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By Don Vanderveen

Candlestone Inn Golf & Resort is a beacon of light for golf traditionalists in West Michigan.

It is a golf course that plays straight and honest. It is secluded from the hustle and bustle of the city, but is easily accessible for those not wanting to go far to get away.

It sometimes plays easy. It sometimes plays difficult. It always is challenging.

“ This is a straight forward, honest course,” superintendent Pete Thomasma claims. “It was built before all the mounding and special routing became part of golf course design.”

A Jerry Matthews-designed golf course, Candlestone opened to the public in 1977. Located adjacent to state owned land, Candlestone provides a peaceful, quiet country setting for a golf course.

“ At that period of my life, it was one of the better sites I had come across,” Matthews said. “It’s still a wonderful site for a golf course.”

Three sets of tees at Candlestone constitute distances of 6,692 yards from the blue, 6,227 from the white and 5,546 from the red. Don’t be fooled by the yardage. This course plays longer than it appears on the scorecard — and even longer when the wind is blowing.

The 18 holes on this par-72 course provide a different look from hole to hole and is a challenging test of golf.

“ It is a good test of golf,” Thomasma says. “It plays longer than the yardage might indicate because of one short par-5 and a couple short par-3s, but all in all it can give someone all they want in a golf course.”

Thomasma is on mission of continually striving to upgrade the condition of the golf course. He claims it is a labor of love.

“ This is a great golf course and deserves to be in the very best condition it can be,” Thomasma said.
Candlestone starts with a fairly straight forward and open No. 1 hole. It is just 377 yards from the back, 358 from the middle and 339 from the front.

From that point, the course begins to wind through the woods, wetlands and marshes and gets progressively tougher.

The unmistakable scent of pine and soft barriers of blue spruce provide a pristine setting in the middle of the course. The quiet — except for a bird chirping here and there — puts one at ease and in touch with his or her surroundings.

“ It has a real natural feel to it,” Matthews says. “The wetlands and native grasses are natural. They are there by accident, and they make it work. Nowadays, those types things are deliberately planned into course development.”

Despite those gentle undertones, it does not necessarily mean it will be a walk in the park for birdies.
The layout of the course allows for bump-and-run shots to the stick. There are no bunkers guarding the greens.

“ It’s set up a lot like golf courses in Scotland where the winds blow every which way,” Thomasma said. “It allows for shots that can be rolled up to the green instead of having to make target shots at the flag.”

Candlestone is a test to one’s endurance. As enjoyable and relaxing as the first 14 holes can be, the final four can eat someone’s lunch.

The “home stretch” consists of four of the more challenging finishing holes anyone would want from a public course. It begins at No. 15 with a par-3 that is over 200 yards long. After that, a long par-5 with a tiered green is waiting, followed by two par-4 holes that play well over 400 yards apiece — and usually into the wind.

“ They are four of the most challenging finishing holes you’ll find for miles,” Thomasma boasts. They are four reasons why Candlestone has been the annual host site for the West Michigan Amateur Championship.

After finishing a round of golf, Chef O has some tasty delights awaiting golfers at Bogie’s, Candlestone’s full-service clubhouse restaurant. The menus at the restaurant have changed considerably over the years — and Chef O has come and gone and returned once again — but one thing remains constant: Candlestone continues to be one of West Michigan’s more enjoyable and affordable public golf courses.

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