A small and scenic 18 hole public, family-owned and operated, golf course in rural Berrien County founded along Naomi Road outside of Eau Claire, that has survived tumultuous economic times, yet continues to prevail in an industry that has struggled in recent years has earned the respect of thousands of fans of the game and the hearts of the judges as one of the 2019 Class of the Moody on the Market Fifteen Under 15 small business enterprises with fewer than 15 employees.
Pipestone Creek long ago adopted the motto, “The golf course for the rest of us.” And every decision they make is predicated on that motto.
The owner, Lori Dustin, continually strives to be inclusive and to present the game of golf to people of all backgrounds. She is also diligent in honoring the traditions and values instilled in her by her late father, Bruce Dustin, who built the course along with her grandfather decades ago in the 1950s.
Pipestone Creek serves residents of Berrien County and those who vacation here, and is a great ambassador for the area and a model example of a community-focused business.
Founded in 1957, Pipestone Creek was built by Bruce Dustin and his father Leroy. They literally carved it from the land with a bulldozer, shovels, and a ton of sweat equity. The course became a local hit and slowly grew to 9 holes and then 18. Family built, owned for all of those years, the unique little golf course purposely squares the focus on community and inclusiveness, with the promise that you don’t need fancy clothes, high-end clubs, or thick wallets in order to enjoy the great game of golf. Truly, the golf course for the rest of us.
Addressing the culture of the business, the nominator shared the revealing news that inclusive, humble and community-oriented adjectives aren’t just talk. The author says, “All businesses need to make money to survive, but Pipestone Creek always considers the impact of their decisions on their customers and their community before moving forward.” The very promise of “Come as you are, no one will scoff at your gear or tell you that you need a polo and long pants,” lives there daily. Recognizing only too well that the game of golf faces a growth problem, Pipestone Creek understands that exclusivity and elitism are hardly the solutions. They will always welcome players of all ages, and backgrounds, to come and enjoy the game of golf.
Fans of the course clearly revere their friends at Pipestone Creek. In fact, in 2018, the course was runner-up in the Herald Palladium’s Readers’ Choice for best area golf course, losing out the the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Harbor Shores. One fans says, “Not too shabby for a course that charges one quarter of the price!”
Staffed by just 10 people, Pipestone Creek has long been able to roll with the punches. Challenges are everywhere. While the golf industry as a whole is struggling, and the market is saturated, even changes in climate are impacting courses’ abilities to properly maintain their grounds. Thanks to a decades old strategy, Pipestone Creek is designed in such a way that the target course conditions can be maintained with a grounds crew of just four very hard working people.
Nominators with knowledge of the inner workings at the course specifically highlighted Freddy the groundsman, characterized as “An amazingly loyal and committed employee who has been with the course for more than 20 years.” Additionally, the course has put itself in a position to begin reinvesting in its grounds, equipment, and employees. Not only is it surviving through the changing economic landscape, but actually starting to thrive once again.
It’s not all about the business equation for Eau Claire’s gem of a course. Pipestone Creek works with local organizations to help with fundraising, and even donates the course to local school golf teams for practice and matches. Best of all, they provide people from all over the area a place to let off some steam, enjoy the outdoors, and hit some golf balls without breaking the bank.
There’s good news for fan favorites of Pipestone Creek as they set a course to continue to build on their current momentum. Plans are to just continue to buck the downward trend in the golf industry and to provide the community with a course they can be truly proud of and enjoy for years to come.
That’s the stuff of winners, and gives you a great peek behind the curtain at a worthy member of the 2019 Class of the Moody on the Market Fifteen Under 15 best small business enterprises with 15 or fewer employees.