BOYNE Golf: Paying Homage to Donald Ross Continues at The Highlands

Four more revamped holes are now open at the Donald Ross Memorial, part of the Midwest’s largest golf resort destination.

Harbor Springs, MI – As part of a multi-year transformation project to renovate northern Michigan’s Donald Ross Memorial at The Highlands, four additionally renovated holes are now open at the BOYNE Golf facility built to honor the legendary architect. The one-of-a-kind 18-hole layout is a composite re-creation of classic golf holes from iconic venues that the father of golf course architecture in America designed in the early part of the 20th century.

The latest holes to be completed include Hole 2 (No. 4 Plainfield Country Club), Hole 13 (No. 15 Seminole), Hole 15 (No. 11 Aronimink), and Hole 16 (No. 10 Pinehurst No. 2). Five holes have now been renovated to Ross’ original designs, and additional holes are on tap for renovation over the next few years.

Thirty-five years ago, BOYNE Golf’s founder, Everett Kircher, had a vision to create a new and unique golf course at the time that would pay homage to the golden era of classic course architecture and Ross. His vision was to re-create some of Ross’ signature holes from his top courses east of the Mississippi River. The course features classic renditions from historic venues like Seminole, Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, Oak Hill, Scioto, Detroit Golf Club, Aronimink, Wannamoisett, Plainfield, and Inverness, to name a few.

Today, President and CEO Stephen Kircher of Boyne Resorts continues his father’s vision by curating a pure Donald Ross experience for resort guests.

“When we began this journey in the late 1980s, Dad wanted to create a unique golf experience that no other resort had done before, replicating some of the great designs of famous holes in one compositive golf course,” said Kircher. “Bringing a focus on arguably the most prolific and successful architect of the 20th century was the driving force in the selection of Donald Ross’ works, especially since so many of his best works were not readily available to the general public. This has been very exciting for us and our resort guests, who will now have a more genuine Donald Ross experience.” 

Kircher and long-time BOYNE executive Bernie Friedrich, the Director of Golf Course Renovations and Development for BOYNE Golf, who is leading the project, were also part of the original selection and execution team during the course’s original development. They enlisted Michigan-based course architect and Donald Ross expert Ray Hearn to oversee it.

“We are thrilled with how these memorable holes have turned out,” said Friedrich. “Our objective with every hole has been to duplicate Ross’s original designs. More accurately following Ross’s original designs, we reshaped the fairways, creating additional angles into the greens and improving shot values. Along with more accurate positioning of bunkers and more exacting green complexes, golfers will experience an even more authentic Donald Ross experience. We cannot wait for the golf community to see the transformation.”

When the course was first built, some effort was required to focus on Ross’ elite private clubs. More than 50 Ross courses were visited and studied to determine the best holes to create.

“The opportunity we now have through technology makes this process so exciting,” explained Friedrich. “We didn’t have iPhones or camera phones back then, so we took pictures of the holes with a Polaroid camera. We now have more access to Ross’ original drawings, Google Earth data (past and present), CAD drawings, and, maybe most importantly, Lidar maps.” 

How uncanny is the accuracy? “We were at the PGA Show in Orlando and ran into Jeff Kiddie, the PGA Head Professional at Aronimink,” says Friedrich. “I told him he should come and visit us sometime, as we have a Ross course with renditions of golf holes from around the country. I mentioned we just remodeled our 15th hole, which is their 11th. We showed him a picture of our hole, and he looked at it for a while and then said, ‘Did you get that picture off of our website’? That is how accurate the construction and attention to detail has been.”

Ross was known for designing some of the most outstanding green complexes in the game at places like Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, and Seminole, to name a few. This is where BOYNE Golf is excelling.

“The green complexes have always been a priority,” explained Friedrich. “Today, through the new technology, we can gather photos and dimensions to replicate the green more accurately, creating an authentic Donald Ross experience. We are getting the greens within one inch of their original grades now.”

Next on tap will be the 10th hole, a rendition of No. 14 at Royal Dornoch, where Ross grew up, was the superintendent, and learned the trade under Old Tom Morris. Construction starts in June and will be done by 2025.

