The unusual Crumpin-Fox name was derived from the local Crump Soda Company, which was sold in the mid-19th century to Eli Fox and renamed Crump & Fox Soda Company.
The course at Crumpin-Fox Club is a much more recent vintage, dating to 1977 when Roger Rulewich completed the first nine when he was working for Robert Trent Jones. A decade later, after a change of ownership, Rulewich was called back in to add another nine and to renovate the original holes. This new 18-hole layout debuted in 1990.
“This upscale public course was one of the forerunners of the type,” commented Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, “drawing most of its play from Springfield and Hartford, each an hour away. It won’t be mistaken for an older course, with its modern fairway lines, multi-tiered greens and prominent water hazards, but the golfers who make the two-hour drive from Hartford to play it know what they are doing.
The back nine existed well before the front and most of the better holes are found here, including the attractive sub 400-yard 12th whose fairway bends left between a rock outcropping short left and one long right and the daunting uphill approach to the 460-yard 16th green. The highlight on the front comes when playing the par five 8th where a pond parallels the last 450 yards of the fairway before one pitches over it to a green with several sections.”
According to Roger Rulewich, Crumpin-Fox “has been a labor of love by everyone involved. Variety is the key here, as the holes weave through the changing terrain. This terrain offers the major hazard and challenge with the strongest bunkering saved for the greens.” Clearly the architect loved the site so much, he located the headquarters of Rulewich & Fleury Golf Design adjacent to the 17th hole.
Despite defying the modern movement towards wide playing corridors and massive greens, the Crumpin-Fox Club maintains a unique, enjoyable experience over some varying, wild golf terrain.
Crumpin-Fox is conveniently located off I-91 near the Massachusetts/Vermont border. This western part of the state is loaded with fascinating history, and a number of really interesting attractions, including the Yankee Candle Headquarters. Driving up to the clubhouse, the player is greeted with a preview of what is to come as the entryway bisects the 9th hole. Elevation change, dense old forest, and tricky greens are par for the course, literally.
The club’s webpage says that the site’s original owner, David Berelson, envisioned a Pine Valley style course. Crumpin-Fox certainly incorporates many aspects of the Pine Valley spirit, placing an emphasis on deft ball-striking and tough challenge throughout. Some of the more notable holes include:
• #1: The tone is set on the 1st. Turning sharply to the right, most players will need to take less than driver off the tee. This further stretches an already lengthy hole.
• #2: Creeping up a hill, the best angle to approach this diagonal green is from the left. This can be difficult to achieve as a sloped patch of rough lines the left hand side.
• #3: The T-shaped green at the very downhill 3rd is made interesting by the front area and false front which sit well below the wider top tier.
• #4: The tee shot at the 4th is a lot of fun, especially if you are a left-handed player with a draw! The fairway captures a sharp natural contour in the land which can either reject tee shots back toward the player, or act as a speed slot for tee shots with enough distance.
• #5: Bursting out from the forest, the player is greeted with a vista of a gorgeous open field on the par five 5th. The tee shot must avoid bunkers which bisect the fairway. Players laying up have two wide areas to lay up, and finding a good yardage is critical. This diamond-like green has four distinct tiers.
• #7: A quirky dogleg left, players must avoid a bunker in play off the tee, and trees which can further impact the approach.
• #8: Playing against a lake for the entire length of the fairway, the ‘candy-cane’ shaped 8th is memorable, albeit a brute. While there is more width than meets the eye off the tee, the rest of the hole is narrow and offers no respite.
• #12: The par four 12th at Crumpin-Fox fits the phrase “discovered, not constructed” that is often used to describe golf holes. Playing from an elevated tee to a diagonal fairway through old glacial rocks, there are an infinite number of ways to succeed, and fail on your drive. Navigating the rumpled land, this is one of the few holes that can allow for a run-up shot to a multi-tiered green complex.
• #14: Once again opening to a wide area, the 14th at Crumpin-Fox offers some interesting playing angle options. For the safe route, any player can lay up off the tee and before the green. However, to reach the green in two, the tee shot must be on the left half of the fairway which is guarded by a bunker. The shot into the green will have to be played right-to-left, over a pond which guards front and left – exactly where an overcooked hook would miss.
• #17: The fourth of four pretty fascinating three shot holes, the compelling aspect of the 17th is the approach. A wide bail out area for those laying up sits on the right side of the fairway, but offers a truly difficult pitching angle over three deep bunkers to a shallow green. Going left provides a superior angle but is guarded by a tree in the fairway. I usually dislike this feature, but given how well this fits the theme at Crumpin-Fox, it just works.
• #18: Unrelenting to the final putt, the long par four 18th plays over a contoured fairway with an approach that must clear a thick swamp.
Crumpin-Fox is a shot-shapers dream and a nightmare for anyone spraying it off the tee. Aggressive players can easily lose a few sleeves of balls while the conservative player can just as simply get around without missing a beat. Crumpin-Fox captures its setting perfectly and is unapologetically tough, start-to-finish, with a number of pretty memorable shots.
And, while I have your attention, it seems worth mentioning that if you do stop at Crumpin-Fox, you may also be interested in seeing a few other nearby courses:
• The Country Club of Greenfield, MA, just 13 minutes away, was built in 1896 by Alex Findlay. To me, this course feels like it has never once been modified and is an open look back in time to an excellent, turn of the century inland links.
• Hooper Golf Club of Walpole, NH, is lauded on this site, by Tom Doak in his books, and by many others as one of the best 9-hole courses in the country. It is just 45 minutes from Crumpin-Fox.
Over the years I have been able to play Crumpin-Fox a number of times as the course is ideally located on one's way to the northern areas of New England when traveling from points south such as the greater NYC metro area.
Roger Rulewich was for many years the right hand man for Robert Trent Jones, Sr and deserves the lion's share of credit for this marvelous layout. Originally, a 9-hole layout the course was expanded to 18 holes in 1990.
The first nine holes was moved to the position as the inward half and it's a solid mixture of different hole types. The great joy in playing Crumpin-Fox is how the holes are secluded from one another. Too many public courses are often shoe-horned in to the point of suffocation. The hard woods that frame many of the holes are set an appropriate distance from choking off the fairways and provide a clear sense in being out in the country.
The new front nine sports a few holes of note -- most especially the long par-5 8th. It's a stunning hole -- no artifice here and simply blends in very well with the existing site.
The inner half of holes is clearly the better of the two sides. Moving in one direction and then going in a different manner with constant adjustments made of the golfer. The uphill approach to the long par-4 16th is a first class challenge. Hitting the fairway is an absolute must to keep the possibility in making par realistic.
The issue I have Crumpin-Fox is the overall consistency in the design. There are a number of fine holes but there's also a number of holes which are merely filler. There's also a design issue with the larger-than-life features which sometimes superimpose themselves upon the site. Massachusetts is a very competitive golf State and it's likely no public course can crack The Bay State's top ten because the depth of the layouts is simply that good. Crumpin-Fox gives the non-affiliated golfer a worthy day of golf and the connection to Mother Nature is an added benefit. If the two nines were of equal quality there's no doubt my overall assessment would have been higher.
If anything, Crumpin-Fox opened the door for Rulewich to make his own mark with even better efforts at Saratoga National in New York and Ballyowen in New Jersey. Truth be told, Rulewich deserves the lion's share of attention for his work with several of the courses encompassing the Alabama Golf Trail although he was still under the banner of Trent Jones. Without question, Crumpin-Fox is certainly worth a visit for anyone venturing either north or southbound via I-91.
M. James Ward