A Great Stop: The Grande in Jackson Lives Up To Its Name with Inspired Design Features
JACKSON – The Grande Golf Club course was designed and built right at the end of what is generally referred to as the “golf boom” in 2000 and 2001, and there were initial grand plans for a large clubhouse overlooking No. 18.
The clubhouse plans are still on hold and for a very good reason, Brian Roberts, the director of golf and the course superintendent said.
“We have a modest entrance, a modest clubhouse, but a lot of people come in here and then get out there and see we have a great golf course,” he explained. “The clubhouse may happen one day, but at this point we don’t want to sacrifice the golf course and our pricing for the mortgage on the clubhouse.”
Doug O’Rourke is the owner, and well known in Michigan golf circles as “Dozer Doug” for his expertise in bulldozer shaping of golf courses. He has done the work as well as other bulldozer projects around the world.
When he first developed The Grande he brought in a Michigan architect he had worked with often, Raymond Hearn, and the concentration was on the development of a special public golf course and facility.
Hearn, who said he was inspired at the time by the plateaus of the greens he had studied at North Berwick in Scotland, created an expansive award-winning gem that has been awarded 4.5 stars from the Golf Digest Places to Play listings. A local vote held in 2013 tabbed the course as Jackson’s Best.
The Grande is grand from start to finish with 18 unique holes. Hearn’s influence from the cradle of golf in Scotland is obvious in sweeping risk-reward holes like Nos. 9, 11 and 18, as well as the natural fingers created with the stunning bunkers.
The 13th hole has a line of five bunkers running up the middle of the hole which make it one of Michigan’s most unique looks and golf challenges. The No. 6 hole, a par 4 that wraps around two wetlands and has a stunning rock wall in front of a slanted difficult green is a candidate for the best hole on the property. Roberts said that No. 11 gets talked about the most because of the required consecutive shots needed to manage the targets and forced carries.
Hearn likes talking about his work on the course.
“I love The Grande,” he said. “There’s a great story behind it. Part of the land was Bob Seger’s hunting land; you know the rock and roll Bob Seger. Some great land there, and with Doug O’Rourke it just turned out wonderful. North Berwick, the course with the famous 15th hole, the original Redan hole, really influenced me at that time and you can see it in the plateaus of the greens and some of the other features and the Cape holes we created. I think The Grande is really underrated. It’s special.”
Roberts said The Grande remains a destination golf course in the heart of Southern Michigan, but that there has been an adaptation to the Michigan market and especially the Jackson market.
“This place was designed to be maybe a $75 course, but the reality for our audience and the golfers who come here, we charge $55 on weekends and $45 on week days and we have foursomes and group specials,” he said. “We don’t sacrifice the golf course. We keep it maintained. We get about 27,000 rounds a year, quite a few outings and groups, and there is room for more.”
Many of the golfers who play The Grande come from the Jackson area, but Lansing, Ann Arbor and Toledo golfers make regular stops.
“We are the kind of place where the word spreads from good golfers to other golfers,” Roberts said. “I call it the Pied Piper effect. The good golfer realizes the quality here on this course and then brings friends and spreads the word.”
The course sprawls majestically and requires carts for play. College and high school golf events have been played with walking, though several shuttles were required.
Roberts said they are willing to be creative at The Grande. They recently had one of their “Dollar Day Scrambles” with $1 dollar hot dogs and $1 drinks, and the golfers played in eight-somes.
“It goes against the pace of play issue in golf, but these scrambles sell out and the people enjoy them,” he said. “It makes for a very social event, like a big party. We are making golf as social as we can, and honestly we just want it to be fun for people so they come back and bring friends.
“I guess I wish people knew us for more than the dollar scramble events, but whatever gets them to come and play, we are for it.”
A group of regulars do visit often, and a limited block of 100 season passes are sold each year.
“The golf business is not an easy business to be in right now, but we have the advantage of having a great product in the golf course,” said Roberts, who is a Grand Valley State University graduate as well as a graduate of Michigan State University’s Turfgrass Program.
He directs a staff that includes golf professional Steven Saari, shop employees and the grounds staff. They maintain a course that measures 7,157 yards from the back tees and 4,785 from the very forward tees. They have six tees in all at each hole to fit golfers of all abilities, wildlife is abundant and the scenery is rolling southern Michigan terrain with some water hazards.
“Once people find us, and we’re not that hard to find from I-94, they know we are not just some place to play,” Roberts said. “We’re a great place.”
Visit www.grandegolfclub.com for more information.