Grand Rapids: Rounding the fairways

Grand Rapids: Rounding the fairways

By R.J. Weick

Take a look at some of the great places to play, stay, dine, and unwind in the greater Grand Rapids area in The Golf Explorer’s first golfing tour series. 

Fueled by an industrious and creative momentum, Grand Rapids has become a vibrant and booming metropolis in recent years to now be considered among the top destinations in the country. With recent accolades by The New York Times as one of the “52 Places to Go in 2016,” and as the #1 U.S. Travel Destination in 2014, Grand Rapids provides visitors with a robust social, cultural, and recreational experience.

The metropolitan area has been recognized as a destination for the arts, wine, food, festivals, golf, and of course, craft beer; which has led to its nickname as Beer City U.S.A. There are more than 28 public golf courses within close proximity of the iconic downtown skyline.

It is also home to Gerald R. Ford International Airport, which is the second largest airport in the state offering 120 nonstop flights to nearly 23 major market destinations. The award-winning airport is conveniently located less than 15 miles of downtown Grand Rapids and has also been recognized by the Airports Council International-North America for its environmental stewardship and for providing first-class travel experience.

From runway to fairway, Grand Rapids offers a myriad of possibilities for the avid golfer and enthusiast alike during their stay. Whether planning a visit for leisure or business, Grand Rapids is a great destination for golfing and exploring the sights. The following are just a few notable selections of places to play, stay, dine, and unwind:



Lynx Golf Course
900 Lincoln Road, Otsego

Nestled along the riverbank of the nearly 123-mile-long Kalamazoo River, the Lynx Golf Course in Otsego offers golfers a stunning view of the natural landscape so often found in Michigan. The 18-hole public golf course was initially designed by Charlie and Jon Scott, and features six holes built along the Kalamazoo River with fluctuating elevation throughout the entire course.

The Lynx Golf Course was recently restored to its championship design when current owner Jim Szilagyi invested in improving the tree-lined fairways and the panoramic view from the clubhouse perched high above the 18th green. Now golfers can truly appreciate the wild beauty of southwestern Michigan and the impressive 85 foot elevation drop on hole 10.


Photo By Nile Young
The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe
7211 48th St. S.E., Grand Rapids

Upon stepping onto the greens and breathing in the watershed ambiance, it is no wonder how The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe received its title.

Curled up along the shores of the Thornapple River and stretching across nearly 7,000 feet of river frontage, the expansive 18-hole golf course designed by Bill Newcomb has a distinctive setting. Its bentgrass fairways are lined by hardwoods and near three natural wetlands along one of the major tributaries of the Grand River. Its natural setting lends itself as a great destination for events, banquets, and weddings; and the club’s Pavilion can accommodate up to 250 guests.

The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe also offers a number of annual golfing programs, lessons, and state-of-the-art satellite GPS Scoring allowing golfers an accurate yardage measurement to the location of each hole and the course layout.


Scott Lake Golf & Practice Center
911 Hayes Road N.E., Comstock Park

The rolling hills at Scott Lake Golf & Practice Center have been alive with avid golfers and enthusiasts alike for more than 50 years. With 27 holes across three distinctive nine-hole courses, Scott Lake offers players a variety of golfing challenges designed by course architects Bruce Matthews and Jeff Gorney.

The Driving Range and Practice Center invites players to warm up or practice their swing on one of the largest natural turf hitting areas with nearly 30 stations to choose from. The putting green, sand trap, chipping green, driving range, and the newly planned six-hole, par-3 course known as Scott Lake Six complement the already extensive portfolio at Scott Lake.

From golfing instruction, scrambles, ladies clinics, and golf outings, to junior golf, leagues, tournaments, and charity events, there are program opportunities for golfers at any level.


Quail Ridge Golf Club
8375 36th St. S.E., Ada

Set among approximately 240 acres of land characteristically inherent to Michigan, the 18-hole championship course at Quail Ridge Golf Club is minimalist by design. The course is sculpted around 65 acres of diverse wetland habitat and used minimal earthmoving through careful design by Raymond Hearn of Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs.

