Crystal Downs is an enigmatic place as there is a spectacular piece of property utilized for the first nine (perhaps the story of the 9th being added as an after thought is true?!?!) holes which is utilized in such a way that there are so many fantastic play holes using natural terrain that one cannot wait for the second nine. Overall, I have to say that if one critically evaluates the golf course it has several flaws that often get swept aside in the flush of narcosis that envelops players on this course.
Many of the greens are spectacular in their designs but the contours combined with the modern agronomic advances have led to a disconnect of several of the greens from their complexes as a whole. Pin positions become unusable, entire greens (#11 in particular) become hazards unto themselves and it stops working as the club insists on extreme greens speeds. This has already led to wholesale changes at Mackenzie's Pasatiempo in California. Will Michigan follow California? Hopefully NOT! Also working against an extremely lofty (top 10 or 20) position for Crystal is the long disconnecting walk up from #11 to #12 and the relative banality of holes 12-16 compared to what has already come afore save some of their greens. After skillfully utilizing such fantastic land as holes 1-11 are built on, one walks straight up a paved path for far too long to reach nearly billiard-table land for a group of generally so-so holes. The par 5 16th is particularly disappointing as it has one of the less interesting green complexes following a virtual pasture of fairway deplete of any and all obstacles. #17 is either brilliant or brilliantly insane, but we do know that with tight fairways the hole will only play one or two ways in the end, sad for such a wonderful hilltop skyline greensite. Number eighteen is rather an ordinary hole with only a modicum of strategic thought required.
This certainly is a world-class course, but the mystery of how it remains so highly regarded with such flaws may perhaps be explained by its experiential and comforting qualities that one revels in imaging THIS among all others as one's home course. Never ever pass on an opportunity to play, but there are easily 20 better courses in the USA, perhaps 30.
Date: August 19, 2007