It Ziehms to Me: Bob Spence wants to take Kinderlou Forest to a new level

By Len Ziehm Kinderlou  Forest Hole 4VALDOSTA, Ga. - Bob Spence is about to hit the 60-year mark as a golf professional.  Now his focus is on Kinderlou Forest, a stunning 18-holer just 16 miles from the Florida state line, but Chicago golfers should remember him well. Spence, who turned pro in 1954 - a few months after graduating from high school, was the first director of golf at Kemper Lakes.  The late Jim Kemper hired him in 1978 to direct the opening of the Long Grove course designed by Dick Nugent and Ken Killian.  Kemper Lakes was an instant hit. It was the first public course to host a PGA Championship in 1989, a year in which Payne Stewart was crowned the champion. (more…)

It Ziehms to Me: Rich hopes International Crown has long run – and at his course

By Len Ziehm Jerry RichJerry Rich's dream took its first big step towards reality immediately after the 2013 LPGA season concluded Sunday with Shanshan Feng's victory in the CME Group Titleholders tourney at Tiburon in Naples, FL. That was the last event in which countries could earn points for participation in next year's inaugural International Crown event. Rich was a primary force behind the International Crown's creation, and his Rich Harvest Farms  facility in Sugar Grove, IL., will host the second staging of the innovative biannual team competition in 2016. Rich hopes the International Crown will be played at Rich Harvest many times after that, but first things first. (more…)

It Ziehms to Me: Malm takes his talents to White Eagle

By Len Ziehm The best player in the Illinois section of the PGA is moving. Curtis Malm, the IPGA Player-of-the-Year in 2012 and 2013 while an assistant professional at St. Charles Country Club, has moved to White Eagle in Naperville as the head professional. Malm, who spent five seasons at St. Charles, won the Illinois Open as an amateur in 2000 and blossomed in the IPGA ranks with back-to-back victories in the section'’s Match Play Championship at Kemper Lakes in 2012 and 2013. He was the first player in 25 years to win that title in back-to-back years. The 2013 season also saw Malm match the Elgin Country Club course record when he shot a 9-under-par 63 in an IPGA stroke play event. (more…)

It Ziehms To Me: Streelman will be part of U.S. effort in World Cup

By Len Ziehm The team of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland gave the U.S. its first victory in 11 years in the last staging of the World Cup of Golf. Now Wheaton's Kevin Streelman will be part of the U.S. title defense. The World Cup, first played in 1953, is a two-man team competition with players chosen off the World Rankings. Kuchar got his spot on the defending champion team with a No. 8 ranking after No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 3 Phil Mickelson and No. 7 Steve Stricker turned it down. [caption id="attachment_447" align="alignleft" width="300"]Jack Nicklaus Jack Nicklaus was the featured guest at the Western Golf Association’s third annual Green Coat Gala at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel. The sold-out black tie event raised over $900,00 for the Evans Scholars Foundation[/caption] Jack Nicklaus was the featured guest at the Western Golf Association’s third annual Green Coat Gala at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel. The sold-out black tie event raised over $900,00 for the Evans Scholars Foundation. Kuchar got Streelman as his partner after higher-ranked Americans Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Kevin Bradley, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Bill Haas and Rickie Fowler didn't want to play. Woodland's ranking has slipped to 81st, so he wasn't a viable partner this time. (more…)

Guss takes charges at Treetops Academy

By Len Ziehm GAYLORD, MI. -- Treetops has grown into - arguably at least - Michigan's most spectacular golf resort and one of its main features is its teaching program. Started in 1990 by Rick Smith and Henry Young, the school thrived as the Rick Smith Golf Academy and Smith became prominent far beyond his home state as both a teacher and course designer. His success as an instructor at Treetops led to him eventually becoming a swing guru for Phil Mickelson and he now also works with PGA Tour players Rory Sabbatini, Jerry Kelly and Sang-Moon Bae - winner of this year’s Byron Nelson Classic. Treetops Academy MichiganSmith remains the owner and architect for three courses - Tradition, Signature and Threetops - at Treetops North. Threetops is widely regarded as America's best par-3 course. Inevitably, Smith's success in teaching and course architecture led to his spending more time away from Michigan - he's even designing a course in China now -- and that led to a revamping and renaming on the teaching side. It's now the Rick Smith and Jason Guss Golf Academy. (more…)

