Harbor Shores Resort - Jetsetting the Shores of Lake Michigan
Written by Marc Hall
When jet setting to bucket list golf destinations, you’re often seeking several priceless days of quality championship golf, luxurious accommodations, exquisite dining options, and entertaining non-golf activities. Enter Harbor Shores Resort along the shores of Lake Michigan in Southwest Michigan. It’s a luxury development that features a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, Harbor Shores Golf Club, as its centerpiece. In fact, the course has hosted the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship four times and will again in 2022. Flying into the city’s Southwest Michigan Airport, which only accommodates private aircraft, our group saw endless miles of sandy beaches and the scenic routing of the course that Nicklaus boldly tabbed one of his 18 favorite designs of all time.
Revitalized areas and multi-purpose developments have sprung up around the course over the past decade, including multiple residential communities and a luxe river-side boutique hotel. This development was a turning point in Benton Harbor’s history. During World War II, local Whirlpool plants and factories were transformed into F.D.R.’s arsenal of democracy, manufacturing components for fighter planes. The city then evolved into a vibrant manufacturing center in the 1950’s and 1960’s, only to see it all disappear over the next 20 years -- prompting community leaders to recognize that change was desperately needed. Today, the highly rated course sits where 6,000 manufacturing jobs were lost over an 18-month period in the 1980’s. Most of the buildings sat empty for years, leaving roughly three million square feet of industrial materials — enough to fill a football field 80 feet tall. On our visit, we opted to stay in the new Champions Villa, conveniently located along the first fairway of the course right next to the clubhouse, which was very cool. Golf luxury is the best way to describe this 2,000-square-foot, 4-bedroom/4-bath unit equipped with a full kitchen and open living space. It was a perfect space for our foursome and can hold as many as eight. If you ever decide to visit, make sure to check out the Champions Package that Includes two nights lodging plus unlimited golf for four guests.
The other excellent option for lodging is the beautiful Inn at Harbor Shores, a 92-room luxury hotel on the St. Joseph River. It features 14 luxury suites, two top-floor condominiums, a rooftop meeting space, and a wide selection of dining options such as Plank’s Tavern on the Water, Torch & Tapas, and Rise & Vine. We couldn’t wait to hit the first tee the next morning and experience the course where some of the game’s greatest players have played. Right out of the gate, we were amazed at the beauty and the fun challenge, but also at the transformation this site had undergone. Through remarkable engineering and vision, the course runs across four vastly diverse and beautiful terrains. In fact, this was highlighted on each hole with signage telling the story about what once laid there -- replete with before-and-after images, showcasing Whirlpool’s visions and the engineering feats. Flanking the signs were beautifully crafted art pieces commemorating each of Nicklaus’ 18 major championships. The opening six holes play through scenic wetland areas, crafted and immersed in what feels like its natural terrain. The short drivable par-4 3rd along the Paw Paw River, and the par-5 5th, offer up some fun and exciting shots. Reaching 7, 8 and 9, we knew this place was special. Nicklaus strategically routed these holes through spectacular sand dunes adjacent to the revitalized Jean Clock Park for truly jaw-dropping surroundings.
The back nine brought more beauty and challenges beginning at 10, where the 20,000-square-foot green is the site of one of Nicklaus’s greatest shots ever…Google the video! You will be amazed. Finishing the round along the river, holes 14 through 18 are as scenic as it gets. Along with Harbor Shores Golf Club, the region also boasts other fine public tracts. But if you’re a big game hunter for golf and have the right connections, two top private clubs (Point O’ Woods and Lost Dunes) are just a pitching wedge away. In addition to playing this world-class course, we also took an afternoon to check out the local beaches, the revitalized downtown area for some great food, and Makers Trail that features some of Michigan’s finest breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Overall, this was a memorable trip, and we’ll definitely make it a point to return -- maybe to watch the legends of the game up close in 2022. To schedule your own golf getaway here, visit www.harborshoresresort.com.