Crystal Downs---Frankfort, MI
Rankings as of 5/25/12---
-12th best US Course; 20th best course in the World (Golf Magazine)
-12th best US Course (Golf Digest)
-10th best US Course (Golfweek)
Crystal Downs is a unanimous gem in the golfing world. All the golf course architectural intelligentsia regard it as
one of the best of the best. And I whole-heartedly agree. The course’s designer was none other than Alister
Mackenzie and his associate at The Downs was Perry Maxwell. It is not surprising that the course that sprung
from the minds of two of the greatest architects to ever walk the face of the planet is one of the greatest golf
courses ever built.
And what is really cool is that as soon as you pull on the property you “feel” the greatness of the course. The
clubhouse is very under-stated and laid back. The staff and members are beyond welcoming and friendly. And
right next to the clubhouse is the first tee and the whole time you are there you see this view…
The front nine at The Downs features some of the very best golf holes you will ever play. And this greatness is
highlighted by holes 5-8. 5 is a wonderful short par 4 that plays over a dune to a severe green.
Hole 6 is another wonderful short par 4 with an amazing green complex…
and 7 is a great downhill par 4 with a swale separating the fairway from yet another great green. Hole 8 is a killer
par 5 that plays uphill and has a severely sloping and undulating fairway.
Another magnificent feature at Crystal Downs is the transition from the front nine and its wide open links feel to
the back nine which has a more wooded feel to it, but retains the amazing golf holes. In fact, I find the run of
holes from 13-15 to be the highlight of the back nine.
And the par 3 14th being the apex of that run of holes.
Hole 17 is a bit of a curve ball as some severe quirk is thrown at the golfer. The hole is very tight with a severely
undulation fairway the ends in a DRAMATIC rise to the green.
And that green…OH MY GOD! It is severe as severe can get. The member I played with said in the club
championship one player putted off that thing 4 times!!!!!
Frankly, this touches on the one aspect of The Downs which I think needs changed. The greens are simply too
fast. And no rational, educated, golf course architectural student can disagree with this. Mackenzie and Maxwell
are known for their dramatic greens which features slopes, ridges, and rolls. There is no way that the design of
these greens was meant for them to be stimped at ludicrous speed. And they currently are. This eliminates some
recovery options, reduces the options for approaching greens, and even makes some putts impossible (See the
If this one thing would be changed, I believe Crystal Downs, as truly great as it is and as highly regarded as it
currently is, would rise even further in prestige, respect, and the rankings.
Oh yeah, if you are ever invited to play at Crystal Downs…drop everything and make the trip. You won’t regret it.