Pine River Country Club in Alma, Michigan, has reopened its original nine holes for member play following an extensive renovation that began in June 2020 and was completed in May 2021.
The course renovation was designed and managed by Chris Wilczynski, ASGCA of C.W. Golf Architecture, with Great Lakes Golf Construction, Thielen Irrigation, Mavis Agronomic Consulting and golf course superintendent Warren Burhans executing the work. The renovation occurred via approved master plan, and was funded by Alan Kommel, club member and owner of the property.
“Working with Chris and all the contractors was a pleasure” Kommel said. “They were a great team and worked together to achieve our goals which were to bring back some of the original design features of this 100-year-old gem and improve aesthetics and playability. I’m amazed by the transformation and the members are loving it too.”
Prior to the renovation, Wilczynski walked the course on numerous occasions and worked closely with Kommel as well as Randy Lewis – member and U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion (2011) to understand their vision and create and refine the master plan which served as the roadmap for these improvements.
“The first time I visited the course I fell in love with it…I could clearly see what was needed to transform the property and create a great golf course. Given its relationship to the nearby Pine River, the course topography has a natural roll, but its beauty was disguised by too many trees,” Wilczynski said. “The renovations along with the removal of 250-plus trees were required to improve playability and open the sight lines to unveil the property’s natural beauty and panoramic views … these enhancements have given the course an even greater sense of place that I hope members will enjoy for years to come.”
Additional improvements to the course include the establishment of 15 acres of native grass areas, a sustainable feature requiring limited maintenance while serving as an environmental habitat for birds and wildlife. Four sets of tees were added at each hole to lengthen and shorten the course at 3,280 yards, and 1,950 yards, respectively, for various skill levels. All fairways were realigned and re-grassed with low-mow bluegrass. Every green was rebuilt and recontoured to add interest and variety. Bunkers were reset at strategic angles and cut into the natural landforms. Major improvements to the drainage and irrigation systems throughout the course were also completed to allow the property to be managed more efficiently.
“We are thrilled with the results of the golf course renovation project,” Wilczynski said. “We had a great canvas to use for the renovation and a client that entrusted the team to get the job done. We are all immensely proud of what we created.”