by Terry Moore
Head pro Jeff Nyland calls Gleneagle a "second shot golf course." Although he was talking about its shot values he may well been speaking about its marketing theme. Gleneagle (formerly the old Fairways GC) is hoping West Michigan golfers will give
it "a second shot" at their business this season. Due to extensive renovation and modernization, it's fair to say that Gleneagle in Hudsonville is essentially a brand new golf course. "The old Fairways course was in fact 27 holes," says Nyland, "but we made 18 new holes out of that layout. So, we want to show people that this isn't Fairways anymore."
The transformation from Fairways to Gleneagle began more than five years ago according to Nyland. It was then that General Manager Mike Shields convinced owner David Byker a new and improved golf course was needed. "Mike felt strongly that an upscale, public golf course was in the best interest of the real estate," says Nyland who's been employed there for the last 11 years.
Although the last three holes of the renovation---2, 7 and 8--won't be completed until June, Gleneagle in late March looked rarin' to go. Fairways, tees and greens are all bentgrass and the conditioning looks solid for play. Shields designed the new holes as well as took charge of the renovation. A cart tour of the layout revealed that Shields worked magic with a relatively dull piece of land. Although there is water on all but three of the holes, Gleneagle does not appear to be an overly penal course. "No, the ponds and creeks are mostly out of play and largely lend some aesthetics to the course," says Nyland. The notable exceptions are 160 yard par-three fifth hole and the par-four 13th hole.
On the signature fifth hole, golfers will have to carry their tee-ball some 140-150 yards over a pond. The slightly elevated green is nicely buttressed from the pond by sharp-looking, all-weather planking. The hole is a beauty but the bigger question will be: who has the ball reclamation concession here? Over on the 13th, which Nyland feels will be rated the number one handicap hole, golfers will face a stern test of some 422 yards from the back tees. One's drive must settle on a generous landing area and be at the right angle to fly safely over two narrow creeks to the putting surface.
Other standout holes include a stirring stretch beginning on 10-11-12. The elevated 10th green, a four tier terror, epitomizes Shields' bold redesign at Gleneagle. It, along with the 18th green, possesses more rolls and thrills than Cedar Point.
Some may say the greens are excessively undulating. Well, Shields may retort: "Have you ever putted on a true Donald Ross or Mackenzie green?"
Instead, Shields said: "Yes, I've been influenced by Ross, Mackenzie, and Nicklaus greens in my thinking. Due to the flatness of the topography here, I wanted to create some movement in the greens."
Another strength in Shields' work is his bunkering. They're large but not deep and all are creatively cut into and flow with the greensites and fairways. Notable is the bunkering around the pretty par-three 11th hole, named 'Northern Exposure.' From the elevated tee, players will face a lovely and large green with subtle rolls and with three shallow yet well-defined bunkers surrounding it. As with most holes at Gleneagle, the green is left open and unimpeded.
The longest hole of the course is the next one, the 553 yard 12th hole. Golfers' drives will get an added boost from the elevated tee as the hole aims due north and will most likely be behind a helping wind. Down the right side of the driving landing area, Shields has placed a sliver of bunkers which provide less a hazard than a nice definition. A true three shot hole for most, the 12th hole has a receptive but guarded green with a few more Shields' rolls and slopes for good measure. All in all, a mighty impressive golf hole is the 12th. In fact, impressive just about sums up Gleneagle, especially considering all that went before it. "Improve, don't move" might be the handyman's slogan for Gleneagle.
A par-72, Gleneagle has four sets of tees ranging from the back at 6764 yards, 6502 blue, 6072 white and 5376 forward. Located conveniently on 44th St. only a few miles west off the I-196 expressway, Gleneagle has a 250 seat banquet facility suitable for any occasion. '97 rates are at $22 for 18 on weekdays and three dollars more on weekends. Bargain rates are also available for junior and seniors. Call 616-457-3680.
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