Call me sentimental but I have a special fondness for golf courses that are part of a larger vision of community development. Through that lens, I’ve always admired Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor and what the Whirlpool Corp did to the former derelict property to make it a world-class real estate development with a championship Jack Nicklaus-designed course as its centerpiece.
To a much lesser degree in terms of scale, but not in terms of a community and recreational vision, is Waters Edge Golf Course in Fremont, MI. Over the past four years, due to the generous efforts of a local family, the once struggling 18-hole golf course, formerly known as Ramshorn Country Club, has been transformed into a attractive and thriving public golf course with a bright future.
With the golf course falling on hard times in the last decade or so and not wanting it to close or be plowed under, the family—who wishes to keep a low profile—purchased the golf property. They also made a significant investment into it, elevating its profile and amenities.
A few years later, the family also made the smart decision to persuade Larry Yachcik to come aboard and assume responsibility for the golf course and restaurant.
I’ve known Yachcik for a number of years, first as a fellow competitor in GAM Senior tournaments and second as the former CEO of Porter Hills Village, a well-regarded retirement community in Grand Rapids.
After his retirement from Porter Hills, Yachcik was doing consulting in Fremont when he was approached about Waters Edge. At the time, being a part of a golf course, restaurant and new wedding and event pavilion were not on his radar.
“Although I spent my whole career in health care, my college degree and initial passion were in community development,” said Yachcik. “When I heard of the vision and mission for the golf course and property, it was an easy sell. Besides, I love golf.”
Four years ago, noted Michigan-based golf course architect Ray Hearn was hired to design two new holes (5 & 6) as well as new green complexes for the 9th and 18th holes where two lakes serve as a beautiful backdrop. He also designed the new expansive driving range.
The course has four sets of tees ranging from 4950 to 6292 yards. The best holes in my estimation are those by Hearn and in some ways they tower over the rest of the holes. But there’s lots of potential to improve some of the more pedestrian holes. And the rolling and woodsy landscape demands good shot-making.
My friend Pat Geary joined me when I played it recently. Afterwards, he said: “It had been several years since I played Waters Edge, and I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent changes that have been made. The new holes are properly challenging and visually attractive, particularly 5 and 6.”
Yachcik says Hearn is commissioned to do further design work, including the 10th and 12th holes.
“We also have plans to re-contour and re-shape some of the fairways,” said Yachcik.
The reception by area residents to the golf and restaurant has been highly favorable. Of course, the timing couldn’t have been better with golf being on a roll.
“Residents really appreciate how this golf course is a now a recreational benefit for the community.”
Besides overseeing golf operations, Yachcik has partnered with Executive Chef Cyril Mayne on the food and beverage side of Waters Edge. The “Lakes 23 Restaurant & Pub” boasts an attractive menu with “value-driven meals” and a wonderful view of the lakes. Mayne previously served as Executive Chefs at Kent CC, Egypt Valley and Thousand Oaks GC in Grand Rapids.
In checking the restaurant’s 38 reviews on TripAdvisor, 33 were rated either “very good” or “excellent.”
Pushing the envelope further for Waters Edge will be a new Top Tracer Golf Center opening in January. It will offer state-of-the-art golf teaching and technology. “People will be able to hit balls and work on their games year-round in a heated space,” said Yachcik. “We hope to introduce new people to the game while adding some recreation and entertainment.”
When asked how Top Tracer might draw in an area such as Fremont, Yachcik was confident of its future. “In our research, we visited several cities with Top Tracer and felt that our semi-rural market of Fremont is a good match.”
Yachcik might have summed up the overall promise and appeal of Waters Edge by adding,
“There’s nothing in the area like it.”
For more information including fall golf rates, visit www.watersedgefremont.com