Harbor Shores 7th hole
Credit: Gary Kellner/PGA of America/PGA

Waiting four years to see the return of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship to Harbor Shores Resort might as well have been a lifetime. The course, which hosted the major championship every other year since 2012, was slated to host the senior major again in 2020 until it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Josh Doxtator, the General Manager of Harbor Shores and a PGA of America Professional, says the last minute cancellation took the wind out of their sails as the venue was putting the finishing touches on the course when it had to be canceled.

“It’s almost surreal now, where everything has come to fruition and the build is complete,” Doxtator said about the major championship finally making its return to Harbor Shores. “Seeing it come together as a PGA Professional, it doesn’t get any better than hosting a major championship and hosting the best players in the world at your property.”

The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship returns to the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course for the first time since 2018 and a fifth time overall. Doxtator has been at the course for three years but will experience, for the first time in 2022, what it's like to host the world’s best players, many of whom he says have made an advance trip to scope out the venue. In fact, Doxtator said there were more players who came to scope out the venue than they expected to see in advance of the championship. Alex Cejka, the defending champion of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, played 36 holes in a single day before making the trip to Southern Hills Country Club for the PGA Championship.

Senior PGA Championship - Round One
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - MAY 27: Alex Cejka of Germany plays his shot from the 13th tee during the First Round of the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 27, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

“Alex thought it was a great golf course,” Doxtator said he told him after his practice rounds.”He thought it was demanding of a player from a second shot side of things.”

Colin Montgomerie also came out to play the course during the Summer of 2021 and played a full 18 holes with Doxtator. In 2014, Montgomerie won at Harbor Shores for his first major title and first victory on American soil. Doxtator’s opportunity to get to play alongside the major champion was a once in a lifetime experience.

“We had a great time,” Doxtator said about playing with Monty. “I watched him growing up and seeing the same swing, the same demeanor, the same everything. And, he can still really hit it and play very well.” 

Montgomerie’s takeaway from playing the course? He saw a similarity between Harbor Shores and the seaside links courses that he grew up playing in Europe. It’s a comparison Doxtator says he’s often heard from European players about his home course. And it’s a worthy comparison as the course is nearly surrounded by water and the influences of it.

Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid - Final Round
FRENCH LICK, IN - MAY 24: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland wins the 76th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid held at French Lick Springs Resort on May 24, 2015 in French Lick, Indiana. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
Credit: PGA

Harbor Shores is situated less than two miles inland from Lake Michigan. The course is also bordered by the Paw Paw River and Ox Creek. Visual obstacles that kept players from seeing these various bodies of water have been removed in recent years to provide not just an eye line to the water but it will also create a mental hurdle for players to overcome as they'll see more water in play than they have in years past.

Additionally, the winds coming off Lake Michigan will have a significant influence on how the course plays during the KitchenAid PGA Championship. Holes Nos. 6, 7, and 8 will be ones to keep an eye on during the championship as their difficulty will largely hinge on the intensity of the wind.

The 17th hole at Harbor Shores
The 17th hole at Harbor Shores
Credit: Gary Kellner/PGA of America/PGA

“Depending on the winds off Lake Michigan, they can play extremely difficult or it can be helpful. But it's a stretch that definitely can set the tone for how the player gets into the back nine,” Doxtator said about the most challenging holes on the course, adding the closing stretch of Nos. 14-18 will also present a variety of risk-reward opportunities for players. “If winds are blowing 30-40 mph, you can be assured it's going to be a really tough test.”

Doxtator says the final few days leading into the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship have been busy, hectic, and long. But, there’s also plenty of excitement as the General Manager and his team have worked tirelessly the last two years, and the two years before that, to see the return of volunteers, fans, and the best players in the world, to Harbor Shores.

“When you're hosting a major championship, [the course] should be tournament ready every single day, so we've been working towards that,” Doxtator said about their final preparations. “And, ultimately it's that every person who steps on property remembers us for good things and we create a great memory for them because that’s who we are.”

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