2013-08-08 / Sports

New Northport golf course garnering national attention

By Mike Spencer Of The Enterprise staff


JOHN KREMSREITER, left, and Keean Burden, both of Mount Pleasant, lay irrigation pipe this week at the Northport Creek Golf Course under construction. JOHN KREMSREITER, left, and Keean Burden, both of Mount Pleasant, lay irrigation pipe this week at the Northport Creek Golf Course under construction. There’s a buzz in the Northport community about some new developments, but none may be as far reaching as a new nine-hole golf course under construction in the village limits.

Lansing’s Jerry Matthews, the architect for the $1 million Northport Creek Golf Course, said as much Tuesday after the first month of construction. The course, over 3,000 yards long, is expected to open in July 2014.

Matthews, Bill Collins, a spokesman for the developer Northport Creek, LLC., and course superintendent Brad Krolik were beaming about the possibility of the course being the first solar powered one in the country.

“If it works, it will be one of the biggest stories in golf in this country,” said Matthews, a wellknown Michigan natural golf course designer. “I think the concept of what is happening here is a wonderful story for golf, wonderful for Michigan and the Leelanau Peninsula and a great story for golf in this country.


BILL COLLINS, from left, Brad Krolik and Jerry Matthews stand near the No. 2 tee as contruction is under way at the nine-hole golf course in Northport. BILL COLLINS, from left, Brad Krolik and Jerry Matthews stand near the No. 2 tee as contruction is under way at the nine-hole golf course in Northport. “This course is being talked about nationwide. To be building a nine-hole course in northern Michigan when no one else is and having the village run it, is a great story in itself.”

Collins said he’s waiting to see if he can operate the course on solar power alone.

“I want to wait until we get the basic electricity in first, and establish what some of these big 30 horsepower pumps are going to require for power,” Collins said. “But it’s my plan to be able to provide some good solar power, whether we can make it 100 percent or not, I don’t know yet.”


A BULLDOZER moves around dirt for a hole at the Northport Creek Golf Course. A BULLDOZER moves around dirt for a hole at the Northport Creek Golf Course. Matthews said he contacted Ron Whitten, Golf Digest’s architecture editor, last week about solar powered courses.

“What’s fascinating is that Ron said he’d never heard of it,” Matthews said. “He’s heard of wind energy, but not solar on a golf course.”

Matthews, who hadn’t designed a course since 2005 when Sundance was built in Kewadin, said the Northport course is the only one he knows under development in Michigan.

Matthews said Michigan was one of the leaders in building new courses for years, however, an economic downturn has led to about 30 or 40 being closed.

“We basically overbuilt, too many, too quickly,” he said. “People are still struggling to hold on.”

Matthews, Collins and Krolik met with engineer Jon Walters of The Schiffer Group, Inc., of Traverse City on Tuesday to see how the project, which started in late June, is developing. The main contractor on the project is Great Lakes Golf & Site Development, Inc., of Boyne City.

“It’s coming along quite well,” Collins said. “It’s exciting to see the changes and how much change has taken place in the contours.

“We’re all happily surprised how it’s picking up and looking like it’s going to really go.”

Matthews said five holes — Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 — have already been designed and work began this week on No. 4 and No. 5.

“The best thing working with Jerry is that he has all these pages of drawings that define everything ... grading and seeding plans,” he said. “But being a very artistic guy, Jerry comes out and looks at what is happening and he makes changes to it.

“It’s exciting to see it happen.”

Krolik, who has been superintendent at a couple of courses including Mistwood at Lake Ann, is excited about what he’s seen so far.

“They pile dirt in places and then Jerry comes out and has a picture of how he wants it and it gets put together,” he said. “If he doesn’t like something, he re-arranges it.”

Krolik said every architect has their own style.

“It’s interesting how Jerry likes to look at the lay of the land,” Krolik said. “I’ve worked with other architects that do everything by drawing and then give it to the contractor and that’s the way it is.”

Matthews said the property the course sits on has been a good surprise.

“We can do a lot with a piece of ground with topos and aerials, but we don’t really know what the ground looks like until we clear it and start shaping it,” he said. “There’s been some nice surprises.”

Matthews said he anticipates No. 6 — the only par 5 on the course — will be the signature hole.

“It’s over water, uphill all the way and it ends up by the clubhouse,” he said. “It’s not the prettiest view, but it’s extremely pretty from the second shot in.”

Matthews said all nine holes are being worked on. Clearing has just started on No. 9. Irrigation is going in on the holes already designed.

“We’re doing all phases except seeding,” Matthews said.

The seeding is expected to start by the end of the month, once the water system is in place.

The only snag so far is final approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on its wetlands application. Collins said he’s gotten good cooperation from the county soil and erosion people, however.

Matthews said he expects the Northport course to be challenging.

“I’ve done difficult golf holes, but I’ve never done difficult golf courses,” Matthews said. “And I won’t.

“If you make it difficult, people can’t enjoy it. I think golf in simple terms should be challenging, but fair. I want them to enjoy it, but I also want them to be challenged.”

Matthews said he designs courses to be “physically beautiful,” so they’ll remember it.

“They’re going to remember this one and have fun playing it,” he said.

Matthews said there’s also a new trend in golf to design courses so that three holes can be played so it doesn’t take so long. Others are set up so six or 12 holes can be played.

“This is the first time I’ve designed it to end up three holes,” he said. “No. 6 ends at the clubhouse, so you could just play Nos. 7, 8 and 9,” Matthews said he’s also designing the course with forward tees for junior golfers.

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