World-ranked designs and high-profile restoration projects being recognized
Traverse City, MI - Mike DeVries, principal partner in DeVries Designs, Inc., a golf course design firm based in Traverse City, Mich., has project-by-project built a reputation as one of the leading minimalist architects of this generation.
In the most recent Golf Digest highlighting the best new courses, Architecture Editor Ron Whitten wrote about new courses focusing on “fun and playability” and that “they represent the trend that many architects are embracing: build for the masses, not the elite players.”
DeVries’ recent work on Cape Wickham Links on King Island, Tasmania, Australia, is evidence of Whitten’s declaration. The project made its debut in 2016 at No. 24 on Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Courses.
“Golf should be fun, isn’t that why we play?” DeVries asks. “If someone says they had fun playing a course I designed that is the highest compliment I can receive. At Cape Wickham, the weather is quite variable and the wind can really blow at times, so it was paramount that we employed very wide fairways to accommodate golfers of all skill levels.”
The design at Cape Wickham accommodates with significant amounts of short turf surrounding them and providing multiple shot and club options (putt, pitch, chip and run, flop, hybrid bump and run, etc.) for recovery play when golfers miss the green.
“The fun greens and fairway width enables playability in all conditions for everyone, yet strategy dictates certain angles to certain pins for optimal scoring – this challenges the best players to think their way around the golf course while permitting the average player to have fun playing all kinds of different shots,” DeVries said.
He worked with consultant and co-designer Darius Oliver to create a classic minimalist design that flows through spectacular dune areas and along the coastline of the Bass Strait. All 18 holes provide views of the ocean with eight holes running along the coast and offering some of the most spectacular golf views in the world. The view of the Cape Wickham Lighthouse next to the course draws comparisons to the view at Ireland’s Old Head.
The spectacular coastline at Cape Wickham is in fact so dramatic that it could have easily overshadowed the golf. It made the routing of the golf course the most important aspect of the design, and DeVries and Co. did not disappoint.
“Good routings have a rhythm to them that creates an ebb and flow to the round, with stretches of strong holes interspersed with some easier ones, lending balance to a course and psychologically challenging golfers to stay on task,” DeVries said. “It could be argued that the best golfing ground is away from the coast but we utilized that to full effect starting on the coast, going inland, back to the coast, inland, and finishing on the coast with a climactic hole along the beach.”
Whitten clearly agreed and eloquently penned in the 100 Greatest article that the routing at Cape Wickham is “heart-pounding, starting along rocks and crashing surf, moving inland but not out of the wind, returning to ocean edge at the downhill 10th, pitch-shot 11th and drivable par-4 12th, then wandering into dunes before a crescendo closing hole curving along Victoria Cove beach, which is in play at low tides.”
As for DeVries’ work on restoration projects, he leans on his expert knowledge of MacKenzie, Ross, Tillinghast, Raynor and other classic designers. It has helped him recently with wonderful restoration projects in the New York region at Sunningdale and Siwanoy.
“Siwanoy and Sunningdale have good ground, great original architects, and engaging memberships,” DeVries said. “Like many older clubs, they had lost some of their original design intentions through typical changes like tree planting, shrinking greens, irrigation, and well-intentioned but possibly ill-advised renovations, usually in the form of “modernizing” the course.”
DeVries was able to bring back the original intent of these classic courses by removing trees, expanding greens, remodeling tees, bunkers and fairway lines and upgrading irrigation to provide the strategy and fun shot-making that are the hallmarks of these courses from the early 20th century. DeVries feels those qualities are truly never out of style and, as a result, both are wonderful, fun courses to play every day.
With more than 35 years in the golf business, including growing up near and working on the renowned MacKenzie classic Crystal Downs in northern Michigan, DeVries has developed an impressive hands-on approach to creating minimalist designs, including shaping his own greens and bunkers, working with owners and construction teams to develop environmentally sensitive golf courses, and paying attention to the details with a “less is more” attitude of designing courses that fully integrate with the landscape.
