Harbor Shores Superintendent Matt Vollrath Sets up Tough Test
Matt Vollrath took the head superintendent job at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores last November, and with a laugh, he said it’s been “a sprint” to get to KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship week.
Vollrath, who work as an assistant super at the club three years ago, is eager to welcome some of the best golfers in the world back to the Benton, Harbor, Mich. masterpiece.
The club, which has hosted four KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships in the past, is open to the public. That’s something noteworthy, he says.
“The public is able to come out and with the conditions staying pretty much the same anyone can come play similar conditions and walk where their favorites walk and putt the same greens,” says Vollrath. “That’s the special thing about this place.
“Anybody can come out here come June and play similar, if not the same, conditions.”
The club, the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on Lake Michigan, has become a proven test for the game’s best as well.
It opened in 2010 and was quickly named one of the best new courses in the country before hosting its first KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship two years later.
“With Harbor Shores, we set out really to change a community,” said Nicklaus.
Roger Chapman won in 2012, while Colin Montgomerie won in 2014 (for his first victory on American soil), Rocco Mediate won in 2016 by three over Montgomerie, and Paul Broadhurst won in 2018 thanks to a final-round 63.
The club is also set to host the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2024.
Vollrath says ball-striking will be key this week.
“Approach shots… that’s what the whole course is designed for. Finding the right tier on the greens with how undulating they are,” he says. “Whoever is striking the ball the best will end up putting up a pretty good score.”
Vollrath, who is from about 15 miles north of Benton Shores and says it’s been “an ideal scenario” for him to work at the club and still stay home, is quite familiar with the Lake Michigan-impacted weather in late May.
The forecast is calling for high wind and rain, at least for the first few days of the Championship.
“Weather… I hope we get lucky,” says Vollrath with a laugh. “Everything we do is based on weather and to combat Mother Nature. Hopefully we get lucky.”
A few golfers in the field of this week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship have already descended on Harbor Shores. Vollrath says the guys are working on getting their sightlines before Thursday’s opener.
Golfers must traverse four distinct terrains over the 18 holes at Harbor Shores. The first six holes are on the inland terrain, while No’s 7-9 boast dramatic views of Lake Michigan. No’s 10-13 wind through rolling hills, ravines, and forest. The closing four holes are in a river terrain which borders the Paw Paw River, Ox Creek, and its wetlands.
Vollrath, who has 50 volunteers coming in to help this week from a handful of states, says since he first began working at the club there has been minor changes with the architecture. A bunker that was washed out was filled in, but the other changes were wrapped in improving conditions and drainage – things that are less noticeable to most golfers.
What will be noticeable, however, is that some of the best in the world are going to take on solid challenge this week on the shores of Lake Michigan.
And then it’ll open back up to everyone.
“That’s what makes it so special,” says Vollrath.