MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The friendly face that appeared from behind the counter at Pohlcat Golf Club greeted my group with a firm handshake and welcome.
Dan Pohl, 1982 Masters runner-up, who lost in a Monday playoff to Craig Stadler, and pocketed $39,000, is a 34-year veteran of PGA Tour golf and a talking treasure to that great era of the tour.
Pohl eagerly gave us a tour of his clubhouse decorated with gems of his playing days including photos, and his Ryder Cup golf bag with accessories. And he took us to another building with even more memorabilia that included magazine covers and the persimmon driver he used to lead the tour in driving.
In 1980 (the first year that the PGA Tour’s driving distance stats are available), Pohl led the field while averaging 274.3 yards per drive. The next year he upped it to 280 yards before a back injury forced surgery.
This native of Mount Pleasant and University of Arizona golfer, opened Pohlcat in 1992 on a beautiful, wooded parcel of land on the 100-foot wide Chippewa River. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had a say in the layout and wetlands, but Pohl said he credits Tom Weiskopf’s help with his design.
“Pohlcat Golf Club is right there in front of you,” Pohl says, “from about 140 to 160 yards out if you walked out there and placed your ball you would see 18 different looks. Whether it is the lead in to the green or the caped bunkers it is all right there and we have narrow greens and some that are wide.
Pohl said even though there’s a lot of water he usually pulls out the driver and he likes to say, as did Weiskopf, that much can be achieved with a four-inch slope on the greens as opposed to four feet of slope. The greens here have subtle breaks, which can be just as confounding.
Pohlcat is also a bargin and has new GPS golf carts. Note some comments from various golfers:
“Awesome! Great woodland setting, plenty of wildlife, beautiful rolling fairways, and smooth greens. Ready to play again!”
“One of the best places to play in the state! It’s always in great shape, great layout, and huge greens. It also has a wonderful staff.”
“Absolutely incredible course. Some of the purest greens I have ever played. Challenging, but very fair and playable.”
Here’s a capsule look at other courses I played in Michigan.
Bucks Run Golf Club, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
One must be impressed immediately when arriving at scenic Bucks Run. The course itself is situated on 290 acres of reclaimed land – once home to a gravel pit, sand and stone quarry shut down in the 1990s.
Some say this is one of Jerry Matthews’ finest designs with natural wetlands, wooded areas, river frontage, and two picturesque lakes. You will find Bucks Run to be abundant with sculpted tee boxes and fairways, with sand bunkers and rough that prove to be challenging and fair.
The most talked about hole is No. 17, which plays over the Chippewa River to a daunting green. It is only 140 yards from the back tees, but you will have to earn par.
Perhaps Bucks Run most popular amenity is the Putting Island, a fun, difficult par-3 putting adventure surrounded by water.
The 18,000-square-foot clubhouse is home to the Quarry Grill Restaurant and Banquet Facility and pro shop. It has a wooded-theme, featuring a stone fireplace, large wooden beams, trophy bucks, and windows overlooking Lake Fisher and seven holes of the course.
The clubhouse also features spacious patios for outdoor dining and special events.
Bucks Run and Pohlcat are within minutes of the Soaring Eagle Resort & Casino – a great place to stay on a golf vacation to Mount Pleasant.
Tullymore Golf Resort in Stanwood, Michigan
Tullymore, designed by Jim Engh, is an adventure you don’t want to miss. There’s 800 acres of wild Michigan forest and a secluded environment.
Living in Colorado about the same time Engh started winning awards it was natural for me to immediately call and schedule an interview. He was based in Castle Rock at the time.
I’ve never been bored playing Engh courses and the one at Tullymore was no disappointment. Shortly after opening in 2002, Tullymore was named the number one new upscale public course in America by Golf Digest. His trademark squiggly bunkers are bigger and bolder (Engh said they made them more muscular with larger noses).
The short par-4 No. 3 is a blast trying to negotiate a huge oak tree on the left into an area where you have a manageable chip. A solid tee shot is a must from the 317-yard back tees.
You will enjoy the routing with a back nine (par 37) that has three par fives and all of them are long. I found the 18th very manageable at 535 yards. The tee shot is over water making you decide how much to negotiate, but big hitters can make the green in two. The front nine plays to a 35, with three fun par-threes.
Tullymore Golf Resort also includes a Jerry Matthews design, St. Ives Golf Club, which is a rolling up and down ride with lots of challenges from wacky lies.
Perhaps even more impressive are the lodging and dining options at Tullymore. I was lucky enough to stay in The Club Residences in a second story octagonal bedroom and hidden TV in the bed’s foot. Push a button and the TV appears.
You can also spend the night at The Inn at St. Ives and The Lodge at Tullymore, which can host a group outing for 20 or 24. The huge clubhouse has the Tap Room for dining and St. Ives has The Sports Pub & Grille.
Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Michigan
Harbor Shores is one of those stories where a manufacturing dump, waste and former Whirlpool plant was cleaned up and a golf course community emerged.
It is amazing that more than three-million square feet of dilapidated buildings were demolished and more than 140,000 tons of waste material was removed from portions of the Paw Paw River and numerous sites on the property.
Harbor Shores is a not-for-profit development. While none of the greens fees are used to pay for the construction of this facility, a portion is used to maintain the public areas in Jean Klock Park and its 12-mile walking system. Any revenues above operating expenses are granted back to the community for job training and educational programs.
In addition to the design, the course promotes art in local community. Each hole was named after plants indigenous to the area. At each hole, a metal sculpture with at least one piece of hand-blown glass holds a plaque describing one of Jack Nicklaus’ major championships.
Harbor Shores hosts The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. This major championship, made its home at Harbor Shores in 2012, 2014 & 2016. With a new title change, Harbor Shores will also be host to The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2018, 2020, 2022 & 2024.
Course terrains include Paw Paw river, Ox Creek, wetlands, woodlands, rolling hills, ravines and sand dunes of Lake Michigan.
“With Harbor Shores, we set out really to change a community,” Nicklaus said. “This wasn’t just about a golf course. This was a non-profit project. That’s the important part of it. When we started, we had a factory where the first tee is. We had to remove toxic waste and buildings. But in the end, the whole course looks beautiful and we hope is enjoyable to play.”
Harbor Shores was ranked No. 3 on the 2010 Best New Courses You Can Play list compiled by GOLF Magazine. Also, it was named “Best New Course You Can Play”, in 2010 by Golf Digest.
Stoatin Brae at Gull Lake Resort, Augusta, Michigan
Stoatin Brae means grand hill in Scottish and from the course’s highest point they say you can see the tallest buildings in Battle Creek. This links-style layout, minus a lot of trees, has been honored as one of the best new courses in Michigan
Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design, headquartered in Traverse City, designed a championship course with a mixture of Kentucky blue grass and fescue.
The goal was to create an old-style golf course sitting on one of the highest points in Kalamazoo County. It is 6,667 yards from the back tees and features sweeping views, in wide open, windswept and fast and firm conditioning.
Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort is Southwest Michigan’s oldest and largest golf resort, featuring six championship courses in one amazing destination. Come here for the golf, and play 18-holes a day for six days, without ever playing the same hole twice.
Pick an affordable Stay and Play package here and enjoy great food at Blue Stem and BBQ at Charles and Darl’s.
Try this part of Michigan – you will be happy with the excellent options.
Story by David R. Holland