VanderVeen / Photography by Michael Buck
is blessed with a diverse selection of
golf courses located just a 3-iron or so
away from the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration — it
may take a driver to reach it — but
the courses that dot the map on the sandy
soil “near” the Big Lake provide
contrasting golf experiences unlike anywhere
else in the state. There are new courses,
old courses, links-style courses, courses
with “Northern Michigan” features,
deep ravines, double greens and beautiful
windswept sandy scenes.
Up the shoreline from Benton Harbor
to Grand Haven and beyond, this compilation of
Lakeshore Links is a collection of fun, playable
and challenging golf courses to accommodate both
casual players and low-handicappers alike.
Michigan Hills, Benton Harbor
There’s no better way to start your drive up the Lake Michigan
shoreline than a stop at Lake Michigan Hills, a perennial favorite
of locals and inbound visitors.
The 18-hole championship course
located in Benton Harbor is situated on 174 acres
of contoured fairways and large rolling greens
set in a heavily wooded area. A testament to
the test of golf at Lake Michigan Hills is that
it has played host for both Western Amateur and
U.S. Amateur qualifying events.
Bunkers, mature trees and several
ponds around the course create a serene, classic
While making it aesthetically
pleasing, those features also become part of
the challenge and make it a shot-maker’s
course. The ponds can become a hazardous watery
graveyard for golf balls gone awry, the bunkers
can make it tricky to get up and down, and the
trees — well — hopefully, they won’t
come into play, knock on wood.
Lake Michigan Hills plays from
four sets of tee boxes ranging from 6,900 yards
to 5,250 yards.
The holes can sometimes play
deceptively long, especially into prevailing
winds. But there are scoring opportunities also.
There is a100-foot elevated tee
at No. 10, while a short, par 4 finishing hole
provides a round-ending birdie opportunity.
The clubhouse features restaurant
and lounge and pro shop. The banquet facilities
can accommodate up to 250.
Lake Michigan Hills has upgraded
its practice facility by lengthening and improving
the driving range with target greens, adding
an additional putting green and chipping green,
and sand bunkers.
A traditional links-style course designed by Arthur Hills, HawksHead
is weaved smartly through and around sand.
We wanted to build something
that was not a typical Michigan course, so we
went with the Scottish look,” managing
partner Al Ruppert said. “The playability
of the course makes it a course you just love
to play over and over again.”
Very little water and very few
trees are set around the course. That means expansive
landing areas off the tee and very few trees
to contend with.
“ The old Scottish designers
believed that you shouldn’t have to play
around trees,” Ruppert said. “Like
Alister Mackenzie said, ‘a tree on a golf
course is like a tuba in a string quartet.’”
The course sets up with a diverse
collection of holes, moguls, sand traps and waste
areas. The greens at HawksHead are large and
roll very fast.
Tall heathers accent parts of
the backside, which requires strategic shot selection.
“ There’s a lot of
variety out there,” Ruppert says.
A prevailing wind off Lake Michigan
makes the course a few strokes more difficult
to play than on a calm day.
HawksHead is very fair and playable
from the forward tees. “We’re not
here to bring people to their knees,” said
The Audubon friendly course features
a bird sanctuary and delicate wildlife areas,
a fine complement to its name.
An expansive practice facility
features target greens, bunkers and large putting
Lynx of Allegan
This Lynx, ironically, is not a links-style course.
Elevation changes and densely
wooded hardwood forests create a Northern Michigan
atmosphere at The Lynx, which is located at about
the midway point between Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids
The course winds up, down, around
and through hardwoods and alongside parts of
the Kalamazoo River.
Set on the site of a former Christmas tree farm, pine groves accent
several parts of the The Lynx, which is an enjoyable course for
golfers of all abilities.
“ We have a little bit of
everything,” said head professional Lee
Edson. “You get back along the Kalamazoo
River and play around a big ravine. It has a
lot of character.
The first and 10th holes are
at the highest point of the golf course, with
elevation drops of more than 100 feet. Golfers
make a gradual climb back to the summit on No.
8 and No. 9, and the same thing on No. 16, 17
and 18 on the backside.
The length is a little over 6,000
from the intermediate white tees.
“ It can be very challenging
from the back, but from the white tees, it is
very playable,” Edson said. “With
two sets of up-front tees, it is player-friendly
for women and seniors as well.”
