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.
Longtime site of the western amateur. Traditional parkland golf at its best.
It's hard for me to conceive how this marvelous layout is not spoken about more. Trent Jones, Sr., did courses around the globe, however, often many of them were formulaic and usually predictably redundant.
Point O'Woods has been kept to the style and manner from its creator. You have the signature runway teeing areas and the greens clearly are on the large size with massive bunkers flanking a number of the putting surfaces.
The terrain has a slight roll to it but nothing that prevents players from enjoying the stroll when playing.
The Western Amateur, one of golf's most celebrated events, returned this year and I, along with countless others, was glad to see that development. The course clearly has enough firepower to make the contestants play at the highest of levels.
The opening hole is a classic RTJ, Sr. effort. A long enough par-4 to stretch the muscles and having a green with enough movement to put pressure on the approach.
The par-5 2nd is a quality risk/reward hole -- those hitting a long enough tee shot had best think long and hard in going for the green because a frontal water hazard awaits those who don't execute smartly.
The outward side provide a good mixture of holes -- nothing that leaps to mind given the relative sameness of the terrain. But the 9th -- a par-3 of 190-yard -- is one to savor. The green is angled diagonally with a front water hazard hugging the green like two long time friends coming together at Christmas. The slightest miscalculation can find the hazard but even those who avoid it and play more to the right for safety will find a bedeviling green that requires a jeweler's touch to escape with par.
The inward side is a bit stronger in terms of hole demands and the best part of the layout is its utter honesty. Just a fun walk to conclude the round at the fine par-4 18th. There are no tricks -- no subterfuges. You get what you earn -- and you need to earn it. RTJ, Sr. was famous in saying his courses make bogey easy but par much harder. That's certainly the case. Just a quality layout -- no added frills -- just bring your best effort.
M. James Ward
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.