Michigan's New Courses Part I
by Dean Holzwarth
When venturing to the new golf course in Hart, Michigan, expect more than just a challenging 27 holes.
The Colonial Golf Course, which is expected to open on May 17, promises to deliver a "golfer-friendly" course, as well as top-notch service.
"Our biggest attribute will be our excellent golfer customer service," said head golf professional Daniel Donahue, who was the assistant golf professional at Thornapple Point Golf Course in Grand Rapids for two years.
"It's not just about experiencing 27 holes. It will be the best golf experience you can have. You'll be greeted with a smile and we will take care of you."
Golf designer Jeff Gorney has constructed a unique but fair golf course for the average and better golfer. It features every kind of terrain, including flat, rolling, straight and harsh doglegs.
"The risk-reward is there," Donahue said. "The placement shot doesn't have to be perfect because there are wide landing areas. There are some challenging shots, so don't let the yardages fool you."
When you first start out on the course, two features will instantly jump out at you: the very large tee boxes and greens.
"The greens are huge," Donahue said. "They have three-putt capabilities, but they are very fair rolling greens. They are very puttable with no side hill putts."
Playing off the gold (6856 yards), white (6278 yards), or red (5561 yards), the large tee boxes allow the golf course to play longer if desired. They could extend to 7100 yards, 6278 yards or 5561 yards, respectively, if needed.
Off the tee, the design of the course creates a fair landing area for missed golf shots by the average player, but penalizes the better player.
"The better golfer who hits straight or right to left will be penalized for errant golf shots, but the average golfer won't be hurt as bad because there's a bail-out area to the right," Donahue said.
Approach shots to the green will be fair, with no blind shots throughout the course. There are a couple of creeks underlying a few holes, but nearly every approach shot will be a risk-reward decision.
The signature hole of the course is No. 11, a 458-yard (white) par 5 with a dogleg right. It's another risk-reward hole with a lake and bunker fronting the green.
No. 15 is the hardest hole on the course and of course the top handicap hole. The 467-yard par 4 insists on an accurate approach shot to avoid bunkers engulfing the green on the right and left.
The easiest hole is No. 2, a 150-yard par 3, which has a bunker on the left, but is birdie-possible with a nice tee shot.
The Colonial also will include a lit driving range, full-service restaurant. (The Plantation opens April 16) and a recently renovated two-story, 17th century colonial clubhouse. Plans are being made to have actual hotel rooms in the clubhouse for golfers to stay and play.
Opening rates vary throughout the season and a golf cart is mandatory. From May 17-June 10 and September 7 through October 31, rates will be $25 for 18 holes with a cart on weekdays and $30 on weekends. Nine holes and a cart will be $20 all week.
During peak season, which is June 11-September 6, rates will be $40 for 18 holes with a cart during the week and $45 on the weekend. Nine holes will cost $25.
The Colonial, which features 18 holes, coincides with a 9-hole executive golf course called The Heritage. Rates on the executive course are $15 with a cart and $10 walking. From June 11-September 6, rates will be $12 for walking.
The Colonial is located 3/4 of a mile east off US 31 on 72nd Avenue. Call 616-873-8333 for tee times and more information.
by Greg Johnson
Invariably, when a new public/resort golf course opens in any part of the state south of Gaylord, the developers point to the fact that great golf will be available without the drive up north.
Island Hills in Centreville will set a new standard in this regard.
Designed by one of Michigan's hottest golf course architects, Ray Hearn, Island Hills will offer golfers 18 holes of resort golf in an eye-opening setting just 10 miles north of the Indiana Toll Road in south central Michigan.
"It will be a resort style course, a Michigan resort in the south, but also your country club for a day," said Tom Templin, who with his wife Lori plan to open the course this summer.
"Ray Hearn did a wonderful job with the design. I knew it was a special piece of land, and he has brought that to life."
Hearn, fast building a reputation for designing dramatic yet playable championship golf venues, considers the site the most unique he has worked in the state.
"The combination of the lake, the peninsula and the island with some beautiful Michigan land forms makes it a very unique place, one that golfers will want to seek out to see and play," he said.
Lake Templene, a beautiful man-made lake created by Tom's father as part of housing development near Centreville, is the centerpiece of the course. A cape hole that features a tee on a small island not much bigger than the tee area itself, will present a must-play, must-talk-about challenge to golfers.
In addition, a grouping of holes in and around the island and peninsula offer a nature tour combined with a spectacular golf experience.
"At ique cape holes with an island tee, play a hole with what has to be one of the longest sand bunkers this side of the California beaches and take his or her last approach shot over a creek and waterfall.