Known for blending golf course architecture harmoniously with its landscape, Hearn and his team strived to achieve that perfect balance of risk and reward for both the expert and novice golfer. With five sets of tees, bunkers, hills, and trees, the par-72 course ranges from 6,930 yards to 4,865 yards at the forward tees.

The golf club also features a training center and restaurant known as The Grill, which can accommodate up to 200 guests for events. The idea of Quail Ridge Golf Club was put into motion by Randy Erskine, former PGA Tour player and five-time Michigan Open Champion, when he partnered with Hearn and a number of additional investors to establish a “great golf course with classic lines.”


Photo By Nile Young
Pilgrims Run Golf Club
11401 Newcosta Ave., Pierson

Located on more than 400 acres off the beaten trail north of Grand Rapids, Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club provides an oasis of golfing solitude surrounded by natural wooded terrain, Kentucky bluegrass roughs, and bentgrass fairways. The par-73, 18-hole course, designed by Kris Schumacker and Mike DeVries of DeVries Designs Inc., features unique names at each hole and a variety of tees to cater to a number of golfers.

“We offer six different yardages to play from,” said Jeff O’Malley, PGA director of golf at Pilgrim’s Run. “If you want to make the course easy, you play at a certain tee; if you want the challenge of the golf course, you can go further back and play it a little bit longer. It has a great risk-reward.”

The golf club also features amenities and services such as a clubhouse, golf carts with USB ports, complimentary practice balls, two putting greens, practice bunkers, and a range.

With no real estate on the property or side-by-side holes and ten-minute tee times, Pilgrim’s Run provides a traditional golfing experience away from the “hustle and bustle of the city,” according to O’Malley.

“The layout of the course has slight elevation changes out there so you have some rolling areas, which the golfers really like, but they love the nature—the natural feeling of being out there away from the fast-paced world, so to speak,” added O’Malley.


Boulder Creek Golf Club
5750 Brewer Ave. N.E., Belmont

Boulder Creek Golf Club’s sprawling 18-hole championship course, designed by architect Mark DeVries, features five separate tee box areas resulting in a flexible play from as long as 7,000 yards to as short as 4,949 yards from the forward tees.

The par-72 golf course is complemented by a comprehensive practice facility comprising nearly 60,000 square-feet of hitting surface, target greens, practice bunkers and pitching areas; and 9,000 square-feet of putting greens which are more than 120 feet in length.

The golf club’s banquet room, located in the lower level of the clubhouse with a picturesque view of the fairways, is a perfect setting for receptions, rehearsal dinners, meetings, holiday parties, and group golf outings.


Photo by H3 Designs
The Mines Golf Course
330 Covell Ave. S.W., Walker

History has a way of shaping the future, and in the case of The Mines Golf Course, located a short drive from downtown Grand Rapids, it is as vital as the very land it is built upon. Nearly 150 feet below the surface of the 18-hole course featuring mature hardwoods, rolling land, and bentgrass greens, old gypsum mines slumber.

“It has been developed on a piece of property that used to be the Grand Rapids gypsum mines, so it has been developed on a piece of property that is reclaimed land,” said Gary Smithson, director of golf at The Mines Golf Course and PGA member.

The course, designed by Mike DeVries, has a number of features associated with the mines incorporated into the construction, and the irrigation system uses water from the mines. The course is considered a par-70, measuring nearly 6,701 yards with a slope of 137, and features four sets of tees.

“The greens are very challenging with a lot of slope, which I think makes it super fun,” said Smithson. “It is never the same two days in a row. It has some elevation change, the native areas, and the fescue areas make it very unique to Grand Rapids.”

While the 18-hole course and full practice facility opened in 2005, ownership recently invested in a 1,000-square-foot addition to the existing structure of its clubhouse. The expansion project was completed in May of 2016 and created extra space for dining, retail, and an outdoor patio.

“I think it speaks a lot about our commitment to enhancing the golfer experience,” said Smithson.


