The Mines Golf Course Review
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Teachers’ Comments: Challenging, Interesting and Fun
Beginning with Pilgrim’s Run in 1998, Mike DeVries has put together an impressive portfolio of golf courses in Michigan: Kingsley Club (2001), Diamond Springs (2002) , Greywalls (2005) and The Mines (2005).
From that impressive list, DeVries gained international attention and has gone on to create other grand designs such as Cape Wickham and restorations of courses such as the Alister MacKenzie-designed Meadows Club in California.
I have been fortunate to have played all of DeVries’ Michigan designs. Kingsley and Greywalls are at the top of my list, but the others are nearly as good.
Located just five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, The Mines is a surprisingly rugged course. Significant elevation changes on every hole, tree lined fairways and expanses of wild grasses and sand make the course feel as though it is hours away from an urban center.
As usual, I walked. In July heat, it was quite the challenge. I did not expect such terrain in an urban golf course.
The Mines gets its name from the gypsum mines that are some 150 feet below the site. Artifacts from these historic mines — which date to the 1860s — are scattered throughout the course. A pump house near the first tee was built with brick from the mines. Directional signs are made with wood timbers. A sand pit marks the eighth hole. Water to irrigate the course is pumped from the mines.
The Mines is a par 70, with just two par fives. The elevation changes, however, make several of the par fours feel like fives. I also suspect that — if push came to shove — they could turn a couple of the 470+ par fours into par fives.
From the tips, the mines stretches to 6, 701 yards and plays to a 71.6/130. The next tees up are at 6, 135 and play at 69.4/123. There also are tees at 5, 438 and 4, 817 yards.
My favorite hole is actually a pair of holes: the fifth and ninth. What makes them a pair is that they share an enormous swath of fairway.
The fifth is a 607 yard par five that starts on elevated tee boxes, playing away from the clubhouse. The hole turns slightly to the right and downhill, ultimately rising again to the green. then dives down an slightly to the right.
The fairway is narrowed by large dunes on the right that pinch the fairway for the second shot. The fifth’s green is large and relatively flat, with an out of bounds on the right.
The ninth starts atop the same dunes that pinch the fifths’ fairway. A steep downhill shot has a very large landing area, thanks to the double fairway. The right side of the fairway abuts a dune, which can spell trouble for slicers. Aim wide if you slice — there’s plenty of room.
From the bottom, the hole plays sharply uphill to a green perched on a hillside below the clubhouse. It’s at least one extra club. Bunkers guard the green at the four corners.
The seventh and and eighth also are a neat pair: back to back par threes with dramatic settings. The seventh is steeply downhill, while the eighth traverses a sand pit to a green set against a dune. The back side of that same dune serves as the teeing ground for the ninth hole.
Overall, I was really impressed with how DeVries routed the eighteen holes. The first four start across a road from the clubhouse. Five through eleven, plus eighteen are squeezed into a patch below the clubhouse. Twelve through seventeen are in another plot across a right-of-way for power lines.
It’s packed, and yet it doesn’t feel that way. Skillful use of the terrain — the dunes, hills and valleys make each hole stand on its own. Even the shared fairway fifth and ninth don’t feel cramped.
Conditions on the day I played were excellent. Tee boxes, fairways and greens were all in terrific shape. It had been a rough summer for a lot of courses, so it was impressive to see one in such good shape in mid July.
Part of that maybe the ample supply of water from the caverns beneath the course.
I think a great golf trip would be a Devries triple play in the Grand Rapids area. You could stay in downtown Grand Rapids, which is known for its breweries and then spend three days playing Mines, Diamond Springs and Pilgrim’s Run. The latter two are just a half hour’s drive from Grand Rapids.
The Mines Golf Course Review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on October 29 from notes and photos taken on a round played July 15, 2020. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan golf course reviews, follow the link.
A course tour gallery of The Mines follows