Michigan ski resort nears completion of new Ray Hearn short course

  • Boyne Golf
    Boyne Golf

    Construction of the new nine-hole Doon Brae course is nearing completion

  • Boyne Golf
    Boyne Golf

    Holes are set along a hillside that is used for skiing in winter months

By Laura Hyde

Construction of a new short course designed by Ray Hearn is nearing completion at The Highlands at Harbor Springs resort in Northern Michigan, ahead of a planned opening in summer 2024.

It will be the eleventh course operated by Boyne Golf, which also has resorts in Maine and Montana.

Michigan-native Hearn has collaborated closely with the Boyne Golf team over the past several years to modernise and renovate many of the operator’s courses. For the nine-hole Doon Brae (‘down slope’ in Scots) course, inspiration has come from trips to Scotland and Ireland and in particular Royal County Down. “Stephen [Kircher, Chief Executive Officer and President at Boyne Resorts] came over to Ireland on one of the first architecture seminars overseas while I was teaching at Michigan State University and we both fell in love with Royal County Down and it inspired us during the design.”

Hearn has laid out most holes horizontally across the site’s slope, conscious to minimise uphill walking. “I wanted to make sure we were creating something fun and unique without being a difficult walk,” said Hearn. “We also considered all the families who would take their kids out. When you look at the routing, it works; the first is a level hole, the second is uphill, the third is downhill and the fourth is uphill. Holes five, six and seven are kind of sidehill with five slightly uphill with eight and nine playing downhill.”

The nine par-three holes range from 57 to 134 yards for a total course yardage of between 678 to 993 yards, depending on teeing location, and are based on famous templates, including Eden, Short and Biarritz. While the second hole, a Punchbowl, has no bunkers and the fifth and sixth (respectively a Reverse Redan and Volcano) just one each, the remainder have several. At the third and ninth (Short and Biarritz) holes, the greens are almost surrounded by sand.

“As far as I know, this is the first modern golf course ever built on a ski hill,” said Bernie Friedrich, Director of Golf Course Renovations and Development at Boyne Golf. “What excites me most is how beautiful and different it is. There are three or four stacked wall bunkers. Instead of using tee boxes, we’ll have just one marker on each hole and let guests play wherever they want. The greens are inspired by some of the great ones around the world; they’re not copies of any specific greens, but they look different and are big. We also sodded all of the fairways, which will be well-maintained and surrounded by some tall fescue for that whisper look and feel. It’s going to be quite stunning. There’s a lot of excitement about short courses. We want to keep people excited about golf and wanting to play.”

A new Himalayas-style putting course adjacent to the first teeing area will also open in summer 2024.