmetically and internally, we’re trying to … build up the golf course’s reputation and customer base.”

The Spencers said a lack of customer service was a frequent complaint the couple heard during the time the course was owned by a downstate bank and run by a downstate leasing/maintenance company.

Sandi Spencer said the community wants to see “golf course improvements, management improvements and customer service improvements,” and they’re attacking that mission with a family focus.

“We’re not miracle workers,” she said. “But part of what we like to promote is: Our family is based here in the community. Our maintenance staff and all out-staff are based here in the community and are looking forward to making the investment with us.”

One of the advantages Antioch Hills has is its proximity to larger communities in the area.

“We’re between here and there and a lot of places,” Sandi Spencer said.

Antioch Hills is a Par-71 course that plays 5,817 yards from the black tees, 5,437 from the blues, 4,678 from the white and a shade over 4,000 from the yellow. Tee times and more information are available at (231) 885-1220.

Tom Spencer said Antioch Hills will remain true to the community golf course that it is now and moving forward.

“We’re hoping for the best,” he said. “It’s nice for the community, nice for the golfers who come from Traverse City, Kingsley and Buckley, so they have an alternative.

“For a reasonable price, $45 on the weekend, you can golf for 4½ to five hours out of your day. You get your cart and a fairly decent golf course.”