The long bunker, which twists, turns and winds amid a natural grassland along the entire side of the par 4 No. 6 hole, measures about one-half mile in length.
"It's one of the most unique things I've ever seen," said Templin.
"It's something like 6,000 yards of sand, but I don't think it makes the hole unplayable. It just makes it very interesting, and really, it takes a bad shot to be there."
Hearn said the hole offered a chance for something unique.
"It just works there," he said. "I didn't set out to build a bunker that long, but I really think it works."
The final hole, which brings golfers back up from the holes on the lake and a boat slip/dock that will also provide access to the clubhouse and restaurant on site, will send golfers away with one final memory. The small waterfall, enhanced slightly from a natural one in the creek in front of the green, is a stunning feature and challenge at the same time.
Early May is the target day for opening the course, and the preliminary fee structure lists cart golf rounds at $60 Thursday through Sunday and on holidays, and $50 Monday through Wednesday.
The yardage of the course will vary depending on which yardage the golfer decides to play based on a system of multiple tee choices (five at each hole). It measures 7,050 roomy yards, and is cut from over 430 acres of land.
"We wanted a golf course that any golfer can enjoy, and it was a very important requirement, "Tom said. "We've had some people out to play, investors and neighbors, friends, players of all abilities, and the feedback is very positive."
The development of 194 home sites in the area of the course and Lake Templene is also associated with the project, and some will have views of the golf course and lake. Tom expects to draw golfers from the nearby South Bend, Indiana area, as well as Kalamazoo to the north, Three Rivers, just a few miles away, and Chicago.
"We won't be hard to find, and we will save you that long drive up north," he said.
For more information, call 616-467-7261.
by Don VanderVeen
After turning 50, Randy Erskine has taken a somewhat different perspective on golf.
Sure, his age makes him eligible to qualify for the Senior PGA Tour and compete in senior events around the state.One month after his magical birthday, Erskine renewed acquaintences from his bygone days of grinding it out on the regular PGA Tour after being granted a sponsor's exemption to compete in last summer's First of America Classic in Grand Rapids.
But that is only part of it.
Now that he has made the turn to 100, Erskine's involvement in the golf business is taking a slight change of course. As a matter of fact, that change of course IS a course. A golf course.
The youngest player ever to be inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame (age 36) will add another notch on his resume when he opens Quail Ridge Golf Club before he turns 51 in July.
"It really is a labor of love," Erskine said. "Taking a piece of raw earth and turning it into a golf course is the most enjoyable thing I've ever done. It's been double the amount of work I thought it would be, but I like to be busy."
Quail Ridge is located in West Michigan's Cascade Township, just minutes east of Grand Rapids. Erskine plans to unveil the upscale 18-hole, championship golf course to the public this summer.
"This was one of the more natural sites we've ever had the opportunity to be associated with," course designer Ray Hearn said. "There were natural tee and green sites everywhere."
Erskine, a former Big Ten medalist at the University of Illinois, made his name synonymous with the Michigan Open. He has won five of the state's most prestigious titles. Erskine also has two State Match Play titles and one state PGA championship (along with five runner-up finishes) under his belt.
Along with his playing exploits, Erskine is a highly sought after teaching professional. He runs his own golf school in Florida and owns a golf marketing company.
His majority interest in Quail Ridge raises the ante considerably. Erskine also plans to develop a limited residential community that will accommodate 27 homes on large lots.
"I'm at my best when I'm real busy, and I'm always busy," he said. "This is the busiest I've ever been."
Hearn's design work has added some elements of uniqueness to the Quail Ridge project. The No. 9 and No. 18 holes share one double green. No. 9 is a long par-3 and No. 18 is a par-5. The fairways are separated by trees. The double green is 140 yards across.
Hearn also incorporated a waterfall that cascades down rocks behind the No. 7 green.
"Ray Hearn brought a lot to the project," Erskine said. "I told him that he was the architect and this was all his baby."
Erskine, however, did instruct Hearn to avoid one of his pet peeves.
"The last thing I wanted to have was small tee complexes," Erskine said. "We have big tee complexes, so there will be no wear spots. I never liked that, and it just won't happen at Quail Ridge."
Elevation changes, rolling terrain, extensive wetlands and a pleasant blend of trees and water accent the course.
"Quail Ridge is truly a minimalistic design," Hearn said. "The land dictated where the holes went, and very little earth moving was done."
Cart paths run continuously throughout the course, where virtually every fairway is isolated from each other by trees, wetlands and water. A 16,000-square-foot clubhouse with pro shop and banquet facilities will be open 12 months of the year.
