Josh Doxtator, a PGA professional and the new general manager at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores Resort in Benton Harbor, Michigan, has been on the job for almost four weeks, but spent a month prior to that working on a strategic plan with stakeholders.
“We want to create a brand as one of the top Midwest golf destinations in the country,” Doxtator said. “What we have here with the only Jack Nicklaus course that is on Lake Michigan is significant, and that’s a great thing for more people to know. That will be part of our message, part of our brand. Ultimately, we want to deliver an exceptional golf experience and set ourselves apart.”
Doxtator comes from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Thornberry Creek at Oneida, the official course of the Green Bay Packers and host of an LPGA tournament. His background also includes working at Trilogy of Vistancia Golf Club in Peoria, Arizona.
“I’ve worked in different markets, larger than this, but I’ve had success in reaching goals,” Doxtator said.
Doxtator is busy to that end, and he can’t wait for weather to allow him to play the Harbor Shores course that is closing in on almost 10 years of existence.
“I’ve only been able to ride around it a couple of times so far, and I’ve never seen a golf course laid out in the manner. From an architectural golf design aspect what they managed to put together on this site is remarkable. It meanders over 500-plus acres with seven miles of waterfront on Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River,” Doxtator said. “I know people say it takes time to get between holes, but overall the property is amazing. It took great creativity to put together a golf course with this many different characteristics all in one place.”
He sees a course that offers challenging golf, as evidenced by it serving as a four-time site for the KitchenAid PGA Senior Championship, which it will host again in 2020, 2022 and 2024 under the latest agreement with the PGA of America.
“It’s more than that though,” Doxtator said. “I look at the passion Jack Nicklaus had for this design, and his comments on this development that revitalized a community, and there is a uniqueness overall that I think all golfers will see and enjoy.”
Harbor Shores also plans to continue its relationship with the First Tee Chapter located there.
“It’s reached 1,000 kids and helped them play golf and much more,” Doxtator said.
He feels his biggest challenge in a smaller community with a short golf season is finding the hospitality driven team members to make success possible.
“We want people who will help us build a culture and take satisfaction in helping our guests enjoy their experience,” Doxtator said. “We have to be creative as possible in attracting the best talent. We’re going to try and figure it out. I’m committed to taking this national. Let’s do things that prove they work and build on it year after year. I refuse to put anything out there that we can’t deliver.”
Harbor Shores is a beach, golf, and residential waterfront community, and the 18-hole course is an award-winning design that features golf holes on four diverse terrains—parkland, sand dunes on the lake, woodlands, and wetlands along the Paw Paw River and Ox Creek. The development has made national news by reclaiming abandoned and polluted land as part of a non-profit effort.
Harbor Shores was honored in best new course rankings in 2010 by Golf magazine, Golf Digest, and Golfweek, and has been honored as environmental leaders by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
Text: Greg Johnson | The Golf Explorer writer