Cedar Chase Golf Club
7551 17 Mile Road N.E., Cedar Springs

In reference to his design philosophy, golf course architect W. Bruce Matthews III said: “Great golf courses lead golfers through great golf holes.”

With a Scottish-inspired links-style layout, tree-lined bent grass fairways, and spacious greens, the Cedar Chase Golf Club’s 18-hole course is no exception. The par-72, nearly 7,100-yard-championship-measured course was designed by W. Bruce Matthews III and features four sets of elevated tees for golfers to navigate bunkers, roughs, and large greens.

From the lofty perch of the Cedar Springs-based golf clubhouse, players can relax after a round of golf and soak in the view of their surroundings.



Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
187 Monroe Ave. N.W., Grand Rapids

The grandeur and touch of elegance in the Pantlind Lobby at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel transcends time; transporting guests back to a time when splendid furnishing, dazzling chandeliers, and rich colors reigned.  While the hotel’s foundation dates back to 1913, the light and elegant neoclassical interior design still evident to this day was completed in 1916 by designers Warren and Wetmore who found inspiration in the work of Scottish architect Robert Adam.

After acquiring the historic hotel in 1979, the Amway Corporation restored the building and added the Glass Tower in 1983. Now, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is complete with 47,000 square-feet of meeting space, four ballrooms, 42 meeting rooms with modern technology, more than six different dining experiences, fitness center, Spa and Salon, and more than 680 guest rooms ranging from historical to contemporary design.

Restored fixtures, decorative moldings, wood furnishings, and period artwork intertwine with the modern amenities and an artful balance of form and function at the downtown Grand Rapids hotel.


JW Marriott, Photo by Dan Ham, Courtesy Amway Grand Plaza
JW Marriott Grand Rapids
235 Louis St. N.W., Grand Rapids

The reflective glass, curved exterior of this hotel along the Grand River in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids has been an iconic part of the skyline for years. With 23 floors comprising more than 330 rooms and suites designed with a touch of elegant sophistication has redefined the approachable luxury niche in the hospitality market.

The JW Marriott Grand Rapids offers an ambiance of rich craftsmanship meticulously designed for both leisure and corporate guests, paired with quality service that has come to be expected of the Marriott International Inc.’s performance luxury hotel brand. Not only does the hotel provide amenities such as a full-service spa, fitness center, pool, and dining options, but also is connected to a climate-controlled skywalk offering accessibility to the 250,000-square-foot DeVos Place and the 12,000-square-foot Van Andel Arena.


CityFlatsHotel Grand Rapids
83 Monroe Center St. N.W., Grand Rapids

A truly modern take on the hospitality industry, CityFlatsHotel Grand Rapids not only features crisp, clean lines and minimalist style, but also is LEED Gold Certified for its eco-friendly design. The hotel’s approximately 28 rooms feature large wells or floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the natural lighting, cork flooring, bamboo linens, locally manufactured furniture, iPod docking stations, exposed brick walls, and reclaimed woods, glass, and plastics.

The boutique hotel line also offers additional amenities and gathering places such as The Ballroom, which accommodates up to 200 guests; CitySēn Lounge and City Brü; and The Parlour, which is a new Blow Dry Bar.


The Lafayette House Bed & Breakfast
135 Lafayette Ave. N.E., Grand Rapids

Originally built in 1874 by Emmon Ware of Ware & Tucker Lumber Company, the home was extensively renovated and restored to a single family home in the late 1970s by the Hoort family. The Lafayette House officially opened its doors to the public as a full-service bed and breakfast in late 2013.

Located in Heritage Hill in downtown Grand Rapids, the residence is among a collection of 19th and early 20th century homes comprising architectural styles dating from the 1840s. Its exterior originally featured wooden clapboards, a stone foundation, a rounded arched roof overhanging the doorway, and flanking columns.

Unique characteristics in the interior of The Lafayette House comprise: a 13-foot high main living room ceiling, original crown molding, and a domed ceiling complete with an antique chandelier in the formal dining room. The Lafayette House provides breakfast every morning, spacious guest rooms with elegant décor and artwork from local artists, private bathrooms, and heated floors.