The practice facilities at Quail Ridge have three tiers to hit from and five separate greens to shoot at. The range has a bentgrass driving area with bluegrass rough to emulate the condition of the golf course itself.
On the course, five sets of tees on every hole will challenge players of varied abilities, according to Erskine. Quail Ridge plays 6,930 yards from the back tees and 4,865 yae sure the facility is completely ready. While it basically is for UAW members, retirees, their families and conference attendees at Black Lake, some outside play will be permitted.
What is a union doing building not only a golf course but a superb course designed by one of golf's leading architects?
It makes a lot of sense. Golf too long has had the image of being a sport for nterparts.
The three courses consist of The Gailes in Oscoda, Huron Breeze in Au Gres, and the new Red Hawk in Tawas. Each presents a distinctive difference in style of play for the golfer.
The driving force behind Red Hawk is Dan Alexander, general manager. A recently transplanted Chicago native, Alexander and his wife were attracted to the area by an Alden Dow designed home in the Tawas area. Once settled, Alexander saw a definite need for another challenging course on the Sunrise Side between AuGres and Oscoda. He felt a quality course would help the community prosper. An investor group of seven local residents and 36 shareholders agreed with him.
The group hired renowned architect Arthur Hills to design Red Hawk and the Furness brothers to build the course. This is the same team who designed and built the highly acclaimed Bay Harbor course in the Petoskey area. Dave Little, former greens superintendent at Huron Breeze, moved over to Red Hawk to assume that responsibility.
Just a three-hour drive from the Detroit area, Red Hawk is a woodsy parkland golf course. Surprisingly in an area of farmlands, the various elevations presented belie its topographical environment. An example of this is the signature third hole on the front nine. The par 3, 213 yards from the back tee drops 63 feet in elevation from tee to green. The various elevations require a cart for the front nine and optional on the back nine.
"In Red Hawk you have a classical design that relies on natural land forms," stated Chris Willzynski, architect with the Arthur Hills Design Firm. "Every hole is very unique, each with its own definition and character. With the strategic placement of 40 bunkers, the holes are somewhat open, but challenging. The green's size and undulation is dictated by the degree of difficulty in the fairway.
The all bent grass course from tee to green measures 6,589 yards from the back tees to 5,676 yards from the forward's with four sets of tees. Red Hawk has a mix of four par 5's, nine par 4's and five par 3's with no cross hazards for a par 71.
Carved through a heavily forested former hunting preserve, Red Hawk allows ample landing areas with generous rough before a wayward shot finds the woods. Towering red pines, sprawling oaks and maple trees, and northern white birch isolate each hole. Much care has been taken to preserve the integrity of the environment. Alexander, working closely with the Michigan Wildlife Farm in Portland, MI, planted wildflowers indigenous to Michigan in the wetlands. After building a pone guarding the par 3, 12th hole, stumps and logs were hauled back into the pone to preserve the naturalness.
Strategy is the key to Red Hawk. The short 292-yard, par 4 second hole is a dramatic example of course management. With seven bunkers on the hole, six guarding the right side of the fairway, and an elevated small undulating green, the hole offers many options off the tee. The golfer who automatically reaches for the "big kahuna" on each tee will be severely punished. Red Hawk is clearly a thinking golfer's dream.
Water is in play on the only three holes. The par 4, 422 yard 10th hole is Hills' version of Augusta's 11th hole. A sloping right to left fairway leads to a green guarded on the left by a pond. The par 5, 509 yard 11th hole is a classic risk-reward hole. The pond on the left challenges the level of skill and courage of how much carry do you choose to cut the corner. The par 3 12th hole is your last glimpse of water on the course.
While it is difficult to define signature holes on Red Hawk, two that would qualify for such a term are the aforementioned par 3 third hole with its dramatic elevation drop and the par 5, 510 yard 16th. What can be mildly described as target golf, the hole demands strategic placement of your drive and second shot before confronting an elevated "birthday cake" green guarded by two sand bunkers, a 10-foot wall of sand on the right and a more severe 15-foot wall on the left. Other than that, a piece of cake.
Red Hawk offers an excellent practice facility. A generous 75-yard wide, two-tiered practice area gives you four bunkered, well defined target greens which also clearly marks a realistic fairway for accuracy. It also boasts a sand and pitching practice green and a fairway sand bunker. It clearly is the premier practice facility on the Sunrise Side.
Red Hawk Golf Club is located approximately six miles northwest of Tawas. It is scheduled to open June, 1999, with introductory rates of $50 weekdays/$59 weekends, including cart. Call 517-362-0800.
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