“This hole is being completely redone to render one of the greatest holes in the world accurately. Our prior work did not begin to capture what this version of No. 14 will be…it will be, without a doubt, in my opinion, the finest of all 160 plus holes we have at Boyne Golf,” explained Friedrich.

“These new Donald Ross holes are more stunning to look at and have been met with positive reviews from our resort guests, who are core golfers. Last season, we had more rounds played on the Ross than ever before and much of it was due to the excitement surrounding the new holes we are creating.”

For more information on the Donald Ross Memorial and to learn more about each of the individual holes being worked on, visit https://boynegolf.com/the-highlands/donald-ross-memorial/rosscourseupgrades

About BOYNE Golf

Boyne Resorts have been recognized among the “Top 100 Resorts” by GOLF Magazine and one of the “Best Resorts in the Americas” by Golf Digest. The Inn at Bay Harbor and Bay Harbor Golf Club, Boyne’s flagship properties, feature 45-holes including three golf course combinations designed by Arthur Hills (Links/Quarry, Quarry/Preserve, and Preserve/Links), and the scenic Crooked Tree Golf Club, with one of the most beautiful and iconic hotels in America, all set along a scenic five-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline.

The Highlands at Harbor Springs, rated the No. 1 Golf Resort for Value by Golf.com, features 72 holes of premier golf design. The Heather, the 2019 NGCOA Course of the Year, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., while the Hills Course was crafted by Arthur Hills. In addition, the resort features The Donald Ross Memorial, which is a rendition of the legendary architect’s great holes from around the country, and the always-fun Moor course. The Highland at Harbor Springs is the perfect buddy trip destination for golfers who like to play as many holes as they can during the long summer daylight hours northern Michigan features.

Boyne Mountain not only features two fun 18-hole courses (The Monument and Alpine), along with the charming Mountain Grand Lodge & Spa, it is also the leading family friendly golf destination in the region with the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, junior golf camps, and various kid golf programs. Golf Digest named Boyne Mountain one of its “Top-10 Destinations for Family Golf Trips.”

Visit www.BOYNEgolf.com.

Donald Ross Memorial Course Upgrades

Hole 2 (No. 4 Plainfield Country Club)

There are now three new, larger tee boxes better aligned with the fairway. Select trees were removed from the left side of the fairway, which improved the view of the pin from the tee box and fairway. In addition, two bunkers were added to better replicate Ross’ original design. One bunker was added to the right side of the fairway, approximately 40 yards from the most forward tee box, and the second was added about 220 yards from the front tee box just inside the fairway on the right side near the top of the knoll.

Hole 13 (No. 15 Seminole)

The green complex has been modified extensively, reducing its size by 10 percent and raising it approximately three feet. The entire green complex, including greenside bunkers, was reshaped, and the fairway cut around the green was extended to better replicate Ross’ original design.

Hole 15 (No. 11 Aronimink)

Several years ago, officials at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania determined that the hole was altered from Ross’ original design, and the club restored the hole to Ross’ plans. The BOYNE team received the original design and restored our version of the hole to its original layout. A new set of tee boxes was added, the fairway was widened, fairway bunkers were added but reduced in size, and the entire green complex was expanded by 65 percent and reshaped to replicate Ross’s original design.  The team added multiple levels at the front of the green and off-set bunkers in front of the lower level, creating a challenging illusion on the approach shot.

Hole 16 (No. 10 Pinehurst No. 2)

Renovations on Hole 16 changed it back to the original Ross design. Boyne built a larger back tee. The fairway was reshaped and corrected to the same width as Pinehurst No. 10. The grass-covered mound on the left side of the fairway was removed, while a new mound was added on the right-hand side near the front of the fairway. The bunker on the right side of the fairway was removed, and the remainder of the bunkers were rebuilt, with most being slightly reduced in size. The green was completely redone, increasing the size from 4,100 sq. ft. to its correct size of 8,300 sq. ft. It’s very undulating, producing the subtle ball movement that Ross greens often create. The green complex now has an additional run-off area on the side and back of the green that’s found on many Ross signature holes.

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