Take a Rare Look At This Portage Course By a Revered Golf Architect
Golf in itself offers many challenges - the perfect swing, a solid connection between club and ball, the weather and course conditions. When they all combine at one place, offering a challenge and beauty at the same time, your round is more rewarding. Though the swing can be self-controlled, some of the other factors may go unnoticed, especially when it comes to the design of a golf course and its upkeep. That's where the golf architect comes into play.
Name recognition from professional golfers like the late Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have designed courses once their peak of professional play came to an end. Palmer has six-designed courses in the Wolverine State (The Ravines in Saugatuck is the closest in Southwest Michigan). The Ohio-born Nicklaus has five in the neighbor to the north including American Dunes in Grand Haven, which opened just this month. The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor has hosted four Senior PGA Championships, every other year since 2012 (except for 2020 due to COVID-19) and has become a destination for golf fans alike.
Other golf course designers would rather stay out of the limelight and provide the best golf experience. That is what one designer did for five decades.
Former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and fellow Midwest-bred architect Arthur Hills passed away in his home town of Toledo on Tuesday, May 18th at the age of 91. Hills played golf at Michigan State University and later attended the University of Michigan for landscape architecture. He then returned to Toledo to form the architectural firm Hills-Forrest-Smith in the 1960s.
During that time, Hills had a hand in designing over 200 courses and redesigned over 150 other courses, either of his own or other courses. Fellow Midwestern designed Pete Dye, who passed away in 2020, coined Hills as the "Mayor of Naples" for the several courses he designed in that region of Florida.
While most of the courses he designed were in the Sunshine State, Hills also tapped into his Michigan roots with 23 designs and 25 renovations. While the redesigns at Gull Lake Country Club, Point O' Woods Golf and Country Club in Benton Harbor, Forest Akers East and West in East Lansing and the University of Michigan courses were done in the 1990s, one Southwest Michigan course is truly his design.
Originally drafted in 1978 and completed a year later, The Moors Golf Club in Portage hits every note on the design philosophy that Hills had made. Crafting the course around the Woodbridge Hills area of Portage provides several scenic views while preserving the natural marsh that the course was built on. Hills was also one of the first designers to have courses recognized as part of the Audubon Signature Sanctuary, which protects the environment and preserves the natural heritage of golf. These courses enhance natural area while minimalizing harmful impacts on the environment. The Moors was one of the first Audubon Signature sanctuaries. Local courses like the six Gull Lake View courses are also members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.
The Moors is also the only Michigan course Hills designed that he returned to help renovate. Those new adaptations occurred in 2015. Though Hills did most of his designs for private clubs (like The Moors) and resorts like Bay Harbor in Petoskey, there are a few courses you can play that has the Hills name on the course design (more on that next week).
Not many have been able to play The Moors (I have just once), but here's just a little taste of what you will find on the west side of Portage.