New Owner & Veteran Architect Redefine Island Hills GC in Michigan

The new owner of Island Hills Golf Club in Centreville, Mich., has reshaped and renewed the course with a significant redesign by architect Raymond Hearn over the last two years. The course lies in Amish country near Three Rivers and Sturgis.

New owner Bob Griffioen hired Hearn, who created the original Island Hills, which opened in 1999, to create new routings for five, seven and 12 holes. "There's a lot of rhetoric about growing the game and making it more attractive to people to bring them back to the game, but Island Hills is doing much more than talking about it," said Hearn.

Working from the original 18 holes, the architect created a five-hole short course for beginners and those will little time for full round. He also crafted two seven-hole routings (East and West), and a 12-hole "Premier" loop that incorporates six holes from each side.

Griffioen says the times and days for the shorter rounds will be carefully selected, and communication with golfers will be paramount. Some early testing is planned with free golf. "We are not going to put a group of golfers playing seven holes out in the middle of a weekend day in which the course is already filled with golfers playing 18 holes," Griffioen says.

"We are going to get this right," he added. "We have new cart and walking paths being created, and signs will be posted to communicate to the golfer to lessen confusion. We're committed to it. We want feedback because we want to make it right."

Hearn took care in making sure the new routings rival the 18-hole experience in terms of shot quality, the selection of holes to be played and beauty of the rolling hills, water and vistas.

Six sets of tees, including new positions that were part of the redesign, give golfers multiple options. Course superintendent Joe Jehnsen promises careful tee and pin placement plans for the routings. "Island Hills wants the golfer to feel it was a great 12-hole, seven-hole or even five-hole experience when they are finished, in really the same way they do an 18-hole round at Island Hills," he said.

Griffioen says the ultimate goal is to grow the customer base by removing impediments related to time, cost and difficulty. Special scorecards for each layout have been created with carefully designed mapping, measured yardages and photos.

"The golfer will not have to take one of our 18-hole scorecards and try to figure out where to go," Griffioen says. "That would defeat the purpose. We are taking away the time element. Play the amount of time you have by picking the course you want to play, and know it will be a very organized and great round that will feel complete in the end."

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