Playing Where Legends Play - Harbor Shores
With the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship slipping off the PGA TOUR Champions 2020 calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, television viewers will be missing out on the tantalizing scenery of the Jack Nicklaus Signature design at Harbor Shores Resort in Benton Harbor, Michigan, but golfers who visit this resort destination will experience what golfing legends have appreciated since 2012.
Harbor Shores has become a must-play among Midwest destinations, courtesy of a captivating layout that winds through four distinct terrains at the convergence of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the meandering Paw Paw River. Built on a site that once housed abandoned auto parts factories and a massive dumping ground, Harbor Shores delivers beauty, challenge and strategy at every turn. Monuments next to teeing areas remind visitors how far this land, and the surrounding community, have come in just one decade.
Nicklaus’ Harbor Shores routing reveals a commitment to naturalism and letting the flow and contour of the land dictate the aesthetics and playability. The course features roughly hewn bunkers, exposed native areas and a gentle touch that allows stunning features, like towering coastal sand dunes at holes 7, 8 and 9, to shine.
The par-3 second and near-drivable par-4 third help ease you into the round. Number 2 plays 174 yards over a massive bunker formation. The buildup continues with the long risk-reward par-5 fifth and the challenging par-4 sixth, where a drive along the wetlands sets up an approach to a green guarded by wetlands on the right.
Harbor Shores’ most-photographed par four, the 436-yard, dogleg-right 7th, is arguably its most demanding. From an island teeing ground, drives must navigate bunkers and a pond in the right portion of the landing area to position an uphill approach into a small green built into the dunes that overlook the beachfront and Lake Michigan. The eighth hole follows with a challenging drive along the sandy ridge, leaving an approach to a green tucked into the dunes. A final glimpse of Lake Michigan comes on the back side of the tee at the 578-yard, par-5 ninth. This demanding three-shot hole doglegs left sharply and, with wetlands lurking left, there’s a huge premium on angle of attack.
Driving past Jack’s Place halfway house takes golfers to holes 10 through 13, which play through woodlands and wind through rolling hills, ravines and a hardwood forest. The 10th hole is a reachable par 5 for longer hitters, but don’t be fooled. The massive 10,000 square foot green is reminiscent of a Himalayas Putting Course in Scotland. It’s also the site of Harbor Shores’ most famous hole-out. During the course’s grand opening, Nicklaus was paired with playing legends Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller and responded to Miller’s protestation that the 120-foot putt from the green’s lower level was “impossible” by promptly draining it. Anyone who plays here has to try the putt.
The finishing holes, 14 through 18, border the Paw Paw River, Ox Creek and its wetlands, providing scenic and exciting shot values, like the views into the greens at 14 and 15 over the Paw Paw. The 420-yard, par-4 18th finishes along a serene stretch of the river in a well-treed hollow.
Harbor Shores is the “even-numbered-years” host of the Senior PGA, so 2022 will mark the event’s return to the Southwest Michigan course Nicklaus has tabbed as one of his 18 favorite course designs. Not only do guests at Harbor Shores play where the legends have roamed, they also play through all the best natural terrains Michigan golf has to offer in a single round. Visit www.harborshoresresort.com.