When I found out that I was getting to play Point O’Woods on my upcoming trip to Michigan I visited the website to check out the layout. As luck would have it, they have a flyover video of each hole – so I settled in to check it out. Panic set in when it looked like the predominant tee shot was a draw – I CAN’T hit a draw. Looks like it will be a long day of punching out from the woods.
I woke up early that morning and made the drive from Chicago around the Lake – I drove past Benton Harbor to go check out some sights in Holland, MI – about an hour north of the course. I grew up in Southeast Michigan, but had never checked out the famous Windmill in Holland. The history of the windmill came as a surprise to me. I also went to the beach to get pictures of the lighthouse at Macatawa. I got some great pictures of the Windmill and Lighthouse on a perfectly sunny day.
With about thirty minutes to kill I found my way to the Holland Bowl Mill. At the mill, they hand turn bowls and other wooden creations that look incredible. With only a few minutes to take it all in, I checked out as much as I could – and made a mental shopping list that I will fulfill on their website (www.hollandbowlmill.com) – including free engraving. I can’t wait to add some of these beautiful creations to my home decor!
I drove back to Benton Harbor to meet John, my gracious host, for lunch on the balcony overlooking the golf course. We chatted while we ate, we barely knew each other, and enjoyed some light sandwiches and ridiculous sweet potato fries. After lunch we headed to the range to loosen up – and work on that draw I was going to need off the tee all day. No luck.
The first hole has a gradual pull to the left, but is otherwise wide open. I started well enough with a par, and pounded a drive down the middle on the very difficult Par 5 Second. Then the wheels fell off. I tried to hit the hero approach shot around a tree and over water. Note to self – don’t try the hero shot. I tapped in for a 9, and shook it off. I followed that up with a birdie on 3, and settled in.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. It has been in America’s Top 100 Courses for 40+ years and has hosted the prestigious Western Amateur 41 times – winners include Hal Sutton, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, and some dude named Tiger, among many other greats.
Luckily, the overhead shots on the website make it look much tighter than it really is. Several tees definitely demand a draw, but it is much more playable than the video had me believe. I was hitting the ball well that day, but scoring was more of a challenge. As always, I believe that playing a course for the first time will cost you a few extra strokes as you find your way around. I’d like to chalk up my score to that.
The greens were somewhat slow that day, but I am glad they were. I found myself above the hole much of the day and my putting stats reflect that – 34 putts! 5 3-putts!
The day was sunny and warm. Thankfully the breeze helped cool things down. It was a great day on an awesome golf course. John, my host and new friend, was a great playing partner. The conversation lasted beyond the round, we learned a lot about each other, and helped each other learn more about the game. I have been able to meet some great people through my work, many of which have become great friends. I think we can add one more to that list.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. called Point O’Woods “perhaps his best American course”. It’s hard to argue that it is anything but that. I found the design to be very fair, but tough. A wonderful, classic layout that would challenge you every time you play it.
As I started this 4-day, 4-course trip to Southwest Michigan, I thought Point O’Woods would be the bottom of the list. Was I WRONG! I can’t wait for another chance to play this classic course. I’ll avoid the hero shot, and hope to score much better.