New lodge creates a rebirth for Michigan’s Forest Dunes

By Len Ziehm ROSCOMMON, Mich. - There never was a doubt about the quality of the 18 holes at Forest Dunes. The course has consistently been ranked as the No. 2 public layout in golf-rich Michigan, behind Arcadia Bluffs. A Tom Weiskopf design that opened in 1999, Forest Dunes is --in the words of general manager Todd Campbell -- "in the middle of nowhere." Still, the national course raters have found it. Golf Digest had it No. 20 among America's 100 Greatest Public Courses for 2011-12 and No.99 among America's Greatest 100 for the same period. GolfWeek ranked Forest Dunes No. 87 on its Best Modern Courses list. Ausable Woods at Forest Dunes (more…)

Island Hills has cottages available now

By Len Ziehm CENTREVILLE, Mich. -- The Scott family's five 18-hole courses aren't far from either Island Hills or Yarrow Golf & Conference Resort. All are near the bigger Michigan cities of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, but the facilities are all quite different - in a good way. Between them they make Southwest Michigan a convenient golf getaway location, especially for players from the Chicago area. Island Hills has been my most frequent stop in the area, and its owner Bob Griffioen is one of the most progressive golf operators in the country. Located in Centreville, Island Hills features a Ray Hearn-designed course, one of about 25 the architect has had a role in creating in his home state. Hearn's original designed opened in 1999. Griffin purchased the property in 2009 and brought Hearn back for extensive renovations in 2010. Signature Cottages at Island HillsThis year, though, the story at Island Hills isn't about what Hearn has done to what is already a quality layout playable by all levels of golfers. This spring Griffioen and Andy Mears, who moved over from Indiana's Swan Lake to become Island Hills' president and chief operating officer, unveiled much-needed lodging at the facility. Island Hills has in effect entered the resort business with the opening of the first three Signature Point Cottages overlooking the par-3 17th hole. Each has four and five-bedroom units with meeting/recreation rooms on the lower levels. (more…)

Downstate Illinois’ Rock River is steeped in history

By Len Ziehm ROCK FALLS, IL. --  I'll admit it.  I'm a sucker for golf history. That explains why it seemed a good idea to stop by what had been Rock River Country Club en route to the PGA Tour's John  Deere Classic in Silvis, about 40 miles further west. Rock River Celebrating 100 YearsOfficially known now as Rock River Golf  & Pool, the facility is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. Several clubs in the Chicago suburbs have long past  year No. 100.  The Downers Grove golf course was America's first 18-hole course when it opened in 1892.  It was reduced to a nine-holer long ago and is now owned by the Downers Grove Park District. (more…)

NW Indiana: Start is spectacular at Lost Marsh

By Len Ziehm Lost Marsh Clubhouse Hammond HAMMOND, Ind. - The Lost Marsh golf course didn't exist when I lived in Northwest Indiana from 1967-69 and was just getting serious about golf. What a shame! Back then, while working for the Hammond Times immediately after finishing college, the courses of choice were Wicker Park - it had a player-friendly course, the best hot dogs in Indiana and a most friendly staff - and the much newer Scherwood, in Schererville. Then there was Woodmar, right next to Wicker, but it was a private club and difficult to get on. (more…)

Erin Hills: Wisconsin layout will be a popular destination prior to ’17 Open

By Len Ziehm Erin HillsErin, Wis. - The hoopla was extraordinary when Erin Hills first welcomed golfers in 2006.  The very upscale public course on the outskirts of Milwaukee was even awarded a U.S. Golf Assn. national championship (the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links) before its land was even seeded. By 2009 - following an ownership change from creator Bob Lang to Milwaukee businessman Andy Ziegler, co-founder of the investment firm Artisan Partners - Erin Hills was named a site for both the 2011 U.S. Amateur and the 2017 U.S. Open. Frankly, I couldn't understand why. (more…)