High Pointe Golf Course Gets Green Light From Acme Township
By Beth Milligan | Dec. 30, 2022
Acme Township trustees have unanimously approved plans to revive the former High Pointe golf course in Williamsburg, with famed course architect Tom Doak – who is consulting on the project – telling board members that work could begin on the property as soon as April.
The project came to trustees for consideration this month after township planning commissioners approved the application in November. High Pointe Holdings, LLC – led by Florida-based golfer Rod Trump (no relation to the presidential family) – is planning to purchase property south of MI Local Hops on M-72 to rebuild the course. The company is also buying a segment of land extending to Moore Road into Whitewater Township. The hop farm will remain in place next door, with Trump planning to build a new 18-hole course on the southern site using some of the remaining holes – notably holes 10-15, which were once hailed as some of the top holes in the country – plus several new holes.
Local project consultant Scott Jozwiak said the development team plans to use much of the “same layout” of the former course to rebuild High Pointe. “We’re actually going to rebuild what was there in the back holes…a lot of those are still visible,” he said. Doak, the course’s original designer, added that “nine of the holes we built are still there, there’s just no grass on them anymore.” The course – which opened in 1989 and was named one of Golf Magazine’s 100 greatest courses in the country – has lain fallow since 2009 after closing due to the previous owner’s death and the global financial crisis, Doak said.
“It was a shame to see it close down,” he said, noting that High Pointe was the first project he completed on his own in his mid-twenties. Doak has since gone on to become one of the most acclaimed golf course architects in the world, with six of his courses ranking among the top 100 globally by Golf Magazine in 2021. Doak said the initial construction of High Pointe led him to buy a house and set down roots in Traverse City. “My business has taken me all around the world, but I've been commuting out of here since 1989,” he told township trustees. Bringing High Pointe back to life “is a very personal project to me,” Doak said.
While High Pointe’s former clubhouse isn’t included in the deal – that remains with the hop farm – a new clubhouse will be built on the Whitewater Township side, complete with a restaurant and bar for members, training facility, driving range, guest and employee parking, and cottages for overnight guest stays. High Pointe is intended to operate as a “private golf course only, with a limited number of memberships,” Jozwiak said. “It's going to be pretty exclusive.” A new maintenance building and turf management center will be built on the Acme side of the site, according to Jozwiak.
Turf management was a key point of consideration for township officials. Before approving and forwarding the application to Acme’s board of trustees, planning commissioners had extensive discussions about the use of fertilizers at the new golf course, as well as protection for nearby wetlands. The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay suggested developers consult a guide called Best Management Practices for Michigan Golf Courses, which covers topics like fertilizer application and buffers around wetlands and ponds. Jozwiak noted that wetlands can’t be disturbed and that their locations have been confirmed in recent updated surveys of the property.
High Pointe consultants also told planning commissioners that environmental standards for golf courses today are significantly higher than in past decades, and that it’s common to use only one-fifth of the fertilizer now as was used 10 years ago. The proposed maintenance facility and turf management center at High Pointe will be “state of the art” and follow best practices for Michigan, representatives said. Appearing before township trustees this month, Doak reiterated his own commitment to sustainable course-building and encouraged the board to make it a condition of approval that High Pointe follow the state’s best practices guide for golf courses.
“That's not typical in zoning meetings that I'm aware of, but I would encourage you to put that restriction on the client,” he said. “I think that golf courses should be held to standards like that. You have the power to do it.” Doak added that he’ll be personally involved at High Pointe both during and after construction, but said that township trustees adding a condition requiring the golf course to follow best practices will ensure it does so into the future. “You've got my word it won't just be an environmentally sound project,” Doak said. “It will set a good example for everyone else.”
Planning commissioners took the suggestion and added the condition to High Pointe’s approval requiring the course to remain in compliance with the Best Management Practices for Michigan Golf Courses. Developers must also provide a stormwater maintenance plan and budget prior to the issuance of a land use permit, provide escrow funds for wetlands delineation/inspections/protection during construction, and obtain other required agency sign-offs, among the approval conditions.
Doak said he believed work could begin on High Pointe as soon as this spring, echoing previous estimates given by Trump that the course could reopen in 2024. “It's a very low-impact construction project,” Doak said. “We think we can start it in April…build a golf course in one year, and have it all planted by Labor Day and be playing golf the end of the following year.”
Pictured: Left and top right, the former High Pointe course (images from DoakGolf.com); bottom right, aerial conceptual rendering of new High Pointe layout provided to Acme Township