An insider's look at Harbor Shores
No one -- other than course designer Jack Nicklaus, of course -- knows all of the nuances of Harbor Shores better than PGA General Manager Ross Smith. Here's his assessment of the layout as senior golf's best prepare to compete for the coveted Alfred S. Bourne Trophy.
By Ross Smith, PGA General Manager, Harbor Shores
This is a unique golf course. It can’t be stereotyped as being a parkland or a links style of course.
Our course has four distinct sections. The opening six holes are great Jack Nicklaus design holes. After the sixth, there’s a dramatic change. Holes 7, 8 and 9 play into the dunes along Lake Michigan. It’s somewhat comparable to Scotland. Then, from the 10th hole through No. 13, you have elevation changes and trees. They are our Northern Michigan holes. Finally, 14-18 wrap around wetlands and the Paw Paw River.
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The scorecard says the course plays at 6,852 yards, but that’s a bit misleading because there are five par 3s. In reality, it really plays like a 7,000-yard course.
This is a fair driving course. There’s not a hole that makes a player feel claustrophobic. Nicklaus put his emphasis on the green complexes. I’ve never played a course where the greens are as undulating. There’s really going to be a premium on putting the ball in the right place on these greens.
As it did during the 2012 Senior PGA, the green at the par-5 10th will get a lot of attention. It is a two-tiered surface and some 10,500 square feet. Some people think it’s quirky, but I think it is fabulous. Nicklaus is challenging the players to think here. If the hole is on that top tier, you don’t want anything less than a full shot in there. You’ve got to be right with your yardage. Despite the possible difficulty of the green, this was one of the easier holes in 2012, playing under par for the week.
The seventh hole is going to be pivotal. It’s only 430 yards, but it is perhaps the hardest par 4 I’ve ever played. The player is faced with an uphill approach into a small green protected by bunkers and prairie grasses. You can make a double or triple bogey there really quick. A player able to play No. 7 in even par over four days is going to pick up a lot of ground on the rest of the field.
There are several terrific par 4s at Harbor Shores. The 16th hole doesn’t play that long on the scorecard (422 yards), but it usually is into the wind and there’s a big hazard on the left. It’s going to be a big factor down the stretch.
This course opens up the Championship to a lot of people. Power is not going to win. The advantage is going to go to somebody who has a good short game. A great putter and a great chipper is going to have more of an opportunity here.
This feature appears courtesy of Golfweek and the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid Championship Program. To see a digital version of the Championship Program, click here.
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