Golfers to get a mix of old with the new at Macatawa Legends development in Holland
HOLLAND, Mich. - At the turn of the 20th century, the small beach town of Holland on the west coast of Michigan was considered the "Coney Island" of the Great Lakes. Sun-thirsty Chicagoans would head by boat across Lake Michigan to their cottage or hotel and would enjoy a weekend getaway or summer retreat enjoying one of the area's many restaurants, beaches and golf courses.
Today, locals refer to that age as the "Resort Era." And while Holland still welcomes the masses every summer, other coastal Lake Michigan communities such as Saugatuck and Grand Haven also thrive on visitors from Chicago and metro Detroit each summer.
But the fact remains, Michigan's western shores are still beautiful - and convenient to many. A century later, a new development in Holland is hoping to bridge Holland's past with a new way of living on Michigan's west side at Macatawa Legends.
"West Michigan is a great place to live," said Tom Welling, general manager of Prins Construction and the Country Club at Macatawa Legends. "It's diverse with the furniture and auto industry and Grand Rapids' medical industry. The area is also family-oriented and is a great place to raise a family."
The development will feature more than 700 housing units and will be made up of land from four different townships: Olive, Park, Holland and Port Sheldon. It will also be the first development in the area that features on-course housing.
"Economically today you wouldn't do something like this," Welling said. "We felt we needed a certain type of amenity (to succeed) and we will be the only development in the area with a championship course on site."
Welling said home sales are on pace with their target numbers so far. Nearly halfway through the year, Macatawa Legends' sales department has reached its halfway point of its yearly goal. He also said similar developments in California would usually be sold by a lottery, but with Michigan's real estate currently cooler than the national average, they plan on selling the development gradually over the coming years.
Home sales execs at Macatawa Legends expect to host mostly full-time residents, but also add there is certainly a "snowbird" market for part-time residents, whether they come from Chicago just like during the resort-era, or even from Florida or abroad. Condos ranging from 900 to 4,000 square feet were designed to draw interest from out-of-towners especially.
While workers scramble to put the finishing touches on the clubhouse, pool, grille and tennis courts, the course at Macatawa Legends must simply play the waiting game. The grass has grown in beautifully, especially on the front side.
However, both sides have hundreds of trees just recently planted that will only grow in over time. Add to that the fact most holes are bordered with a host of empty lots that will host housing in the future and it's clear that the course's true feel will only be realized in time.
Raymond Hearn, who served as general manager of the club for the past two years, designed the course. He left the development in May to continue his golf design career.
Hearn has several designs that have opened to rave reviews over the past several years in Michigan, including the Grande Golf Club in Jackson and the highly-acclaimed Moose Ridge in South Lyon. He spent years working under Jerry Matthews, who spent most of his time in Michigan until 1996 when he went solo.
The course has five sets of tees and plays 7,246 yards from the tips. For first-timers to the course, there are several instances where it is certainly worth driving ahead to scope out your shot before you hit.
Water often cuts into the fairway a little further than you might think from back in the fairway. It's also recommended on the par-5 ninth that you drive up over the mound to view what's ahead of you, because the green is blind from the right side of the fairway and guarded by water. There's also far more room to the right than you may think, so hitting your second shot into the water is nothing short of a bonehead mistake.
The driver is tempting on several occasions, as fairway bunkers 230-250 yards out taunt players, but can be used on every hole, especially while the trees fill in.
The land for the course was rather uninspiring and flat before Hearn came, so basically the entire lot was plowed over and shaped. There's really only one tree on the course that looks like it's been there more than six months - it comes into play just before the green on the par-4 third.
From your approach, you must decide whether to play left or right of the tree to the green, which lies 30 yards behind it. But mostly the course's trouble lurks in large, waste bunkers and artificial ponds which come into play on more than half the holes.
Another one of the challenges at Macatawa Legends are the huge waste bunkers that often line the many ponds coming into play. So if you hit your drive in the water, usually you're left dropping in the bunker, making for a not-so-routine approach shot.
The clubhouse is incomplete at the moment as well. Two buildings, one which provides the golf shop and sales office, and another which hosts the grill, meeting space and other amenities will be connected in the coming years. It will resemble early 20th-century coastal buildings in the area and also make for a grand backdrop as players come up the ninth and 18th holes.
Currently one of the property's most striking landmarks is its bridge, which connects the first 10 holes with holes 11 thru 17. It runs over 144th street and can be seen from virtually anywhere on the property and is the highest point on the course.
So far, close to 50 of 400 golf memberships have been sold. The course is only open to members and prospective members, so most days it's wide open. Members don't have to own property on the development to join.
As speculation about the real estate market makes any development a risk these days, Macatawa Legends certainly has its niche as the only in the area with an on-site course. However, it's still years before it can blossom into an homage to the area's storied past.
For more information
14164 New Holland
Holland, MI 49424
Phone: (866) 771-7800
July 21, 2005