CENTREVILLE — New ownership of the Amish country gem near Three Rivers and Sturgis has reshaped and renewed the course with a significant redesign by architect Raymond Hearn in the last two years, and Island Hills is ready to show its stuff in revolutionary ways.
Bob Griffioen, Island Hills’ passionately energized owner, is aware that time, cost and the game’s difficulty serve as persistent challenges to those who would otherwise revel on the shores of Lake Templene. It’s with that knowledge and an incomparable dedication to the customer that his resort-style public golf club is doing something about it.
Hearn, the internationally known architect who created the original design for the 1999 opening of Island Hills GC, has created four course routings of five, seven and 12 holes that can be played without missing out on the quality of golf shots as well as beauty and challenge inherent in the course design and natural beauty created by the glaciers so long ago.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric about growing the game and making it more attractive to people to bring them back to the game, but Island Hills is doing much more than talking about it,” says Hearn, whose award-winning work and influence are international in scope. Working from the original 18 holes, the architect has created a five-hole short course routing perfect for those with little time and especially beginners.
He has also created two seven-hole routings (East and West), and a 12-hole “Premier” course routing that incorporates six holes from each side. Each is aimed at the golfer who needs to choose his or her allotted time for the game without sacrificing golf’s wonderful attributes in the experience.
Griffioen says the logistics and planning required will not deter Island Hills. Times and days for the rounds on the new routings will be carefully selected, and communication with golfers will be paramount in the implication of the programs. Some early testing is planned with free golf offered to customers who help.
“We are not going to put a group of golfers playing seven holes out in the middle of a weekend day in which the course is already filled with golfers playing 18 holes,” Griffioen says. “We are going to get this right. We have new cart and walking paths being created, and signs will be posted to communicate to the golfer to lessen confusion. We’re committed to it. We want feedback because we want to make it right.”
Hearn took great care in making sure the golf available in the new routings rivals the 18-hole experience in terms of shot quality, the selection of holes to be played and beauty of the natural rolling hills, water and captivating views of Island Hills.
Six sets of tees, including new positions that were part of the redesign, give golfers multiple challenge options as well. Course Superintendent Joe Jehnsen, who has groomed the country-club condition level, promises careful tee and pin placement plans for the routings.
“Island Hills wants the golfer to feel it was a great 12-hole seven-hole or even five-hole experience when they are finished, in really the same way they do an 18-hole round at Island Hills,” Jehnsen says.
Griffioen, ever open to suggestion, says the ultimate goal is to grow the customer base by eliminating harsh challenges in time, cost and difficulty of the game. Service to the customers is a singular cause because the true nature of Island Hills as a championship-level golf course in design and condition has been restored.
Special scorecards for each layout have been created with carefully designed mapping, measured yardages and colorful photos.
“The golfer will not have to take one of our 18-hole scorecards and try to figure out where to go,” Griffioen says. “That would defeat the purpose. We are taking away the time element. Play the amount of time you have by picking the course you want to play, and know it will be a very organized and great round that will feel complete in the end.”
Coming soon from Island Hills. A special junior golf program has been implemented and an 18-hole “junior golf” course that eliminates many of the game’s intimidation factors is open for play. Specially-designed programs abound at Island Hills, and the golfers, especially women, are already reacting.
Visit www.islandhillsgolf.com for more information.