His award-winning projects include the previously mentioned Cape Wickham, as well as Kingsley Club (#21), and Greywalls (#77) on Golfweek’s Top 100 Modern Courses in the USA.
His classic course restoration projects include Meadow Club (Alister MacKenzie), Siwanoy County Club (Donald Ross), Sunningdale County Club (Raynor, Travis, Tillinghast), St. Charles CC in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Ross/MacKenzie), Pelham Country Club (Devereux Emmet), and Jockey Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina (MacKenzie).
It's an unforgettable scene. Playing in front of kilometres of spectacular coastline, King Island's two new golf courses provide the stage for some of golf's most stunning acts. And as I recently found out, now is the ideal time to visit this peaceful gem of a getaway. If you're after a VIP golf experience that is!
Join Andrew Daddo and Paul Gow as they play the two wonderful golf courses on King Island, Tasmania, Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes.
The world’s best golfers gather this week at Baltusrol to play the 100th anniversary edition of the PGA Championship. The very first one, though, was a Westchester affair contested at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville in 1916.
"There are a lot of golf courses that have replaced far less desirable sites: industrial sites, landfills and other non-golf entities. We’re biased, but we tend to think green spaces are better than metal, smoke and concrete. And if those green spaces happen to have 9 or 18 greens, even better.
Here are our favorite “reclaimed” golf courses:
The Mines Golf Course – Grand Rapids, Mich.
Central Michigan is prime mining country, and The Mines is built on the site of former gypsum mining activities. The course embraces this heritage not just with its name but with one of the best public-course logos we’ve seen. Furthermore, materials from the mining operation were incorporated in the design of the course. An example of the minimalist design philosophy of Mike DeVries, the course only has 31 bunkers – including half a dozen bunkerless holes – so its main defense is a set of fun but potentially fearsome greens. There are not too many courses by name designers whose green fees top out below $54, but The Mines is no ordinary course."
Leading course designers to collaborate on projects throughout North America, UK, and Europe
Traverse City, MI – Two leading international golf course design companies are forming a trans-Atlantic partnership to provide clients with unparalleled expertise and experience in golf course architecture.
Mike DeVries, principal partner in DeVries Designs, based in Traverse City, Michigan, and Frank Pont, principal in Infinite Variety Golf Design, based in The Netherlands, will share their passion for golf architecture to create new golf course design projects and restore classic courses throughout the UK, Europe, and North America.
This collaborative partnership offers an innovative way to create new opportunities, specifically in new designs. With DeVries’ success on high profile projects like Cape Wickham Links, recently named No. 24 in the World by Golf Digest, together with Pont’s experience with award-winning courses and his strong network in Europe and the UK, the team is ready to coordinate resources, expertise, and personnel to create outstanding new golf developments for clients.
Pont’s experience in restoring classic designs positions him as the leading expert on the design work of Colt, Alison, Fowler, and Simpson, while DeVries brings his expert knowledge of MacKenzie, Ross, Tillinghast, Raynor, and other classic designers. Together, the partnership will combine their strengths to provide options for clubs across North America and the UK seeking to restore or renovate their historic golf courses.
“I am really excited about the opportunity of working in Europe and with Frank, who is a very forward-thinking practitioner of our craft and respects the character and history of classic golf courses,” said DeVries. “Frank’s understanding of the European golf environment, combined with my knowledge of American architecture, broadens our abilities and makes us a formidable duo to build new, as well as properly restore and renovate classic courses.”
With more than 35 years in the golf business, including growing up and working on the renowned MacKenzie design Crystal Downs in northern Michigan, DeVries has developed an impressive hands-on approach to creating minimalist designs, including shaping his own greens and bunkers, working with owners and construction teams to develop economically feasible golf courses, and paying attention to the details with a “less is more” attitude of designing courses that fully integrate with the landscape.
