Despite controversial greens, the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in southwest Michigan looks great during the telecast of the 2012 Senior PGA Championship
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – It seems the worst thing you can do for your golf course is host the best players in the world.
Just ask Cog Hill near Chicago or the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain in Arizona or Wentworth in England. Golf’s greatest men can be pretty fickle and opinionated when it comes to the courses they play on.
Phil Mickelson has virtually ruined the reputation of Cog Hill (see here). Even a redesign of the greens by architect Jack Nicklaus hasn’t done Dove Mountain much in the eyes of many players (see here). It seems to be an annual story that designer/player Ernie Els defends his changes to Wentworth (see (see here).
The latest victim of this smear campaign is The Golf Club at Harbor Shores, site of this year’s 2012 Senior PGA Championship. Once again, the Nicklaus greens are at the center of the controversy.
Players aren’t shy in talking about the greens as over-designed. Announcer Roger Maltbie called them “busy” on the opening moment’s of today’s telecast.
“It’s going to be a challenge to get these greens (and their reads) down,” announcer Gary Koch added.
I’ll agree with them to a point. The three-tiered 10th green – the largest Nicklaus has ever built – is down right obnoxious. But when the old geezers are hitting it as far as the young guys these days, it’s hard not to argue that you do need difficult greens to keep low scores at bay.
Since this is the first big event at Harbor Shores, which opened just two years ago, it will be interesting to see if Nicklaus comes back to rebuild a few green complexes. The sponsorship of KitchenAid – a division of Benton-Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp. – has already guaranteed that the tournament will return in 2014.
Controversy aside, the course looks great in HD on TV. It’s as good a golf experience as there is in southwest Michigan for public players. I haven’t seen the new clubhouse yet, but the place is beautiful as it rolls through the dunes at No. 7-9 and the Paw Paw River later in the round. Considering it used to be a toxic dump, the Golf Club of Harbor Shores has come a long way in a short amount of time. I hope the tournament turns out to be a real shot in the arm, economically, to Benton Harbor, a hard-luck community that hasn’t caught many breaks over the years. I won’t be attending, but I’ll be watching all weekend.
* NOTE: The photo above is from a 2010 exhibition featuring Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson.
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