Boyne Resorts’ very first golf course, The Heather, has been named the 2018 Golf Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Association (MGCA). (Click here to see all Boyne Highlands Homes for Sale)

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and opened in 1966, The Heather was the landmark golf course for Boyne Golf, and is considered the landmark course for the resort golf industry in Northern Michigan as well. (Click here to see Northern Michigan's finest collection of Harbor Springs, MI vacation rentals)

“The Heather’s challenge is absolutely timeless,” Kate Moore of the MGCA said in making the announcement. “It is widely considered to be one of the finest championship courses in the nation.”

The MGCA Course of the Year Award honors a member course that meets four criteria: exceptional quality of the course; exceptional quality of ownership and management; outstanding contribution to its community; and significant contribution to the game.

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The Heather spans 7,148 yards of rolling fairways, natural wetlands, tour white sand bunkers, and blueberry bogs. A championship-caliber player finds a sound test. The Michigan Amateur Championship has been contested on The Heather four times, including the 100th Michigan Amateur in 2011. Proving its broad appeal, the course is also consistently recognized as one of the friendliest for women and senior golfers. Its many awards and rankings include being listed among “The Top 100 Courses You Can Play” by Golf Magazine, and “50 Best Courses for Women” by Golf for Women magazine.

“In a state that is full of great golf facilities, to be recognized by our golf course association of owners and operators is very humbling and an honor,” Bernie Friedrich, Boyne’s senior vice-president said. “This recognition is a tribute to our wonderful staff which has taken great pride in the vision we maintain here at The Heather.”

The Heather is located at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs. Boyne Resorts was founded in Michigan by Everett Kircher and has become a national resort company that employs over 7,000 full-time and seasonal staff nationwide at its 13 resort properties, which includes 10 ski resorts. In Michigan, it has three resorts, Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain, and Bay Harbor, that feature 10 golf courses in addition to their highly regarded ski offerings.

Boyne remains under the ownership of the Kircher family. Stephen Kircher, the president, said his late father Everett, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member and innovative ski operator who started the company, was someone who knew, instinctively, that the golf business wasn’t really about golf.

“He knew it was about active, outdoor, leisure entertainment, and he was decades ahead of the competition in capitalizing on that revelation when in 1966, The Heather course opened to almost universal praise,” he said. “It’s still arguably our best golf course.”

The Heather has been lengthened with some additional tees over the years to match golf’s technological advances, but it was built to last by Jones in collaboration with Everett Kircher, who was a builder and inventor among his many talents.

The dreaded and yet very popular pond that fronts the No. 18 green on The Heather was a Kircher idea after Jones had finished his design work. Kircher wanted a more dramatic finish and ordered the pond to be constructed. Golfers have splashed to the finish in memorable fashion for 52 years, and annually thousands upon thousands of golf balls are fished out of the hazard.

“Every golf course we have built since has been measured against The Heather, as in, is this as good as The Heather?” Friedrich said. “Frankly, they might not be. As for 18 and the pond, Everett reminded Jones who owned the place and Everett wanted to do something dramatic. Now it’s the signature of the course, and really a signature of Boyne Golf. On almost all of the courses, we have the last hole has a pond in front of it.”

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Source: Petoskey News-Review

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