The course at the unusually named Point O’ Woods Golf and Country Club was laid out by Robert Trent Jones and, after some significant earth moving, it opened for play in 1958. The funky named Point O’ Woods is located a couple of miles inland from Benton Harbor and we’d love to hear from anyone who knows the origin of the name.
Trent Jones routed Point O’ Woods across some 350 acres of rolling terrain and the club is home to one of the country’s most important amateur tournaments, the Western Amateur Championship. The Western Amateur dates back to 1899 and has been hosted by Point O' Woods Golf and Country Club annually since 1971. Former winners of the Western include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ben Crenshaw.
Point O’ Woods is relatively flat and easy to walk, but it’s an extremely challenging layout with narrow fairways framed by trees, deep bunkers and a number of scenic, ball-gobbling ponds, which regularly come into play. Water hazards can effect the smoothest of swings and the spectacular par three 9th, over water from the back tee, is a test of accuracy and nerve for even the best golfers. To make matters even more challenging, the shallow green slopes wickedly towards the water and is ringed with bunkers.
The closing hole at Point O’ Woods is also a Trent Jones classic. It’s a wonderful par four which requires a bold tee shot favouring the right side of the fairway leaving a tricky approach to a green well protected by sand and water.
Allow me to share the details behind where the name of this club came from. This club is in the town of Benton Harbor, MI and the property has hundreds of very mature trees. The club logo is that of the original clubhouse which had a remarkably pointy roof. In the logo, you’ll see a pointed roof surrounded by trees. This clubhouse was referred to as “the point of the woods”, and hence the creation of the club’s current name ‘Point O’Woods’. Locals just say “The Point”. The ironic thing today is that the original clubhouse was torn down 4 years ago and the new clubhouse is of much different dimensions. Although the current roof has a few points to it in memory of the original house, it has a completely different look. The conclusion is that the club’s logo represents a clubhouse that doesn’t exist anymore, but of course the name of the club is primarily only understood by the members. It’ll be a fun exercise for a local artist if they ever have a competition to design a new club logo.
The golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr. and true to his design philosophies; it is long and very demanding. As the name of the club implies, there are plenty of trees lining the fairways and it feels like hundreds more trees can come down without affecting how challenging the layout is. I hit twelve 4 irons during my round, and this is the first and only time I can ever say this walking off a golf course. The course was set up such that every par 4 was between 190 and 205 yards, resulting in no variety on the short holes. The Western Amateur was played here for 35 straight years, last played in 2008. It will return to Point O’Woods in 2019, which is a wonderful homecoming to a mighty venue.