Jerry Matthews, a past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, began his career when he was twelve years old by working for his father on the maintenance crew at Green Ridge Country Club. Upon completion of his education at Michigan State University in 1960, Matthews teamed with his father to form the golf course design firm of W. Bruce Matthews & Son. In 1979 he took over as president of Matthews & Associates, PC as Bruce settled into retirement at the family-owned Grand Haven Golf Club. Jerry designed Michigan courses The Lakes Course at Michaywé in Gaylord, Timber Ridge Golf Course in East Lansing, Elk Ridge Golf Course in Atlanta, St. Ives Golf Club in Stanwood, Timberstone Golf Course in Iron Mountain, Bucks Run Golf Club in Mt. Pleasant, and Sundance at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort in Kewadin. Jerry also teaches golf Course design and construction techniques for the Turfgrass program at Michigan State University.
I designed Elk Ridge Golf Course in Atlanta, Michigan, in 1990 for Lou and Mary Schmidt, owners of the Honey Baked Ham Company. This company invented and patented the first spiral sliced, flavor-coated hams in the country. They have sales outlets across the United States.
The course has become known by what started out as a tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor and became a landmark – a pig-shaped bunker to be seen from an airplane!
The original idea was to design a water feature on the par-three fourth hole, which was also to serve as the irrigation supply reservoir. The shape of this water feature was to be that of a pig, as seen from above. This design and shape were included in all construction drawings and the irrigation plan. Since it was slightly tongue-in-cheek I wanted to have someone–the owner, contractor, supplier, or superintendent–make the discovery in the plans that the irrigation lake was going to resemble a pig. I decided to simply carry it out and figured some pilot some day would look down and finally recognize a small water pig.
I proceeded to stake it out on the ground as best I could to maintain the pig shape, and then the excavation began. Unfortunately, water sand was encountered below the four-foot level, which made just stabilizing the banks a problem, let alone trying to maintain the pig shape. Thwarted, but not defeated, I decided to design a sand bunker in the shape of a pig. Construction had progressed toward the end of the project, but as luck would have it, the tenth green was one of the last ones built, and it was located nearly one hundred vertical feet directly below the clubhouse site. This afforded a very good elevated view of the tenth hole, a par-three, which could be seen from the deck of the clubhouse. A perfect spot for the visual effect of a Honey Baked Ham symbol.
To carry out my desire that someone else discover the shape of an animal on a set of golf course plans, a pig-shaped bunker was sketched on number ten green. The person who finally recognized the shape is unknown, but someone finally did, and that’s when the supposed joke took a strange turn. I mentioned that the right front bunker would look good as a pig shape. The golf course superintendent, John Maddern, voiced his opposition.
“No way!” he said.
However, the owner, Lou Schmidt, said he liked it. So John carefully staked it out and constructed a very good looking pig bunker, complete with curly tail. The shape is very carefully maintained to this day.
Thus an attempt at humor and trying something different ended up as a very unique, eye catching golf feature, which is not only is a delight for golfers and non-golfers to see from the deck of the clubhouse, but also adorns a full-sized billboard on Interstate 75, between Detroit and Atlanta, Michigan.