Mines Golf Course Opens in Grand Rapids

A 192-acre parcel located less than five minutes from the center of a major metropolitan area is a rare find. Now golfers in Grand Rapids and all of West Michigan are enjoying the benefits of such a discovery.

Dan Schimmel bought the property six years ago after Georgia-Pacific had abandoned a series of gypsum mines underneath the parcel. Unsuitable for housing or industrial development, the land is now home to Mines Golf Course, owned by Dan and his wife Judy. The par-70 track plays from 4,817 to 6,701 yards.

Designed by Michael DeVries of Traverse City, Mich., the course recently celebrated its official grand opening. "In any business, you have to have a mission statement, a goal," Schimmel said. "Ours is to provide an enjoyable, affordable golf happening for a lot of different folks."

DeVries, who grew up in East Grand Rapids, designed the The Kingsley Club (ranked by Golfweek as the 19th best modern (post-1960) course in America) in Traverse City and the heralded Greywalls Golf Club in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"We didn't move a lot of ground out here," DeVries said of Mines. "It took just five months and a week from the first tree cutting to having all the seed on the ground. The mines are all below the surface and are filled with water now. A setting like this, so close to downtown, is rare; it just doesn't happen. This has the urban setting of the old country clubs.”

Mines is off Covell Avenue S.W., a mile south of Lake Michigan Drive on the west side of Grand Rapids. It features bluegrass fairways, bentgrass tees and greens, 31 bunkers and two dune formations.

"There is plenty of challenge for the better player," DeVries said. "There are plenty of hazards and that dictates strategy. My idea is that it should play firm and fast."

Because all of the former gypsum mines are below the surface, the property was not available for commercial or residential use. "The nature of the substructure is not conducive to development," said Grand Rapids city manager Kurt Kimball. "This golf course is a perfect use for this property. This sizeable acreage, this close to downtown, is a fabulous asset to the residents of and visitors to the city.

"I was always enthusiastic about this project," Kimball added. "When Dan first approached the city with his idea, he needed to be convincing to the city fathers, but they were quick to warm up to it. This is a fabulous reclamation of this property that would have otherwise just sat here. It's amazing when I see it now and remember how it once was."

Mines Golf Course lies just nine minutes from the studio of WTRV-FM morning show’s co-host Chuck LaTour, who’s already played the course four times. "What I like the about it is that it is visually interesting. It is not boring, visually," said LaTour. "You have a lot of options when you play there and it requires a good variety of shots.

"If you hit the ball well, there are four reachable par-4s from the white tees," LaTour added. "Playing from the tips though, makes it a totally different golf course. You’ve got to use all the clubs in your bag, and when you get to the greens, they are great. You’ve got to pay attention and you’ve got to plan your shot to the green.”

To mark its opening, Mines Golf Course offer several specials through the end of June. A round with a cart is just $39 Monday through Thursday; $44 Fridays and Saturdays; and $39 after 1 p.m. on Saturday. Seniors (55 and over) can play Monday through Thursday for $29 and juniors (17 and under) can play before 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday for only $10.

For more information, call 616/791-7544 or visit www.minesgolfcourse.com.