Crystal Downs Country Club is located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan near Traverse City
The golf course was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie with Perry Maxwell assisting.
MacKenzie only visited the site twice and is thought to be responsible for the routing and siting of the greens.
He left his plan with Maxwell who went on to complete the course
Crystal Downs is regarded as one of the top 100 courses in the world by the leading rating agencies and has reached as high as #14 in Golf Magazine's top 100 courses in the world, and #11 with Golf Digest.
It is probably no coincidence that modern day architects MIke De Vries and Tom Doak became members
So Heather and I were privileged to meet Tom Doak for a game at Crystal Downs some years ago
Tom acted as a playing companion, caddie, and golf historian as we explored Crystal Downs for the first time
It was a surreal experience
There was no pressure from behind so we were able to take our time exploring some of the greens, learning where the different pin positions affected the playing lines
We certainly gained an appreciation for those greens- slick, pure and turning...
Crystal Downs is a walking course, but there is some significant elevation change at times which can test your fitness and ability to carry the ball
The course plays firm and fast with a lot of undulating lies but flight trajectory is just as important as length for both tee shots and approaching greens
A shot into a ridge rather than over it will often leave blind shots from further out- or more undulating lies...
It is a course that you need to plot your way around, rather than overpower
And it is a course that you need to play over in different conditions, with a variety of pin positions, before you have any hope of knowing HOW to do the plotting!
The execution is a whole other matter..
There are some world class holes at Crystal Downs- I loved the tee shot on five, the kidney shaped green on the seventh, and the dangerous approach on the short par four seventeenth- it's a short finishing hole that will wreck so many scorecards...
Notable holes include:
hole 1, a strong par four starting hole regarded as one of the great par 4's in golf
- hole 5, a short tricky par 4 considered one of MacKenzie's great holes
- hole 7, a short par 4 with unique kidney shaped green. It's a brilliant hole
- the par 5 eighth hole is regarded by many as one of the better par fives going around- you just never get an even lie
- the par 3 ninth hole plays a lot longer than it's length- the green is a fortress way up above the tee
- hole 11 is a longer par 3 uphill through a dell. You gotta be up, but not long!
- the par 3 fourteenth hole is a delightful one shotter with views of Sleeping Bear dunes as a backdrop
- the short par 4 seventeenth hole is only a driver and short iron, so what can go wrong?. A tight tee shot is followed by a perilous approach to a green sitting up high and surrounded by trouble
Crystal Downs CC is a classic McKenzie course in a beautiful remote setting.
The club will rarely host tournaments or be televised.
It will likely remain relatively unknown by the masses- but the true believers will know all about it and seek it out.
They won't be disappointed!
Crystal Downs Country Club is a private membership club
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