Divine Calling

Metro Detroit native Ray Hearn is transforming a former seminary golf course into a championship resort track.
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Ray Hearn Portrait
Living the Dream – Ray Hearn always wanted to be a golf course architect. Now he’s working on making the course at the former St. John’s Provincial Seminary into a destination course. // Photographs by Nic Antaya

When Ray Hearn was in high school in the 1970s, he told a classmate that he wanted to be a golf course architect. Decades later, he’s one of the nation’s most sought-after links designers, and today he’s working on transforming the 27 holes at the former St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township — recently renamed St. John’s Resort — into an 18-hole championship course.

Hearn’s handiwork, which will include a seven-hole par-3 course and a putting course, will add to the renovations being done to St. John’s brick and mortar structures. That project includes a one-of-a-kind 15,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor ballroom space for up to 2,000 people, as well as the development of a 6,200-square-foot outdoor garden pavilion. In addition, there’s a 10- to 15-acre section in a corner of the property that’s designated for a future housing development.

Located near the southeast corner of Five Mile and Sheldon roads, St. John’s Resort was established in 1948 as a Roman Catholic seminary to provide graduate-level theological education and spiritual formation for diocesan priesthood candidates from the dioceses of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, and Marquette.

An aerial view of St. John's Resort, formerly called St. John's Provincial Seminary, in Plymouth Township. // Courtesy of Inn at St. John's
An aerial view of St. John’s Resort, formerly called St. John’s Provincial Seminary, in Plymouth Township. // Courtesy of Inn at St. John’s

St. John’s golf course began with nine holes designed by the late Edward Cardinal Mooney in the property’s earliest years, and grew to 18 when the course opened to the public in 1979.

The seminary closed in 1988 and the site became a resource for diocesan youth and families. Nine more holes were added during the property’s redevelopment in the 1990s. The new course is expected to be ready to play by August or September 2023.

Pulte Family Management SJ acquired The Inn at St. John’s from the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit in August 2021. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fairway to Heaven - Workers from LaBar Golf work to transform the three nine-hole golf courses at St. John’s Resort into an 18-hole championship course named The Cardinal.
Fairway to Heaven – Workers from LaBar Golf work to transform the three nine-hole golf courses at St. John’s Resort into an 18-hole championship course named The Cardinal.

Enter Hearn, who got into the golf course design business by bothering the legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. as a high schooler until the latter gave him an eight-year path of education and apprenticeship to help him achieve his dream.

Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs, now based in Holland, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021 and has completed projects in several states and many countries around the world.

“This place really screams for a championship 18 (holes),” Hearn says of the St. John’s property. “With a five-tee system, it can be something for everyone to play. The original three nines were really short nines. Now, St. John’s can aspire to some nice state and regional tournaments, or a national amateur.”

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