By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — It’s a golfer’s worst nightmare.
They’ve cruised through the front nine, avoiding sand traps and errant wind. Then, PLUNK! They’ve lost a stroke in one of myriad water hazards that The Golf Club at Harbor Shores course has to offer.
While it’s easy to have the caddie throw over another ball, many of those signature balls are lost forever.
Unlike most courses on the Champions Tour, water hazards at Harbor Shores are normally part of the Paw Paw River or state-protected wetlands.
Ross Smith, general manager and director of golf at Harbor Shores, said balls that fall victim to the course’s water hazards have different outcomes depending on the site.
“When it’s all said and done, the balls that go into the Paw Paw River end up in Lake Michigan,” Smith said.
While it might take some time, Smith said the river’s current is strong enough to carry golf balls to the St. Joseph River and then to the lake.
“I’ve been contacted by (golf ball) divers before, but sometimes some of the kids from the First Tee (program) go get them.”
The Jack Nicklaus – designed golf course has only two man-made ponds – to the right of holes 5 and 7.
Courses often hire golf ball divers to retrieve the lost balls, but Smith said Harbor Shores doesn’t because it tends to be pricey.
“We have been reached out to by divers, but they pay 10 cents a ball,” Smith said. “We’re mostly concerned about (the divers) disturbing the natural habitat. They tend to use rollers, which can disturb natural habitats in the ponds and wetlands.”
In the event that any Harbor Shores staff members retrieve the lost golf balls, Smith said they donate them to the First Tee program.
The water hazards that collect the most golf balls are holes 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11. Smith says among those five water hazards, three of them are ponds.