Michigan Golf ranks The Lynx
as one our Best Bets.
This challenging Arnold Palmer creation is unlike any golf course
in West Michigan.
Beautiful Bermuda sand bunkers,
mounded moguls and well-shaped fairways accent
the natural and expansive 18-hole layout that
is spread over 400 acres.
Course features include hardwoods
and pines intertwined among wetlands, small lakes
and the ravines features from which the course
derives its name. Some of the ravines are 60-feet
deep, lined with virgin timber of hemlock and
oak and thriving with wildlife.
“ It’s not like any
other course around,” says head professional
Shane Bybee. “It has a great variety of
holes. Some holes have a lot of bunkers, some
have a lot of water, there are holes with meadows
and some with hardwoods.”
And, the most outstanding feature,
The Ravines – the par 5, No. 14 signature
The Ravines plays just over 7,000
yards from the back tees. Four other sets of
tee boxes are set at each hole.
Forced carries over wetlands
and wastelands are not overly demanding off the
tee early on, but you will be pressed to keep
the ball in the fairway about midway through
the front side. No. 10 is a par-4 that plays
long and strong, requiring a demanding tee shot
for an iron into the green. Eventually, players — from
the back tees anyway — must negotiate The
“ It’s visually intimidating
from each of the tee shots to the hole, but there
is a lot of landing area out there,” Bybee
“ It is one of the most
demanding golf courses in the western side of
the state, but it is really more mentally demanding
than physically demanding. Arnold Palmer & Co.
did a good job at challenging your mind as well
as physical ability.” Bybee said.
Haven Golf Club, Grand Haven
Grand Haven Golf Club has successfully withstood the test of time — and
the new course construction boom.
The course opened in 1965, and
during the 1970s earned a ranking among the top-50
public courses to play in the United States.
It was an honor the course held through the early
“ It comes down to our uniqueness
and positioning of where the course is located,” says
head professional Daniel Gates. “Being
just yards off Lake Michigan, you have a beach
feel to it with a lot of natural sand dunes that
line that fairways and add to the scenic aspect.”
A series of tee boxes and slight
elevation changes provide the course with a soft,
rolling feel. Throughout the years, the course
has remained pretty much the same, a testament
to the design work of W. Bruce Matthews.
A couple of changes however have
been put in place for the 2002 season.
Most notably, a brand new 17,000
square-foot clubhouse facility — including
a 3,500-square-foot Dunes Room that seats 225 — which
will provide better amenities and clubhouse facilities,
creating additional seating and casual dining
for golfers before or after a round. And there
is one slight change to the golf course – a
new water hazard in front of the green on the
par 5 No. 9 hole.
“ It will set up an awesome
approach shot over water and into the green with
the new clubhouse in the backdrop,” Gates
said. “The golf course has always had a
“ With the new facilities
in place, an elaborate golf shop, Dunes Room,
restaurant bar and grill, we have a much more
inviting facility to get players to come out
and spend an entire afternoon with us. Our rates
and twilight rates are extremely attractive,
it’s very close for a lot of people and
we’re right on the lake. It doesn’t
get much better than that.”
Some new courses tend to overwhelm while others over-promise. Moss
Ridge does neither while providing an outstanding track of bentgrass
fairways and greens and a truly player-friendly round of golf.
Moss Ridge may be best described as straight-ahead golf allowing
you to play within your handicap without a lot of head games at
a very well cared for facility.
Carved from an old apple orchard,
Moss Ridge provides ponds, mounds and some thoughtful
features, including a double green for holes
No. 9 and No. 18.
Don’t take me wrong, Moss
Ridge offers plenty of challenge should you step
back to the tips and take it on from 6,943 yards.
Designer Bruce Matthews III provided three other
sets of tees, too.
“ There are some challenges
out there, but just about everybody who plays
the course is guaranteed to have at least one
very good hole,” general manager Hallie
The back nine of the par-72 course
has more water, while the front is set on more
of a rolling terrain.
A hallmark of Moss Ridge is the clubhouse and expansive banquet
and full-service dining facility.
“ It is fantastic for golf outings,” Selfridge said. “We do
everything from soup to nuts, and we are very good at it.
“ In the summertime, people
may want to play a round of golf and have dinner,
or have lunch served before and cool off. We
can accommodate a lot of people.”