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By Don Vanderveen / Photography by Brian Walters

Residents and players at Canadian Lakes Development have been crying for more golf and they got it: Tullymore.

Tullymore is a sister course to St. Ives in Mecosta County, located approximately five miles apart.

“You can’t really compare these two golf courses, because they are so different in every aspect,” St. Ives/Tullymore director of golf Kevin O’Brien said.

“The topography and elevation changes at Tullymore are not quite as dramatic as St. Ives, but it’s close. The bunkers are deeper, the fairways are wider and the greens are more undulating than at St. Ives. There are no elevated greens at Tullymore. No two holes are even close to being alike. Each hole is memorable at St. Ives, and that’s the case at Tullymore.”

With four, five or six sets of tee boxes set up throughout the course, Tullymore will challenge scratch golfers and accommodate high handicappers. It plays 7,000 yards from the back tees.

“ From the championship tees, Tullymore will be more difficult than St. Ives,” O’Brien said. “But from the front sets of tees, the average golfer will score better at Tullymore than at St. Ives.”

The woods, lakes and wetlands are joined and accessed by seven bridges, including one that spans 300 feet between the 17th and 18th holes.

Tullymore features dramatic, deep linear bunkers. The rolling fairways create a variety of approaches to the greens. Many of the backdrops of the greens at Tullymore create an amphitheater feeling.

Several fairways are shaped and mounded in a way that helps kick balls back into play.

“ The golf course is just beautiful,” O’Brien said. “The mounding is outstanding. Certain trees are showcased to look bigger and grander. We have combined bentgrass, bluegrass and native grasses to create sharp contrasts on the fairways. We’ve done that as much for cosmetic reasons as anything, because it makes the other look deeper and greener. Most of that native grass is very wispy and creates a great visual.”

Tullymore was designed by Jim Engh, his first Michigan project. He has gained worldwide acclaim for his detailed architectural drawings and high-end projects.“You hear about how popular Michigan is for golf, and it’s a great opportunity to work in a marketplace where you can compare what you do against the rest of industry,” Engh said. “It’s hard to evaluate your own work without sounding braggadocios, but I look at (Tullymore) as being as good as just about anything in the state. Of course, sites such as Crystal Downs and Oakland Hills have a lot more history than we could ever design into a course. But I try to compare my courses with the modern courses of today, because it’s very difficult to compare with the classics of yesterday. I’d put Tullymore right up there with the other courses I have done.”

Tullymore is laid out on a site that had more than 800 available acres with 350 acres of wetlands. Those wetlands come into play on 13 holes.

“ The natural beauty of the wetlands in itself is phenomenal,” Engh said. “We didn’t touch any of them. When you couple the wetlands with mature forests around them, that combination is phenomenal. You don’t get that balance very often.”

Engh formerly worked for International Management Group (IMG) and served as a shadow designer in Europe for high-end signature courses of Nick Faldo, Isao Iaoki and Bernhard Langer, among others. As an independent designer, Engh has flourished. Since forming his own design company in 1995, Engh’s reputation has grown with each golf course he designed.

The Sanctuary, located in Denver, Col., was selected by “Golf Digest” as the No. 1 New Private Course in North America for 1997. He is the youngest designer to have a course ranked among the top-100 in the world, and is one of only five living architects — along with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Ben Crenshaw — to have a course ranked among the best in the world.

“ We wanted to find somebody early in his career who hadn’t done a golf course in Michigan and was going to be a superstar,” O’Brien said. “We hit a home run with Jim Engh. He pushes the limits of golf course design. He wants you thinking out there, and really gets your adrenaline flowing. He puts a lot of things into play and doesn’t push the limits by mistake. This course will enhance his reputation even more.”

Some of those design philosophies have been incorporated into the lush surroundings of Tullymore.
“ You always have things you carry over in terms of core beliefs and core styles or the bunker styles,” Engh said. “For this course, we wanted to beef up the bunkers. It will have some of the most dramatic bunkering you’ll see anywhere. The reason for it is because of the wetlands and mature vegetation in there, and you need some accent points. I call them ‘knarly bunkers,’ and it makes for stark features of interest.”

The No. 12 hole at Tullymore is similar to a famous concept borrowed from the mother of all courses in the motherland of Ireland, Lahinch. The No. 6, par-3 hole at Lahinch — which uses a white rock on the side of the hill to provide guidance toward the flagstick over the hill — is nicknamed “The Dell.”

Tullymore may also use a rock marker, but has yet to give this little marvel a moniker.

“ It was a perfect combination for a par-3,” Engh said. “From the back tees it will be quite a monster — about 250 yards — but the main tee will play more like 170 yards.

“ I wouldn’t call it an Irish-type course in terms of setup per se, but that hole definitely got its theme from Ireland.”

The par-5 18th fairway runs alongside Tullymore Lake, creating a challenging and visually stunning finishing hole.

Tullymore is an Irish village in Ireland. The clubhouse — scheduled for a 2002 completion — will feature a stone look with a large banquet facility. The pro shop and restaurant will feature a walkway in between to create a village-like appearance.

“ It’s not like your typical links course in Ireland, but there will be an Irish village clubhouse,” O’Brien said. The pro shop will be spectacular, as usual. O’Brien has been named the Michigan PGA Merchandiser of the Year three times.

“ The real good player is really going to enjoy this course and the challenge it brings, yet the average golfer can get around the course and not be punished, because it is very playable,” O’Brien said. “We’ll have quite a world class facility and still continue the great service we have here, along with keeping the great condition of the golf course.”

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