Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Visit by Jack Nicklaus generates excitement for Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor

There was a rare Golden Bear sighting in Michigan last week.

A site visit by Jack Nicklaus to his Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor on June 29 created a sense of reality to the Harbor Shores Development, a $450-million, 530-acre real estate, recreation and redevelopment project that has been more than five years in the planning and more than 20 years in the making.

The 6,981-yard par-71 Nicklaus course, one of just three in Michigan, will open nine holes for preview play on July 15, with a complimentary 10th hole, for greens fees of $75. The course winds through a former superfund sight where more than 117,000 tons of toxic debris and soil have been removed. At a press conference, Nicklaus marveled that defunct factories and dilapidated buildings have been replaced by the beauty of green fairways and white-splashed bunkers. The Paw Paw River flows through several holes.

"I saw the property (several years ago) and thought, 'Where will you put a golf course?' All I see are buildings and roads," he said. "... That will be one heck of a golf course. It's beautiful. It plays nice, flows nice."

Jeff Fettig, the Chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp., which owned much of the land, said the site looks better every time he sees it.

"If you didn't see what was there before, you never realize how spectacular this is," he said.

Nicklaus made the trip to give his final blessings on the layout, paying special attention to holes No. 6-9 that are still in the early stages of construction, delayed by several lawsuits that oppose their proximity to the beach and Jean Klock Park. The seventh tees sit as islands among a large wetland with the green atop a sand dune. Nicklaus took out three bunkers and reduced the size of another to make the par-4 eighth more player friendly.

Nicklaus even made the brave prediction that his layout will rival nearby Point 'O Woods, a venerable private layout considered one of the top 20 courses in Michigan.

"I don't want to say what is better, but I have my opinion," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd of media and local VIPs gathered at the M-TEC building that will serve as the course's temporary clubhouse.

For a tee time, visit harborshoresgolf.com.