Logo: John DeereThe Golf Club at Harbor Shores in southwest Michigan is a massive property encompassing 500 acres. The course spreads out over four diverse terrains: dunes, woodlands, river wetlands and inland terrain. 30 acres of hiking trails and a 10-acre beach on Lake Michigan are additional elements of the large property. Every other year, the course proudly hosts the Senior PGA Championship.

The course was scheduled to host the event in 2020, until the pandemic forced the cancellation of the tournament. Now the crew, led by Nate Herman, superintendent, have their sights set on 2022.

Nate Herman

Nate Herman

“With everything that was going on, I wouldn’t have wanted to host the tournament (in 2020),” Herman reflects. “We changed gears pretty quick. You take it and roll with it, and now we have two years to prepare for the tournament.”

Harbor Shores was in the process of staffing up in preparation for the Senior PGA, and then froze hiring in the wake of COVID-19. The course normally opens in mid-April, but postponed opening last year by a few weeks to be in accordance with Michigan state laws. Once they opened the course, they saw a 15-percent uptick in golfer traffic.

“Those first two weeks, there were no carts,” Herman recalls. “It was interesting to see everybody walking around.”

Infinite options

Combine the massive property size at Harbor Shores with the shortage in labor and the challenges of COVID, and 2020 could have become a nightmare of a season. But Herman and Equipment Technician Scott Brock look back and realize it was a success story, in part because of their reliance on John Deere equipment and JW Turf.

Scott Wilkinson is the account manager for JW Turf and calls on Harbor Shores. He has a great perspective on the course because previously he was assistant superintendent there. He says the course uses John Deere 180 E-Cuts with groomers on greens; for fairways, 7500A E-Cut Hybrids with groomers and rear roller brushes; and roughs are maintained with new 7400As.

“We rarely ever double-cut greens,” Herman says. “With time constraints with COVID and labor, we’re able to get the product on the Stimpmeter for our guests and members, as opposed to sending twice as many greens mowers out to put a double cut out.”

Photo: Harbor Shores

“The greens are very undulated (at Harbor Shores),” Wilkinson says. “They’ve made their own tweaks (to the 180 E-Cuts) but they follow the contours spectacularly. Same with the fairway mowers — they’ve got 7500A E-Cuts, outfitted with fairway turf conditioners and out-front brushes. Those are two of the main factors related to Deere that help them do a great job taking care of the course.”

Brock, a native of the area who has worked as equipment technician at the course since 2015, says he enjoys maintaining the Deere equipment because of the flexibility of the machines.

“I feel like Deere has given us a lot of options to make their equipment operate as well as it needs to,” Brock says. “You have infinite adjustments between rollers settings, bedknife angles, and different bedknife options. They’ve done a good job in their research and development. We have had really good success with communication with John Deere service and parts as well as sales.”

Prideful work

Wilkinson still gets a call from Herman from time to time, asking for a historical perspective from his days as an assistant at the course. But Wilkinson laughs, after seven years, things get hazy.

“They do an awesome job,” Wilkinson says of the crew. “They’ve got a nice groove on setting up their reels and what works for them. Nate is one of the smartest superintendents I’ve come in touch with … in terms of managing the crew, the science of turfgrass, budgets … he’s very intense, but in a good way. He lives and breathes turfgrass.”

Graphic: Golfdom StaffThe next Senior PGA Championship for the course is still another year away, but Herman and Brock enjoy making the entire Harbor Shores property shine for the local community and the areas’ many tourists.

“It’s more than a golf course and a beach. Restaurants, homes, businesses have all developed because of this (course),” says Herman. “We’re the central core of the revitalization of Benton Harbor.”

“Growing up in this area and seeing what this area was like prior to the golf course being built, the change in the landscape and the economic development,” Brock adds, “what the course has done for the area is really prideful.”

To see what John Deere can do for your course, go to JohnDeere.com/Golf.

This page was produced by North Coast Media’s content marketing staff in collaboration with John Deere. NCM Content Marketing connects marketers to audiences and delivers industry trends, business tips and product information.

Header photo: Harbor Shores