Bryce Slater


The Godfather of Michigan golf, Wallace Bruce Matthews designed 21 courses -- all in his home state -- then did more than twice that many in the Mitten State with his son, Bruce Matthews. Now his grandson, W. Bruce Matthews III, carries on the tradition with 24 solo designs, all but one in Michigan.

Graduating from Michigan State in 1925 with a degree in landscape architecture, it was W. Bruce Matthews' plan to design golf courses for a living.

But when the Great Depression hit in 1929, and there was no design work to be found, Matthews became the general manager and superintendent at Green Ridge Country Club in Grand Rapids. The experience served him well as he developed a keen understanding of what made a golf course work.

It wasn’t until 1959 that Matthews got into golf course design full time, forming Matthews & Associates with son Jerry. Until his retirement in 1979, team Matthews created 47 courses.

Some of Matthews enduring designs include Candlestone Inn, Jewel of Grand Blanc, Lakewood Shores, Riverwood, Blossom Trails, West Ottawa, Hastings Country Club in his hometown, and Hidden Oaks, which W. Bruce Matthews III redesigned in 1999, one year before his grandfather's death.

In the late 1950s, when Michigan State alum Forest Akers donated land for a golf course to be built at his alma mater, another MSU alum, Bruce Matthews, was the obvious choice to design it. Ten years later, Matthews and his son built another on-campus 18 at MSU.

Matthews was a minimalist architect, creating straightforward, player-friendly courses of moderate length. It was said of Matthews that he never built a fairway bunker. An example of one of his stress-free courses is Saint Clair Shores, a par 71 that measures 6,040 yards, with a rating of 67.5 and a slope of 109.

In retirement with Doris, his wife of 72 years, Matthews lived on Grand Haven Golf Club, which the family owned, designed and operated. The course was a regular on Golf Digest's list of top public courses in America after it opened in 1965.

In 1991, Matthews received the Golf Course Superintendents Association distinguished service award and two years later, he was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. He also helped establish a golf management program at Ferris State University and create the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation at Michigan State.

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