Golf course design is an art that combines the beauty of nature with the challenge of the game. Among the many renowned golf course architects, Jerry Matthews and his family left an indelible mark on the landscape of golf. Their legacy is characterized by a commitment to environmental sustainability, a deep appreciation for the natural surroundings, and a passion for creating courses that both challenge and delight golfers. Having reviewed over 100 courses, we began to recognize his signature style. We’ve developed a deep appreciation of Jerry Matthews course design. We decided to explore a bit further and learned about the Matthews family, some of the best-known golf architects in the last half century of golf course design.

A Family History Steeped in Golf

Sandy Ridge Golf Course Hole 9

W. Bruce Matthews, father

It all started 99 years ago. In 1925, W. Bruce Matthews graduated with a degree in landscape architecture from MSC (Michigan State College, now known as Michigan State University).  He then became a golf course architect with a Boston-based firm. Later, he started his own golf course architect business, Matthews and Associates. W. Bruce Matthews also owned the Grand Haven Golf Club and was the first time President of the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation.

Hidden Oaks Golf Course Hole 5

Jerry Matthews, architect

The son of W. Bruce Matthews, Jerry Matthews was born in Grand Rapids in 1934. He began his career in golf course architecture in the 1960s, joining Matthews and Associates. Over the course of his prolific career, he designed new courses or renovated existing courses.  A rough total of nearly 200 golf courses, with 95% of them in Michigan. Golf course architect Jerry Matthews was known for his ability to integrate the natural features of a site into his designs.  He created courses that seamlessly blended with the environment. Eventually, he started the company Jerry Matthews Natural Golf Course Design.

Bucks Run Golf Club Hole 2

Premier Course Design

Some examples of his best work can be found on such notable Michigan golf courses such as Timberstone Golf Course at Pine Mountain Resort in the upper peninsula, Buck’s Run Golf Club, Sundance at A-ga-ming Golf Resort, St. Ives Golf Club, The Majestic at Lake Walden, Hawk Hollow Golf Club, Greystone Golf Club, Timber Ridge Golf Club in East Lansing, Eagle Glen Golf Club in western Michigan, and The Emerald Golf Course. He also designed The Jewel for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Signature Style of a Matthews Course

As we review courses across the state, we notice the signature style of architect Jerry Matthews and his family.  We appreciate their philosophy to design for the average golfer.  We take photos throughout 18-hole course as we score each hole, getting a feel for the entire course.  Time after time, we noted courses that the designed by the Matthews golf group always have the feel of a cohesive master plan.  They balance the pure function of a golf course with breathtaking landscapes.  We’ll share a few examples to illustrate our point.

Timber Wolf Golf Clubhouse

Like a visit the Old Farm

When we reviewed Timber Wolf Golf Club in Kalkaska, we felt welcomed into an old farmhouse.  The silo of the old farm features prominently in the design of this course. It was left here to marry the past with the present – we loved that nostalgic touch.  Panoramic views and a northern Michigan feel made this beautiful golf course a must-play.

For more photos and our review see: Timber Wolf Golf Club – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

Bucks Run

Dig in at a former quarry

Bucks Run Golf Club is a championship course built on a former quarry site. In our review, we commented on the picturesque lakes and river front views. What were once large gravel pits are now amazing water features enjoyed along the majority of a course’s holes.   That is, unless your game of golf lands in these water hazards.  Golf is beautiful here and yet the rocks and Quarry Grill give a nod to the site’s past lift.

See more photos and our review of Bucks Run at Bucks Run Golf Club – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

El Dorado Golf Course - White Course Hole 8

Golden Hour of Golf

Eldorado Golf Course in Mason has become one of our local favorites.  Even if it’s busy on a league night, we visit the driving range and enjoy the outdoor patio scene.  Set into a quiet community, this 27-hole course has multiple sets of tees for golfers at any skill level.  Notably, W. Bruce Matthews III was previously the Golf Course Superintendent at Eldorado Golf Course.

Check out our review for more photos at Eldorado Golf Course – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

Timber Ridge

Nestled in a Neighborhood

Timber Ridge in East Lansing, Michigan has a picturesque practice range and a rolling practice green.  As you’ll notice from photos in our review, golfers experience many elevation changes on this course.  Trees add needed shady spots while providing a buffer to the surrounding neighborhood.  When we visited last year, a restoration has begun to bring cart paths back to the original course condition.  

For more photos and our review see Timber Ridge Golf Course – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

Timberstone Golf Club Hole 17

Woodsy Up North Feel

Timberstone at Pine Mountain pulls you into a golf experience in the woods of Northern Michigan.  Our photos showcase the deep woods setting, dense treelined fairways, and remarkable landscape of this course’s natural beauty.  Paths wind along the treelined fairways and large boulders stand guard as you swing from the front or back tees.  

Our review has more great photos at Pine Mountain – Timberstone Golf Course – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

Sundance at A-Ga-Ming

Scenic and Sandy

Sundance at A-Ga-Ming is a links style course near Traverse City, not too far from the shores of Lake Michigan.  Built on glacier-carved bluffs, it has an abundance of sand bunkers throughout the course, a nod to Michigan sand dunes.  We lovingly referred to it as “bunker heaven” as they have some of the best maintained bunkers we have reviewed. After a round, golfers can enjoy drinks on the patio and a relaxing view.

For more photos, see our review at Sundance Golf Course at A-Ga-ming – Michigan Golf Matrix (migolfmatrix.com)

The Matthews Family Legacy

Cedar Chase Golf Club Hole 3

Today

The Matthews family’s contributions to the golf community continues to this day with W. Bruce Matthews III.  His career in the sport includes experience as a Golf Course Superintendent on several golf courses.  This third-generation golf course architect stays true, embracing natural features into golf course design. He also teaches golf course design at Michigan State University.

A complete list of course designs by Matthews Golf can be found on their site: Matthews Golf – Matthews Design Group | Michigan Golf Course Architects and Designers (matthews-golf.com).  

Our photo here is from our review of Cedar Chase Golf Club which was designed by W. Bruce Matthews III.

Mullenhurst Hole 11

Environmental Stewardship

A hallmark of the Matthews family legacy is their dedication to environmental sustainability in golf course design. Jerry Matthews, in particular, was a proponent of creating courses that worked in harmony with the natural landscape rather than against it. His designs often showcased native vegetation, preserved wetlands, and utilized water features in an ecologically responsible manner.  To quote our state’s tagline, these courses are Pure Michigan.

The Matthews family’s commitment to environmental stewardship not only enhanced the beauty of their course designs but set an example for the industry. Their approach encourages the responsible use of resources and promotes a deeper appreciation for the natural environment among golfers.

Antrim Dells

Timeless Golf Experiences

The sustainability of their golf course designs is a testament to their passion for the game and the environment. Through the visionary work of Jerry Matthews and the continued contributions of his family, they have shaped the way we perceive and experience golf courses. We can feel their commitment to blending challenging designs with the natural beauty of the surroundings.  In fact, it has set a standard for sustainable and aesthetically pleasing golf course architecture.  We have no doubt that Matthews course designs have helped grow Michigan’s reputation as a golf destination state.  As golf continues to evolve, the Matthews family’s influence remains a guiding light for future generations of golf course designers.

For more information see:

Matthews Golf – Matthews Design Group | Michigan Golf Course Architects and Designers (matthews-golf.com)
Matthews family profile – American Society of Golf Course Architects
Golf Digest Article on Jerry Matthews
W Bruce Matthews III Facebook Page
Matthews Golf Clan Family Tree

See our reviews of courses designed by Jerry Matthews

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