Southwest Michigan’s Thriving Harbor Shores Resort’s Waterfront
Golf Community Continues to Bring Transformative Growth to Region

Story by: Steve Donahue

BENTON HARBOR, MI — Harbor Shores Golf Club’s 2010 opening signaled a monumental turning point in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph Michigan’s history. After decades of decay, Benton Harbor transformed an abandoned, contaminated 570-acre industrial corridor into a world-class resort destination. The project, spurred by financial assistance from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, also included creating trails and public access to Lake Michigan for tourists and local residents.

Benton Harbor’s ensuing transformation into a desirable residential, tourism, recreational, arts and business destination has been nothing short of miraculous and inspirational.

Harbor Shores Resort is a spectacular and scenic resort destination in Southwest Michigan and is a blueprint for how golf can spur major economic investment in communities. The area has become one of Lake Michigan’s premier beach, golf and waterfront communities.

The centerpiece of this $500 million community revitalization is the 6,852-yard, par-71 Jack Nicklaus Signature design (every-other-year host of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship) that meanders along the Paw Paw River and near the shores of Lake Michigan. The property, designed to help resurrect a community once reliant on a disappearing manufacturing-based economy, is now a beacon for golfers and outdoors enthusiasts from Chicago and across the Midwest.

“Through a culmination of like-minded individuals and the benevolence of locally-based Whirlpool Corporation, Harbor Shores has developed into one of the Midwest’s most attractive and vibrant resort communities with a world-class golf vacation experience,” says Joshua Doxtator, PGA general manager. “The economic growth over the past ten years with real-estate, new businesses coming to the area, golfer visits and overall travelers has been truly remarkable and has become a blueprint for how golf can save a community.”

Complimenting Harbor Shores Golf Club is the stylish 92-room Inn at Harbor Shores, which overlooks the St. Joseph River. The Inn features 14 luxury suites, two top-floor condominiums and a rooftop meeting space. A selection of dining options (including Plank’s Tavern on the Water, Torch & Tapas and Rise & Vine), a full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and wedding venues for up to 300 guests.

The restaurant menus are outstanding, and the helpful servers were spot-on with their suggested local craft beer pairings with my meal selections each night.

Next to the Inn, guests and locals may enjoy a 100-slip, deep-water marina that can accommodate boats up to 90 feet long.

Real estate is flourishing within Harbor Shores. With five breathtaking beaches, towering dunes and panoramic views of Lake Michigan, Harbor Shores stands apart among residential communities and showcases a half dozen enclaves with unique floorplans and lifestyle-driven amenities.

Harbor Shores Resort is located just 90 minutes east of Chicago, three hours west of Detroit and three hours north of Indianapolis, making it a convenient weekend getaway destination and an ideal location for team-building events, weddings and more.

Harbor Shores Resort is a $500 million golf and resort destination in Southwest Michigan, created to spur economic investment in the area, and is one of Lake Michigan’s premier beach, golf and waterfront communities.

Harbor Shores Golf Club has hosted the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, and will host the event in 2020, 2022 and 2024.

The golf club is also home to the Grille at Harbor Shores, a world-class practice facility and academy, and the First Tee of Benton Harbor headquarters, which serves more than 1,000 area junior golfers.

Harbor Shores Resort is a $500 million golf and resort destination in Southwest Michigan, created to spur economic investment in the area, and is one of Lake Michigan’s premier beach, golf and waterfront communities, in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Michigan. After decades of decay, Benton Harbor transformed an abandoned, contaminated 570-acre industrial corridor into Harbor Shores. The project, spurred by financial assistance from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, included creating trails and public access to Lake Michigan for tourists and local residents. The property is now a beacon for golfers and outdoors enthusiasts from Chicago and across the Midwest.

The 570-acre residential, golf, recreational and waterfront community features a full calendar of events and world-class amenities, including a marina village and river-walk, town center with restaurants and shops, health and fitness center, deep-water marina, with a four-star hotel and spa, miles of recreational trails and rivers, and acres of parks and green space.

Visit www.harborshoresresort.com


HARBOR SHORES GOLF CLUB
Harbor Shores Golf Club Overcomes Environmental Hazards
To Become one of Golfers’, Designer Nicklaus’ Favorite Designs
 
By STEVE DONAHUE
 
Let’s face it – golfers making a tee time at a golf course that has hosted a major championship have high expectations when they arrive at the first tee.
 
The inspired layout at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Michigan, is one of those courses, despite being built improbably on a site that housed abandoned auto parts factories and a massive dump.
 
