Jack Nicklaus and friends usher in the new Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Michigan
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – While most of the attention in the golf world is on the other side of Lake Michigan at Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship, a pretty big event was held on the shores of southwest Michigan Tuesday. The Golf Club at Harbor Shores hosted the Champions for Change event, bringing in golf course designer Jack Nicklaus and his buddies Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson for a charity skins game and clinic. $1 million in skins were on the line over 18 holes - prize money that was all donated by Whirlpool to the Boys and Girls Club and new First Tee of Benton Harbor.
For those scoring at home, Watson won the most cash in the team scramble event (players swapped partners every six holes) that drew over 3,600 spectators. It’s about the biggest golf event to come to Michigan this year, now that the PGA Tour’s Buick Open is long gone.
Nicklaus’ design portfolio of more than 300 courses worldwide features designs built on all types of land – but building Harbor Shores has to have been one of his firm’s most difficult and important projects, and explains why such a grand opening was held with the star power he brought in for it. Abandoned factories and garbage dumps were scattered throughout the mostly industrial property, all just off the shores of Lake Michigan. And the land available to use the course was no easy-to-plot parcel, but rather scattered throughout 530 acres - which caused some headaches in the routing.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen when we started,” said Nicklaus. “We weren’t sure we’d figure out how to find 18 holes out there.”
The result is a course with a lot of different features, from dunes holes on No. 7 thru 9, to wetlands and forest holes. Walking the course today, it’s pretty remarkable to think of all the trash and ruins that used to sit here, and the land seems to be taking to the new, greener identity well. Spectators seemed impressed, and some even found their way to the action via canoe on the Paw Paw River, which runs along several holes. From the get-go, Harbor Shores is a development intended to revive one of the few struggling parts of southwest Michigan with tourism and real estate, and this summer’s opening of the course is the first step.
“We didn’t set out to create a tournament golf course per se,” said Nicklaus. “This whole golf course was set out from the start to change a community.”
This isn’t the last time you’ll hear of Harbor Shores in the near future. The course will host the 2012 and 2014 Senior PGA Championship. The course is open to the public, and rates for 18 holes are $95-115 this summer.
Plenty more to come on Harbor Shores and golf in Michigan. I’ve made my way north to seek out some courses I’ve never played before, including Hidden River Golf & Casting Club in Brutus and Black Lake Golf Club in Onaway, on the agenda Wednesday.
Photos by Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf
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