His award-winning projects include the aforementioned Cape Wickham, as well as the Kingsley Club (#21) and Greywalls (#77) on Golfweek’s Top 100 Modern Courses in the USA. Meadow Club (Alister MacKenzie), Siwanoy Country Club (Donald Ross), and Sunningdale Country Club (Raynor, Travis, Tillinghast) are examples of his classic course restorations.
Following a successful career in consulting and investment banking, Pont has spent the last 15 years becoming one of Europe’s leading course designers and experts on restorations. In addition to his work on Colt, Alison, Simpson, Arana and Pennink designs, he has also created several highly acclaimed new course designs in his home country of the Netherlands, including De Swinkelsche, which is ranked in the top 10.
He is currently working with 15 classic golf clubs listed on Golf World’s English and European Top 100. The clubs where he has been working on extensive restorations, such as De Pan (#26 to #3), Hardelot (#98 to #27), Royal Hague (#19 to #6), and Eindhoven (#81 to #33), have all made spectacular improvements in the course rankings in recent years. No other architectural firm in Europe has delivered similar results in such a consistent manner.
“Our partnership is great news, first and foremost for our clients who will benefit from even better and more complete services, but as importantly for ourselves in that Mike and I will be able to have even more fun working together on great projects,” said Pont. “It will follow the example of Colt and Alison who had a similar trans-Atlantic partnership during the Golden Age of golf. I am convinced our partnership will be a game changer in the global arena of golf course architecture that others will find hard to emulate.”
DeVries and Pont are dedicated to the quality and purity of classic golf design, while serving the needs of their clients and advising them as to the most effective and efficient ways of doing things. The synergies of this trans-Atlantic partnership will lead to a new paradigm of economic excellence in golf course design and construction.
For more information about this partnership or each of the respective companies, contact:
Top 100 Modern Courses
Kingsley #21 Top 100 Modern Courses
Greywalls #77 Top 100 Modern Courses, #2 in MI for Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play
Best Courses You Can Play
Pilgrim’s Run, #15 in MI for Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play
Best Classic Course
Meadow Club, #133 in Golfweek’s Best Classic Course, Next 100
Siwanoy CC, #150 in Golfweek’s Best Classic Course, Next 100
DeVries is nominated for the list of Most Influential Architects with this note from David McLay Kidd:
“He’s right on the cusp. He’s getting phenomenal reviews for his course on King Island, and that’s going to earn him an opportunity to score a notable project in the United States.”
DeVries also mentioned in “People in the news“:
“DeVries and Oliver have delivered on their word to design a world-class venue on King Island in Tasmania. Cape Wickham Links placed No. 5 in Golf Australia magazine’s ranking of Australia’s top golf courses. It trails only Royal Melbourne Golf Club’s West Course (No. 1), Kingston Heath Golf Club (No. 3), and the companion courses at Barnbougle Dunes, the Golf Links (No. 2) and Lost Farm (No. 4).”
#24 (NEW) Cape Wickham Links
King Island, Tasmania, Australia / 6,725 yards, Par 72
“Less than six months old, this design collaboration by American Mike DeVries and Australian golf writer Darius Oliver may be an even bigger surprise than No. 19 Cabot Cliffs. It’s a glorious collection of holes on a breathtaking site along Bass Strait, a notorious stretch of Australian seacoast that once shipwrecked many voyages. Its routing is heart-pounding, starting along rocks and crashing surf, moving inland but not out of the wind, returning to ocean edge at the downhill 10th, pitch-shot 11th and drivable par-4 12th, then wandering into dunes before a crescendo closing hole curving along Victoria Cove beach, which is in play at low tides.”
Cape Wickham Links, one of the most talked about golf course developments in the world, opened its gates on 30 October 2015. ATM editor Brett Robinson catches up with Cape Wickham superintendent John Geary to look back at some of the unique challenges faced growing-in what is expected to be a world top 100 ranked course.
Brace yourselves. The world’s most highly anticipated new golf course opens its gates later this month. We thought we’d get in early and play Cape Wickham on Tasmania’s King Island following a wave of international fanfare. Our verdict? Believe the hype.