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By Don Vanderveen

Michigan PGA Hall of Famer Randy Erskine has achieved tremendous success as a longtime player, teacher and club professional. He knows a great golf course when he plays one. Now, he has built one.
The five-time Michigan Open champion is unveiling his crowning achievement this summer with the opening of Quail Ridge Golf Club near Ada.

Quail Ridge, located in Cascade Township just southeast of Grand Rapids, is one of the newest additions to upscale golf in West Michigan and course designer Ray Hearn has added a couple of notable features to the project that set it apart.

Quail Ridge, located in Cascade Township just southeast of Grand Rapids, is one of the newest additions to upscale golf in West Michigan and course designer Ray Hearn has added a couple of notable features to the project that set it apart.

Two holes share one expansive green. Another green has a cascading waterfall bubbling behind it. These added features accentuate an already outstanding setting for a golf course.

Quail Ridge is a golf course complete with elevation changes, beautifully rolling terrain and a combination of trees and water. Perhaps the most prominent natural feature on the landscape is the beautiful wetlands that are incorporated throughout the course.

Erskine’s partnership group originally purchased 178 acres in an attempt to develop 27 holes. But after a wetlands determination was made, there was hardly enough room for nine holes. The 18-hole championship golf course is now spread over 300 acres.

“ It gives you a real up-north feeling when in fact you’re real close to a metropolitan area,” Erskine said. “You will see very few homes from our golf course. There is definitely a feeling of being isolated. Nobody at Quail Ridge will ever hit another player on another hole, and very rarely will they see another player in any other group than their own.”

Quail Ridge features five sets of tees on every hole, from black, to blue, to white, to gold, to red. From the back tees, the length of the course is 6,930 yards. From the front, the length 4,865 yards.

“ People will always have a very nice teeing surface because the teeing areas are so large and they will have plenty of options as to how they want to play the course,” Erskine said.

The bluegrass fairways have plenty of width between, around and through the trees, bunkers and wetlands. The greens are large and receive shots well.

“ It’s a very playable golf course for all people,” Erskine said. “It’s very pleasing to the eye and you won’t see anybody else other than those on the hole you are playing.”

The par-72 championship layout features two par-5s on the front side that provide both scenic views and challenging options for players of varying skill levels. One is a 520-yard dogleg right that runs uphill and downhill alongside Quiggle Lake. The other is a 560-yard dogleg left that wraps around wetlands and trees. Both holes present risk-and-reward shots (with plenty of risk) for the big hitters.
The No. 9 green is shared with the No. 18 green. The reason for the shared-green concept is not for economy of space, but rather the uniqueness it creates. The No. 9 hole is a long par-3 and the No. 18 hole is a par-5. The fairways are separated by trees — to the left on No. 9 and to the right on No. 18 — and the double green is 140 yards across.

“ It’s just a different way of presenting a hole and it works perfectly,” Erskine said. “It is right near the clubhouse and people can watch a couple of different groups come in at one time. We could have easily built two separate greens, but it presented itself perfectly for a double green. In Scotland, they have that set up a lot and we felt it was a perfect time to present one here.”

Behind the green at No. 7 green — a 360-yard, par-4 — golfers at Quail Ridge are treated to a soothing spectacle that will put one’s round into perspective. A waterfall meanders down and over rocks, bubbling and cascading its way into three separate pools until it reaches a small lake at the bottom. The waterfall creates both a calming effect and one of those postcard-like visions golfers take with them from spectacular golf courses they play.

“ It’s a different experience,” Eskine said. “You don’t see too many waterfalls on golf courses here in Michigan. “ It’s just a beautiful setting that sets a person at ease.”

Continuous cart paths from the first tee to the 18th green provide a smooth ride and “allows us to keep the golf course open for carts during wet weather when otherwise it would have to be shut down,” Erskine said.

The back nine is fairly straight forward on the rolling land. It was developed to keep as much of the natural terrain intact for both drainage purposes and the outstanding existing visual features it presents.

“ You’ll find it an extremely playable golf course,” Erskine said. “Literally a first time player could get around this golf course. It is not overly restricted and there is no need for long carries, depending on which tees you play from.”

Quail Ridge is an upscale golf course in every way, except for the greens fees which are around $50 for weekend play.

Along with being an accomplished player in Michigan, Erskine, who is head professional at Great Oaks Country Club, also is a highly sought after teaching professional. Practice facilities are important to teaching pros and the range at Quail Ridge reflects that.

The range itself has three tiers to hit from with five separate bent grass greens to shoot at. A combination of bentgrass driving area and bluegrass rough emulate conditions that are conducive to the fairways at Quail Ridge.

“ Ranges are very important nowadays and we put a lot of thought into ours,” Erskine said. “If people don’t want to play golf, they can come out and hit balls, practice out of a super chipping area or a large bunker area set off into trees. I’m very proud about our practice facility. People won’t ever have to hit off of dirt, you’ll have the north wind behind your back and you can hit anything you want and watch the ball travel.”

The 16,000 square foot clubhouse is arranged with a lounge area, pro shop and banquet facilities that seat over 300 people. Unlike the golf course itself, the banquet facility will be open 12 months of the year.

In addition to his work as a club professional and player, Erskine runs his own golf school in Florida and has a marketing company. The Quail Ridge project — which eventually will include a limited housing development of 27 lots — represents a move to West Michigan for Erskine, who has spent much of his career on the east side of the state as a head professional at Washtenaw Country Club and currently Great Oaks Country Club.

“ I think it gets back to me always trying to be two steps ahead of everybody else,” Erskine said. “I’ve always wanted to diversify and this is my last bit of diversification — and my biggest by far.”

   
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