January 4, 2017

Crystal Downs Country Club

Frankfort, Mich. / 6,518 yards, Par 70 / Points: 65.7023
Stephen A. Koppin/Courtesy of Crystal Downs CC

12. Crystal Downs Country Club

Alister Mackenzie & Perry Maxwell (9 1929, 9 1931)/Geoffrey Cornish (R. 1984-1985)/Arthur Hills (R. 1991)

Perry Maxwell, the Midwest associate of architect Alister MacKenzie, lived on site while constructing the course to MacKenzie's plans, but there's evidence Maxwell exercised considerable artistic license on some holes. Whomever did it, Crystal Downs has fairways that zigzag and rumble over the landscape and greens that have doglegs in them. One drawback is that the putting surfaces are so old-fashioned that they're too steep for today's green speeds. The club keeps a running tally on how many putts end up off the putting surface.

100 Greatest History: Ranked since 1989. Highest ranking: No. 10, 2007-08. Previous ranking: No. 13


Panelist comments:
“In 90 years, the club has only added two tee boxes since the original design. As one of the professionals told us: ‘Get ready to play the toughest 6,500-yard courses you’ll ever play.’ This proves a course doesn’t need to be tipped out at 7,000+ yards to challenge the best.”

“Few golf experiences can compare. That low-key charm is retained by the club as they continue to make upgrades to the golf house, clubhouse and the golf course. Tom Doak is overseeing changes being made to bring the course back to its original design. Tree removal, green expansion and collar cuts have all been smartly done.”

“Amazingly understated elegance. I got the sense that some of the old-time members didn't even know what kind of a gem they get to play.”

“This is a course that rewards bold play but is also punishing to the brave soul that takes the challenge but is unable to execute the required shot to score. The design utilizes remarkable angles on tee shots, approach shots and around the greens. It seems Mackenzie is challenging players to take the riskier shot. In most cases it doesn't pay off. One of the best in terms of defense of par.”

“I can’t think of a course with better par 5s. Rather benign-looking from off the tee, you’ll find yourself puzzled on how you scored a bogey or worse. And the answer is most likely in the difficulty of these greens.”


Courtesy of Gary Kellner, Dimpled Rock

Hole No. 1

L.C. Lambrecht

Hole No. 6

Courtesy of Gary Kellner, Dimpled Rock

Hole No. 11

Stephen A. Koppin/Courtesy of Crystal Downs CC