There are no border wars in Michiana. The citizenry on both sides of the Indiana and Michigan state line have been doing business with each other for years. These days in Michiana, most, but not all of the golf news is being made in northern Indiana.
In the South Bend/Mishawaka area, two new courses have come on in the past five years that have really created a buzz. This dynamic duo coupled with some renovated Michigan courses are creating the basis for yet another destination area.
The first to arrive was Mike and Linda Rogers's Juday Creek. This 1989 course vaulted to number eight in an Indianapolis Star rating during its first year of operation. Chicago-based Killian Design Group, architects of Sand Creek in Chesterton, Indiana and Kemper Lake near Chicago, certainly helped in getting the new course such instant attention and status.
The Rogers, originally from Bad Axe, started on their way to success by developing a series of "Lindy's" pizza restaurants around the Dowagiac area.
They are a perfect team. Mike renovates their new properties while Linda handles the books and makes sure there is positive cash flow. Incidentally, Mike named "Lindy's" after his wife, primarily to make sure the various vendors contacted Linda instead of him. Woe greeted the salesperson who asked Linda Rogers for "Mr." Lindy.
However, operating five different restaurants proved to be a bit much, and in an effort to simplify their life, they sold four of their them, keeping the original one in Dowagiac. Money in hand, they decided to pursue a new passion: golf. Juday Creek and its accompanying 138 home sites, thus became their answer to a more simplified life. Right, and I have some nerf drivers I want to sell you.
Juday Creek is run under the watchful eye of golf professional Chad Kennedy. With plenty of play, Chad has to keep the rangers moving the slower players along in order that other players can finish their round in a reasonable time. Juday Creek is not an easy golf course, quite the contrary, the course is well trapped and there are water and wetlands seemingly everywhere.
The service at the course is first rate. It has that excellent "Lindy's" food and a beautiful clubhouse where you can watch other players finishing up.
Blackthorn Golf Club
Just down the road and west from Juday Creek is another fabulous course, Blackthorn. Designed by world famous Dr. Mike Hurdzan, this course is finding a place on many of the "Best Of" lists.
Hurdzan, who was responsible for Devil's Pulpit in Canada, Eagle Sticks in Zanesville, Ohio and Cincinnati's Blue Ash courses, has done an outstanding job. Blackthorn was rated as one of the best new courses of 1995 by Golf Digest. In addition, it also made its list of top 500 courses this year. It has easily shot up to the top ten lists in Indiana and is clearly one of the class golf courses in the Midwest. And if you believe, Brian Godfrey, the golf professional at Blackthorn, the tract will be soon be noted as "one of the top one hundred courses in the country."
Jack Quimby, assistant manager at Blackthorn said that, "They were careful to set the course into the existing ground,...We don't look new. We look like we are 50 years old."
Blackthorn has a great practice facility with two acres of range with target greens, plus a putting green with areas for chipping and sand shots.
Their Blarney Hole is a one-of-a-kind feature and acts as a mulligan hole for all golfers, thus making the course 19 holes. Golfers think it's a great idea and it's an unqualified hit as the ultimate mulligan. There is even a "Blarney stone in the middle of the fairway; those that hit it, get a free golf ball.
Perhaps the color of black brings out the best in golf architects. We have Tom Doaks's Black Forest , Tom Fazio's Black Diamond in Florida, the sensational new Black Bear coming on board in Vanderbilt, Pete Dye's Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin, Gary Player's Blackmoor and now Mike Hurdzan's Blackthorn in Indiana. Now all you need to complete your foursome is Johnny Cash, Gary Player and Darkman.
Before leaving Indiana, Michigan Golfer would like to recommend some fine courses in southern Indiana. Since these courses open in March you can get in some rounds before our own courses open up.
Sultan's Run, (located in Jasper) which reminds many of the Jones course at Treetops, is an awesome tract. You will also find Hidden Creek in Sellersburg to your liking, the Donald Ross course at French Lick is a timeless classic and Otter Creek in Columbus is a tremendous example of Robert Trent Jones' architecture.
Chris Foote and his father Ron have their work cut out for them for the next couple of years, but it is work that they will enjoy. They bought the former Bryn Mawr golf course and have vowed to make it one of the best golf facilities in southwest Michigan. This is not an idle boast; Ron Foote is the course superintendent of MSU's two courses.
Their immediate plan is to bring the course up to their own expectations. The greens and fairways will get most of their attention. They would also like to redesign the course by bringing into play a 15 acre parcel of hardwoods on the property.
Spruce Ridge also boasts a lodging facility that is very unique: an eight bedroom home that features an indoor pool and a glassed in Florida room. If anybody has a large group of golfers, this might be a fun place to rent out for a couple of days.
Hampshire Country Club
This 18 hole layout has added another 9. Jack Berry says this is one of the best courses in the county. Lawrence Packard, Chicago- based architect, designed this neat layout. The club hosts the Western Amateur Golf Championship qualifier. Golf this course -- you won't be disappointed.
Brookwood Golf Course
Brookwood is a hard course to find, but worth the effort. Headed up by George Thomas, University of Notre Dame golf coach, the course is boastful of the severity of its layout. Undulating hills and tight fairways contribute to the course difficulty. George's son Joe and his daughter, Teresa Pekaier, serve as the teaching professionals. Since they are family, you can also expect some tender loving care and some commiseration on the results on your scorecard.
LeRoy Dustin and Bruce Dustin have been growing this golf course for 40 years, since they purchased and then launched the first six holes of their layout. They added three more holes in 1960 (six hole courses had not caught on yet) and then they finished up in 1971 with the back nine. The East Nine is more of an executive course with six par 3 holes.
Blossom Trails' 18 hole course is a nice friendly 6205 yard layout. It also boasts Berrien County's only par 3 course. Great place for the family.
Indian Lake Hills
This 27 hole layout is a wonderful test of golf in a beautiful setting. The holes are cut out of woods and orchards. The courses play to between a 33 and 34 rating.
Pebblewood Country Club
Lake Michigan Hills
A favorite of Michigan Golfer editor Terry Moore, this tract is rated as one of the best courses on that part of the state. Look for some great stay and play golf packages with The Boulevard all-suite hotel. It is a great property and they work with most of the golf courses in the Benton Harbor/ St. Joseph area.
Lake Michigan Hills in Benton Harbor has been attracting golfers from the "border states" for some time. It's the qualifying site for the Western Amateur and has proven to be a fine test of golf. Along with some tough par 3's on the back side, Lake Michigan Hills is known for its excellent bunkering.
Reno Santori has been the owner of Green Valley for over 25 years. The course is short, friendly and you can score on it quite easily. Water comes in to play on three of the holes, but outside of those hazards there is not much trouble. However, it is one golf course in Michigan where you can go in the wintertime for a workout. There are plenty of exercise machines and a couple of racquet ball courts to help keep the locals fit as they wait for spring golf.
Paw Paw Lake Golf Club
One thing all these courses have in common is an early opening date. The springtime sun reaches them quite a bit sooner than other courses in Michigan.