ABOUT THE OWNERS
For most of their adult lives, Robert and Judith Van Kampen lived in the Chicago area where Robert worked in the financial service industry. He was a dynamic and creative entrepreneur who was always engaging in a new adventure. In 1993, he and his wife moved their family to Grand Haven, Michigan.
Robert Van Kampen was a Christian, a student of the Bible and the author of several books of biblical study. He was a church planter, an elder and a teacher in his local church. He loved the Word of God and was a collector of rare and ancient copies of the Bible.
He also admired one of the most significant works of Christian literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book written in the 1600s by an Englishman named John Bunyan. Bunyan, a Christian preacher, was ordered to stop preaching and, refusing, was sent to prison where he spent his time preaching to his fellow prisoners and, eventually, writing The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is after this beloved classic that this course, and each hole, was named.
THE BUILDING OF PILGRIM'S RUN
Robert Van Kampen enjoyed the game of golf and played courses all over the country. In the 1990’s, he decided to create his own, to enjoy with his family, and began searching for a parcel of land on which to build a private golf course. It took over a year for him to find the property on which you currently stand. The nearly 820-acres of wooded, rolling terrain was the perfect fit for his vision.
Mr. Van Kampen was a determined man, but also unusually generous. Rather than designing the course himself, he decided to give this exceptional opportunity to his team – enlisting six employees, two of whom were his sons-in-law. The group met in the Van Kampen home, where the project was explained and 18 pieces of numbered paper were put into a hat. Each man randomly drew out three pieces of paper and, in this way, three holes were designated to each– to be designed according to the creativity of each man.
Within months of the purchase, Mr. Van Kampen hired Kris Shumaker, a former golf superintendent from Holland, Michigan, to operate and oversee the construction of the project. Blending six different personalities to form a cohesive whole was an exciting challenge, as each
designer loved to golf and had specific ideas for the holes he was assigned. Shumaker routed the course and the land was cleared. Then, continuously, Shumaker walked the property witheach designer, to be sure the land was shaped exactly to his liking.
A year into the construction, a golf course architect was added to the team; a young man named Mike DeVries, from Traverse City, Michigan. Devries was an up and coming architect with an impressive resume, having been previously employed by Tom Doak and Tom Fazio.
DeVries launched into the work, blending the undulating greens and the contoured bunkering with the “gang of six” designers. Through his oversight, the golf course was purposely planned with both risk/reward-type holes, as well as a good mix of other holes, so golfers would be able to use all the clubs in their bag. From the tee, the course may look intimidating, however, with spacious landing areas and no out of bounds, the course is very playable from any set of tees.
It didn’t take long for Mr. Van Kampen to realize what an unusual golf course he had; the spacious beauty of this course was outstanding and he decided to share it, setting his mind to open the course to the public. The front nine was opened first, in the Spring in 1997. The opening of the back nine, delayed by a destructive storm that brought down over 400 trees, was finally realized on July 24, 1998.
Since opening of Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club, we have been pleased to receive many accolades, including:
• 4th Best New Affordable Course in the US and Canada – Golf Digest 1999
• Top 100 You Can Play – Golf Magazine 2002
• 4 ½ Stars – Golf Digest 2002-2004
• Top Golf Course in Michigan – Golf Advisor 2018 & 2020
• Friendliest Course in the US – Golf Advisor 2019
• Top Course Conditions in the US – #2 2018
• Top Value Courses in the US – Golf Advisor #21 2019
• Best Course in the State #31 – Golf Digest 2023
• #10 Public course in Michigan – Golfweek 2023