The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery, New Holland Brewing Co.
417 Bridge St. N.W., Grand Rapids

Initially established in 1997 in Holland, New Holland Brewing Co. has expanded from its roots to the downtown Grand Rapids West Side neighborhood with its recently completely Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery.

The nearly 40,000-square-foot restaurant, brewpub, and distillery not only offers indoor dining, an outdoor bar, and beer garden, but also a retail store, private rental space, and onsite distilling and brewing capabilities.

New Holland Brewing Co. is known for its creative and diverse collection of craft beer, artisanal spirits, and food inspired by rustic traditions from locally sourced ingredients.


Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Ave. S.W., Grand Rapids

A recognizable force in the craft brewing industry, Founders Brewing Co. creates award-winning complex beers full of flavor and aromatics. When Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers launched the company in 1997, they pushed the envelope for taste and style after deciding to pursue the “renegades and rebels” who would appreciate a different kind of beer.

Nearly a decade later, Founders Brewing Co. has won more than 13 medals across eight different beers, including six World Beer Cup medals, four European Beer Star medals, and three Great American Beer Festival medals. Located in a former trucking depot, the German beer hall-inspired taproom is complete with handcrafted deli menu influenced by the very beer brewed, a patio, beer garden, and store.

Year-round staples, such as the All Day IPA, Dirty Bastard, and Rubaeus; specialty brews, such as the Imperial Stout and Breakfast Stout; and the seasonal, nitro draft, and limited series can be found on tap at this iconic Grand Rapids-based brewery.



Gun Lake Casino
1123 129th Ave., Wayland

When the final work on its recent $76 million expansion project is completed this summer, Gun Lake Casino will open its doors a space that is almost twice its current size and increase its total number of gaming machines to 2,050 and table games to 42. The nearly 156,000-square-foot gaming entertainment venue will also feature a new premier multi-station buffet restaurant, a high limit and high stakes gaming room, and a stage twice the size of the previous venue to accommodate regional and local musicians.

From slot and video machines to Blackjack, Craps, and Roulette, Gun Lake Casino offers long-time favorites and unique spins on old classics to offer a myriad of gaming and entertaining options for guests. Gun Lake Casino is owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians and is operated by MPM Enterprises LLC.

Grand Rapids Ballet
Peter Martin Wege Theatre
DeVos Performance Hall

From local treasure to national spotlight, the Grand Rapids Ballet has become a highly respected and renowned professional ballet company under the leadership of Artistic Director Patricia Barker. Now in its 46th season, the Grand Rapids Ballet once again captivated audiences with its performance of The Nutcracker, which was re-imagined by Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg and featured choreography by Val Caniparoli.

The 2016-2017 season also features a contemporary telling of the classic story of Swan Lake in its “Black & White: Swan Lake” and a world premiere of “Alice in Wonderland” in late April and early May at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre.

Grand Rapids Ballet consists of 24 professional dancers from across the country and throughout the world, and also draws well-known choreographers and set designers.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 E. Beltline Ave. N.E., Grand Rapids

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is truly a top horticulture and sculpture destination and experience.  Established in 1995, the park features the state’s largest tropical conservatory, indoor and outdoor gardens, natural trails and boardwalk, temporary sculpture galleries and a 300-work permanent sculpture collection, library, café, gift shop, and event space.

The nearly 158-acre botanical gardens and sculpture park offers visitors a chance to stroll among fig trees from India, orchids from Central and South America, Asiatic bamboo, and waterfalls in the five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory; or the opportunity to stop and smell the flowers in newly added eight-acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden designed by Hoichi Kurisu.

Each spring, more than 6,000 tropical butterflies can be viewed during the Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition; while permanent sculpture works by Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Alexander Calder, or Louise Bourgeois can be found all year-round.


To learn more visit ExperienceGR.comGerald R. Ford International Airport, Lynx Golf Course, Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club, Quail Ridge Golf Club, The Mines Golf Course, The Knickerbocker, Gun Lake Casino, Thornapple Pointe Golf Course