Hills, now 90 and officially retired, spends most of his time on the east coast of Florida now but his work is being honored in the area that was his long-time home base. Hills, working with long-time partner Steve Forrest, was based in the Toledo area and now Ohio Golf Journal publisher Fred Altvater and several club operators are developing the Arthur Hills Golf Trail.
The Trail was officially launched at the Toledo Golf Show in 2019. Pandemic issues slowed its takeoff but Altvater sees bigger days ahead. Based on the work Hills has done world-wide there’s no question he deserves his own Trail.
In addition to his American designs – the best-known of which may be Half Moon Bay in California — Hills has designed courses in Portugal, Croatia, Sweden, Mexico and Norway.
Several years ago the Pete Dye Golf Trail started on a small scale with seven courses in the late architect’s native Indiana. Hills is Dye’s contemporary, and his trail has a similar beginning. Altvater has lined up five courses for starters.
They include three layouts in southeast Michigan — The Legacy by Arthur Hills, in Ottawa Hills, and Stonebridge Golf Club and Leslie Park, in Ann Arbor – and two in northwest Ohio – Stone Ridge, in Bowling Green, and Maumee Bay State Park, on the shores of Lake Erie in the town of Oregon.
“There’s probably 10-12 good Arthur Hills designs in the Toledo area,’’ said Altvater. “Down the road we hope to have them involved as well, but these are within 45 minutes of Toledo and have great lodging and fantastic places to eat nearby as well.’’
Altvater is also banking on other nearby attractions, like a world-class zoo and botanical gardens, to entice visitors.
Hills’ footprint in the area touches far more destinations than are represented on the present trail. He designed nine courses in Ohio and another 17 in Michigan. The Michigan layouts include one of his very best – the Arthur Hills Course at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs – and 27-hole Bay Harbor, a masterpiece overlooking Little Traverse Bay.
The first course Hills created was in Toledo — Brandywine, in 1967, and he did renovation work at, among others, the historic Inverness Club in that city. He has degrees from Michigan, Michigan State and the University of Toledo, so Hills is indeed a native son of both states.
As for the five Trail courses, the toughest is Stone Ridge – the home course of the Bowling Green University golf teams and just a long tee shot from the edge of the campus. The bunkering there is one of Hills’ finest works, and the course is surrounded by rolling hills and dissected by small creeks and water hazards.
Stonebridge may be the most beautiful of the Trail layouts, with the extremely well-conditioned course blending in well with an array of pleasant homesites. Leslie Park started as a Larry Packard design in 1967 before Hills performed major renovation work 28 years later. Leslie Park has been selected as the best municipal course in Michigan by Golf Digest.
Most enticing of the lot, though, is Maumee Bay because it offers so much more than golf. With camping and watersports readily available, the park is ideal for family activities. The on-site lodging is also well situated, just a short walk from the golf course.
“Arthur’s hand has touched a lot of golf courses around the area,’’ said Altvater. “He’s a very popular designer in this part of the world, and I’m amazed at the great golf here that nobody knows about. We can put custom-made packages together and, for double occupancy and 18 holes a day, we can do it for about $100. And replay rounds can be less than $25.’’