When it comes
to upscale golf in West Michigan, there
is one Pointe to remember. The Golf Club
at Thornapple Pointe.
18-hole championship track incorporates
Star Wars technology into every round and
has literally taken golf in this area to
another level. Thornapple Pointe combines
technology with all the accoutrements of
an upscale resort to set it apart from
all other courses in West Michigan.
Thornapple Pointe’s PinMark
system incorporates Global Positioning Satellite
technology to provide patrons with on-cart computers
that give exacting distances to daily pin placements.
It is like driving around the course with a personal
“ Since we introduced it
at the beginning in 1996, it has been amazing
to hear people’s comments about it and
to see people enjoy using it and continue coming
back to use it,” Thornapple Pointe general
manager Shane Bybee says. “There are not
too many facilities I know of that you can get
yardage right to the flag stick on a daily basis.
“ It provides guests with
a better golfing experience, because they are
able to relax and enjoy a round. Everybody that
plays a round of golf here gets a computer on
the cart. It’s all part of the experience.”
Along with providing exacting distances to the hole, Thornapple
Pointe’s PinMark system brings the layout of the golf course — bunkers,
water hazards, marshes and other points of interest (or concern) — to
the golfer via the screen on the cart. It is user-friendly even
for those who are not well versed on computers.
“ Being a public facility,
we see numerous first-time guests and it helps
make them feel more at home,” Bybee said. “It
shows them yardage to a hazard, to a bunker,
to the front of the green and to the stick. It’s
always on the screen right in front of you and
after the first or the second hole you begin
to know what’s going on.
“ On a lot of courses, you
see a flag on the stick indicating whether the
hole is on the front, middle or back of the green.
Ours is right on the flag every day. Sometimes
people take that for granted, but when you play
it everyday — or even for the first time — it
gives you a perspective of knowing a course much
better. You can get the exact yardage to the
pin you’re shooting at from the fairway
or two fairways over. It sure beats calling over
to your partner a fairway away.”
Technology aside, it is the immaculate
condition of the golf course itself that makes
it special. A rolling topography that incorporates
woods, marshes, meadows and the Thornapple River
sets the stage for one pleasurable round after
Thornapple Pointe is a par-72
layout and plays 6,821 yards from the tips and
4,878 from the front. Two other sets of tees
are set up in between.
“The playability of the
golf course itself really makes for a pleasurable
round,” Bybee said. “It’s not
overly demanding — you get a lot of bump
and run shots — and people of varying skill
levels can come out and play the golf course.
“ With four sets of tees,
it’s fair. There are some forced carries,
but most of the time they’re pretty manageable.
It’s not tricked up.
“ It’s pretty straight,
forward classic golf.”
Thornapple Pointe is a golf course
that never gets stale. With the changing of the
seasons — even at varying times of the
day — the golf course sets up slightly
differently by providing contrasting views and
“ There is a lot of variety
with meadows, the river, the wetlands and the
trees,” Bybee said. “It’s not
“If you play it late at
night when the sun is setting from the west,
the mounding of green looks different and contour
“ At different times of
the day, even different times of the season,
the course can look a little different. It always
seems to be changing.”
Designed by Ann Arbor-based William
Newcombe & Associates, Thornapple Pointe
has emerged as a cornerstone of upscale golf
in West Michigan. Newcombe, who has designed
more than 70 golf courses over a career spanning
three decades, once said that Thornapple Pointe
was his best work to date.
“ From the outset, the project
revolved around planning in concert with the
DNR regulations,” Newcombe said. “We
had the Thornapple River there and a sensitive
issue with a lot of wetlands and stream.
“ Half of the success of
the project was to get the golf course we got
and make it liveable to the regulations we have
to live on.
“ The topography out there
is a natural golf course topography. It has a
gentleness feel to it, and as a golfer, I like
that. You’re not aware of it, because it’s
not overpowering. Yet, that’s what makes
it so powerful.
“ It’s meant to be
friendly and playable.”
Thornapple Pointe has matured
well beyond its years, because of a perfectly
timed seeding schedule and the immaculate and
detailed upkeep by superintendent Jack Thomasma.
The bent grass fairways and greens are always
The hazards, however, can be
The hole most people remember
after playing Thornapple Pointe is the par 5,
No. 5 that doglegs over a cove in the river.
The risk and reward it offers is classic.
“ It doesn’t look
like a whole lot from the tee, but when those
who play it arrive at their tee shot, they realize
what a great hole it is,” Bybee said. “Over
that little ridge, people see the river and the
steep banks and it begins to look like a difficult
“ There are not too many
shots on a golf course that can make me second
guess myself, but the second shot on No. 5 is
one of those nerve racking shots you have on
a golf course. It gives you the option of either
shooting over the river or playing it safe and
laying up. That second shot is one of the real
knee knockers on the whole golf course. The third
shot, — the scoring shot, the one you have
to sit up by the flag — is also no patsy.
The green is very narrow. It’s 40 yards
deep, but only 18 paces wide, and the right side
is surrounded by sand traps.
“ It’s a great hole,” Bybee
said. “It’s not overly difficult,
but the way we play the game of golf sometimes
makes it difficult. You can easily make five
in regulation, or hit it in the water, drop it,
hit another one in and end up with a 7 or 8.”
Newcombe said that the No. 5
hole at Thornapple Pointe “is perhaps my
favorite hole I’ve designed anywhere,” he
said. “It introduces so many different
elements of a golfer’s skill. It gives
you a great risk and reward opportunity.”
Another hole with outstanding
shot value and requires strategic placement is
the tree-lined, 395-yard, par-4, No. 14. From
the tee, you cross a bridge toward the second
shot. Hopefully, the drive was straight and it
won’t take long to find it.
“ You must make a decision
to hit wood or iron to get the ball in play off
the tee, because there isn’t a big landing
area,” Bybee said. “Because it is
so narrow, a lot of players hit a long iron off
the tee to keep it in play. Then, depending on
the pin placement, the second shot can be difficult.
The different pin positions requires different
From the tournament tees, the
par-3s can also provide a challenge — or
some intricate up-and-down play.
“ There’s only one
par-3 out there what I’d call a ‘gimmie,’ and
that’s at No. 12,” Bybee said. “But
there can be a lot of big numbers there if you’re
Thornapple Pointe features a
full service staff of bag attendants and clubhouse
assistants waiting to greet and assist golfers
with all of their needs before and after a round.
A complete pro shop and short order grill, as
well as spacious clubhouse offering an array
of beverages, are available.
A large driving range is secluded
away from the hustle and bustle of the clubhouse
or the golf course itself.
“ Our focus here is much
driven toward taking care of golfers and giving
them what they want before they tee off or when
they come off the course,” Bybee said.
In between, the sky is the limit
to the amount of enjoyment Thornapple Pointe
has to offer.