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.
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.”
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.
The Mines Golf Course
330 Covell Ave. S.W., Walker
“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.
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.
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.