The Golden Bear transformed a stagnant 520-acre site covered with antiquated infrastructure and old buildings into a premier Midwest golf destination. (Above: Hole #8, Below: Hole #17)
Yet, Harbor Shores delivers beauty, challenge and strategy at every turn.
 
The Golden Bear transformed a stagnant 520-acre site covered with antiquated infrastructure and old buildings into a premier Midwest golf destination. The 6,852-yard, par-71 public course has hosted KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships won by Roger Chapman, Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, Paul Broadhurst and Ken Tanigawa, who defends his Kitchen title at Harbor Shores in 2020.
 
I played on a lovely mid-September day in 2019 with PGA General Manager Joshua Doxtator and PGA Associate Jackson Davison — both of whom were wonderful and informative hosts. Incidentally, neither missed a putt on the speedy, tricky putting surfaces.
 
The course flows over four remarkably diverse terrains in a spectacular topographical setting. Holes 1-6, are located in the inland terrain. Holes 7, 8 and 9 wind along a dramatically exposed dunes-scape with awe-inspiring views of Lake Michigan. Holes 10 through 13 play through woodlands and wind through rolling hills, ravines and a hardwood forest. The finishing holes, 14 through 18, border the Paw Paw River, Ox Creek and its wetlands. It's like playing through the best terrains Michigan golf has to offer, all in one round. The course also shares three holes with historic Jean Klock Park, along Lake Michigan.
 
Another unique touch at Harbor Shores are the glass sculptures representing the Golden Bear’s18 professional majors displayed at each of the 18 tee boxes on the course.
 
The most-famous hole is undoubtedly the 10th, a 539-yard par-5 thanks to what happened at the 2012 First Tee of Benton Harbor grand-opening ceremony, which included legends Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Johnny Miller, First Tee members and fans. The large table-top green measures 10,500 square feet. Miller complained to the architect that putts from a steep front-right slope to the back pin were impossible to get close.
 
Another unique touch at Harbor Shores are the glass sculptures representing the Golden Bear’s18 professional majors displayed at each of the 18 tee boxes on the course. (Above: Nicklaus Clubhouse; Below: Hole #16)
Nicklaus — who first thought about pitching a shot to the target – strove to show Miller the long, roller-coaster putt could be made. So, Nicklaus stroked his putt 102 feet up and over the wildly sloping, steep tiers and across three different crazy breaks before the ball disappeared into the hole. The videotaped shot has more than 100,000 views. There is also a plaque behind the 10th green commemorating Nicklaus’ feat.
 
Since that putt, during pro-ams at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Senior PGA Championship when held at Harbor Shores, contestants attempt to replicate Nicklaus’ legendary putt but nobody has been successful since – including our threesome. Still, I was happy to flop a wedge atop the green and two-putt for a bogey that felt like a par, especially the way I was playing.
 
A few holes later, North Pier Brewing Company — located between the 13th and 14th holes — ­provides a large up-close view of what the golf course has done for the local economy. Nicklaus designed those holes around the brewery. Patrons now sit on North Pier’s dog-friendly patio to drink the breweries’ European-inspired beers and have a snack. Each night during my stay at The Inn at Harbor Shores I enjoyed a different North Pier beer. I would like to say playing past the brewery inspired my game, but a par and double bogey on those holes was indicative of my day.
 
On the final five holes, you have to navigate the Paw Paw River, Ox Creek and some wetlands. The 14th hole’s site was once an abandoned airplane surplus store —part of the extensive Superfund cleanup — and holes 15 and 16 replaced a city dump.
 
The par-4, 420-yard final hole forces you to keep your ball to the left or a big score awaits. I actually played a hole like I was supposed to and hit that fairway and green in regulation and finished with my fifth par.
 
The improbably inspired layout at Harbor Shores–  given all the junk and pollution needed to be eradicated – delivers beauty, challenge and strategy at every turn.
 
The improbably inspired layout at Harbor Shores delivers beauty, challenge and strategy at every turn. (Above: Hole #7)
The environmental challenges facing Nicklaus and his design and construction teams were so daunting that they couldn’t even construct a single hole before completely environmentally transforming 530 acres of the Harbor Shores site.
 
All told more than 140,000 tons of contaminated soil, trash and solid waste were removed, and 7.84 new acres of wetlands were created, says Chris Rule, Nicklaus’ chief designer on the project in “A Golden Eighteen.” “It was a toxic waste dump through a city.”
 
The 550-acre residential, golf, recreational and waterfront community features a full calendar of events and world-class amenities, including a marina village and river-walk, town center with restaurants and shops, health and fitness center, deep-water marina, with a four-star hotel and spa, miles of recreational trails and rivers, and acres of parks and green space.