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Angels Golf course

By Randy Prichard/ Photography by Michael Buck

Divine Intervention.

The Civil War Battle of Vicksburg sealed the fate of the Confederate Army in May 1863. Vicksburg, Mich. was in a battle of a different sort when the state’s largest paper mill surrendered to a changing economy nearly 140 years later.

In reality, the closing of the Fox River Paper Co. mill in April 2001 triggered a series of events that culminate in May 2004 with the opening of Angels Crossing Golf Club.

The general of the Kalamazoo County revival is Schoolcraft Township supervisor Bob Thompson. His lieutenants: third generation golf course architect and designer W. Bruce Matthews, III, the “dean” of Michigan golf course superintendents, Roger Barton, and Bob’s brother, Jim.

Barton is a 38-year golf industry veteran and three-time president of the Western Michigan Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, serving stints at Grand Haven Golf Club, Blythfield CC and Dearborn CC. Jim was controller of Clearbrook CC in Saugatuck and helped oversee the development of The Ravines Golf Club. Matthews’ legend is renown and growing. Angels Crossing is his first signature course, so pleased is he with his work at the 750-acre development.

Matthews drew upon his vast knowledge and respect of golf course designers-past to quilt a collection of golf holes and green complexes not heretofore played in Michigan, nor anywhere for that matter. The course is unique in every aspect, measuring 4,845 yards from the forward tees to 7,169 yards from the championship markers. No one hole has any resemblance to another.

The serious student of the game will recognize several design techniques and styles. The Willy Dunn-inspired number six hole, a par 3 of 196 yards, features a green measuring 200 feet from front to back with a famed biarritz swale coursing the green’s center.

The par-3 sixteenth hole is fashioned after Alister MacKenzie’s 16th hole at Cypress Point, minus the Pacific Ocean. The par-3 twelfth hole is a 258-yard (from the tips) redan, where the green has a four-foot slope from front to back and is fortified by a gaping left-side bunker.

Matthews added numerous personal traits, too, like the tri-segmented green at number ten that will make this par 4 a bit more difficult than it’s 383-yard length implies.

Lest you be mistaken, Thompson didn’t get into the golf business because he fashioned himself an owner wishful of building the next “must play” course in Michigan. He did it for the community.

“ We lost 23 percent of our tax revenue when the mill closed. Something had to be done,” said Thompson. The result of his actions is an upscale golf course that anyone can walk on and play for less than $40 for eighteen holes with cart.

Eighteen of the holes are private with only five building sites in view. An additional nine holes will feature residential lots complementing an equally motivated Matthews’ design.

   
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