MEASURING UP – GAM Volunteers Begin Rating Process at Grand Rapids Course

Pictured: GAM volunteer Marvin Piccard uses laser technology to measure at Indian Trails Golf Course. 

  GRAND RAPIDS – Mark Bultema of Cedar Springs, Brian VanGeest of Grand Rapids and Marvin Piccard of Sparta, Golf Association of Michigan volunteers specializing in golf course measuring and rating, braved cold spring winds to do their duty recently at Indian Trails Golf Course.

  Indian Trails has been renovated as part of a project that changed the golf course significantly and added a state-of-the-art learning center.

  The GAM volunteers and a group of golf course regulars who volunteered bundled up on a windy day and did the first phase of a process to measure the renovated layout.

  It wasn’t just another measuring day though for Bultema, who has been course rating for the GAM for 20 years, VanGeest, who has been a volunteer for eight years, and Piccard, who has been involved for five years.

  Indian Trails, an 89-year-old city-owned public daily fee course, was a homecoming for the three Grand Rapids natives.

  “For each of us Indian Trails was the first golf course each of us played our first paid round on,” Bultema said. “We realized that when we started planning to do this.”

  VanGeest used to ride his bike from his boyhood home.

  “Hey, when we were kids and for a long time this was the place where you went to learn to play golf if you lived in Grand Rapids,” he said.

  Piccard said he was pleased to be part of the measurement crew for the “new” Indian Trails.

  “A lot of history here for us, and a lot of golfers in Grand Rapids,” he said.

  Bultema said it was great to see the site adapting to serve the golf community.

  “I know this place means a lot to Grand Rapids golf,” he said. “A lot of new golfers are yet to come with the changes they have made.”

  The $2.76 million project involved the creation of five new holes and renovation of two existing holes into an approximately 5,500-yard 18-hole course minus any par 5 holes, as well as the new practice center with five practice greens and three bunker complexes.

  Saline-based golf course architect Chris Wilczynski did the design work on the 90-acre site.

  Lance Climie, the general manager, believes the course will continue to produce golfers who play their first paid round just like it did with the three GAM volunteers.

  “We will have an association with the First Tee Chapter of West Michigan, which we think is a natural, and all the Grand Rapids Recreation Department golf programs will be here now,” Climie said. “The Grand Rapids Public Schools have committed transportation expenses to bring students here, too, as part of their programs.”

   Climie also expects to join the Golf Association of Michigan Foundation’s Kids On Course initiative, in which the host courses are subsidized the remainder of green fees when they charge youth golfers just $5 to play.

  “We never had the facilities to be a teaching facility, and we are adding two PGA teaching professionals to the staff for that,” he said. “Plus, the redesign is very nice and the golfers who play here on a regular basis are going to really like it. We have a great superintendent in Craig Kooienga, who makes sure the greens stay great, and we will certainly benefit from being involved with the Golf Association of Michigan and pass those things on to our golfers.”

   Climie, who has a long history in golf management including at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, former home of the Buick Open, said watching the GAM measure the course was a new experience for him.

  “It was very interesting,” he said. “You see the science that goes into it.”

  The GAM is licensed by the United States Golf Association to measure and rate courses in the state in accordance with the USGA Course Rating System. Indian Hills, like all others, was measured with laser technology to ensure accuracy, and course obstacles were assessed relative to USGA standards. After a second day of work later in March the course will have official USGA Course & Slope Ratings from each of three tee positions, which then make it possible for golfers to determine their GAM/USGA Handicap Index for the course.

  The GAM, founded in 1919, is the governing body for amateur golf in the state. Measuring and Rating courses for various reasons is just one of the many services performed by GAM volunteers and staff.

-Greg Johnson

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