Beeches Golf Club in South Haven: Who says a new golf course has to be expensive?
SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. - You won't find many developers looking to build a golf course in the United States with greens fees of under $50 these days - not when trends are shifting most projects private or north of $100.
Value plays a distant second to how a golf course can fill a membership list and real estate lots - while of course making a hefty profit.
But there are anomalies, like the new Beeches Golf Club in South Haven, just off the coast of Lake Michigan in this charming southwest Michigan beach town.
"Like many places, Michigan has needed to develop affordable courses," said Jason Fargo, general manager at Beeches. "By utilizing the characteristics of this property, we've been able to do that. It's a great site in a growing area and all the design and construction elements have come together beautifully."
Fargo entertained a variety of Midwestern architects for the job - all with their own visions of what the property could yield. It is an interesting mix of forest and duneslike waste areas. It rolls naturally, and the giant beech tree makes for a good focal point.
Some architects interviewed even suggested building an upscale course that could demand upwards of $200 a play - which would rival the state's most expensive courses.
But instead Beeches connected with Michigan golf course architect Bruce Matthews III and the vision of building an overachieving value course that could be affordable and accessible to every golfer in the area.
What's surprising is this club doesn't skimp on the usual on-course victims of a golf club that's out for value: conditions, length, tees and green size. They're all here. It features five sets of tees and stretches to over 7,100 yards from the championship tees. Conditions are consistent, and greens are imaginative and, on many holes, giant.
The golf course real estate is in its planning stage, featuring 22 condominiums around the property, but the golf club is a good fit for locals and vacationers alike.
The giant beech tree that sits next to the clubhouse is a towering mature tree that demands attention. With most of the holes around it wide open, it serves as a stunning focal point and sits just to the left of the 18th green - which is guarded on the right by one of six ponds on the property.
The front nine is generally more open than the back and plays open and flat through the waste areas. The third hole is one of a handful of short par-4s and is even drivable, but a pond down the left side awaits.
The back, on the other hand, has more water and plays through woods on many holes. The 13th features water on both sides of the fairway, making for the most knee-knocking tee shot. It shares a green with the 15th, a par-3 that demands a precise shot over water.
The most strategic hole is the double-dogleg 10th: a long par-5 that requires length and good ball placement. It also has a massive green with several tiers tucked behind trees; this makes the second shot the most crucial. You've got to navigate between fairway bunkers to put your ball far enough to allow an angle into the pin - which is harder to do if the pin is all the way in the back right.
The finish features a good mix of holes, including a par-5, -3 and -4.
The long par-5 16th can play over 600 yards and is framed on the left and around the green by woods.
The 17th is a short par-3 surrounded by trees over a little pond to the green; the giant beech tree is also framed nicely beyond the green.
Then there is the long 18th, which has another very imaginative green complex. A steep slope separates the two tiers. If the green is short right, you can use the slope as a bank and roll your shot off it and watch it funnel towards the cup.
Beeches Golf Club: The verdict
Beeches Golf Club fits its niche as a value course well. The clubhouse is functional, not grandiose, and features basic hot dogs and sandwiches and a small pro shop offering balls and accessories.
Instead, then money has been put into the course and conditions. In the club's first year of operation, Beeches' greens look mature beyond their years: soft and consistent. They're also bigger than you might expect for a value course and many are imaginative - including a double-green.
If you want a solid, championship-length affordable golf course in southwest Michigan, Beeches Golf Club is a suitable fit. It's walker-friendly, and rates range from $27 to $44.
June 28, 2007