The Kingsley Club, located a few miles south of Traverse City in Michigan, is laid out on links-like sandy ground. It opened for play in 2001 and is already being lauded as a modern classic.
The course was fashioned by minimalist architect Mike DeVries, whose design philosophy “endeavours to study the designs of the great courses of the world and writings by the "old masters'" of golf course architecture in order to learn and apply those ideas which have stood the test of time”.
The topography is diverse, with an open links-like front nine and a back nine which is routed through mature hardwoods and pines. DeVries moved little earth in laying out The Kingsley Club and the result looks perfectly natural. “I say Kingsley is a 21st Century version of Crystal Downs”, said Golf Digest’s Ron Whitten, “and someday it will contend for a spot on America's 100 Greatest.”
Someday maybe for Golf Digest, but Kingsley is a natural for us now; it's been consistently ranked in our US Top 100 since 2006.
Darius Oliver, in this short extract from the book Planet Golf USA, writes about Mike De Vries: “The young designer did not disappoint, recognizing the opportunity he had been given and working tirelessly to create a course that could stand proudly among Michigan’s finest. Just as at Crystal Downs, the front nine here is dominated by sparse rolling duneland and the back nine is carved through steeper hills and mature hardwood.
By shaping his bunkers with rugged edges and locating his greens in a range of natural settings, such as in saddles and punchbowls or atop crests and into hills, the designer was able to massage the terrain into a classically styled golf course without moving much earth.
Although there are a couple of problem spots at Kingsley, the architect’s inclination to leave the ground contours alone – even the severe ones – has paid dividends, because the entire layout fits nicely into the terrain. Pleasingly, the club keeps the bumpy course firm and fast, which ensures the holes remains both challenging and fun to play.”
All I heard from people before I played Kingsley was that it is what Crystal Downs would be if it was built with modern-day technology and frankly I see it. I was lucky enough the two courses on back-to-back days and you can see lots of similarities. Both have severely undulated green complexes that force you to hit in the right places with your approach shots. But to me what I loved the most about Kingsley was the scale of the holes, on no hole did you feel cramped to another and DeVries took advantage of the wild topography. I have no doubt in my mind that this is one of the more underrated courses in the nation and it is a must-play for any golf enthusiast.
An outstanding design playing firm and fast with some great topography. Very simplistic place. Small clubhouse. Just golf. Lots of holes where you can score but also make high numbers.
Kingsley Club is an absolute treat to play. A Modern course with a classic feel, something Mike DeVries does so well. One thing that made my trip to Kingsley extra special was that my morning round was at CD. Interesting to compare the two courses and see the influence of CD on Kingsley. Kingsley in itself is a top 100 caliber course and is true Golf Club which is a nice break from the stuffy Country Club world. Kingsley is all about golf as is their axiom “in the spirit of the game”. This is the kind of club you want to belong too if your all about golf. DeVries is one of the best architects in golf and will soon be a household name in all states like he has become in Michigan. Kingsley has great variety a rolling landscape and DeVries signature great greens. Some think his greens are too extreme but they are not they are fair, fun, strategic and are all about pin position. I can’t wait to play Kingsley again and hopefully I can make it 36 with CD like I did last time such a special day.
This is a top tier test of golf and the staff helps to create a relaxed and enjoyable golf experience. The course requires sound thought and execution if you are going to try to attack it. It truly requires you to analyze the green slopes and surrounds. There are some greens, namely 2 & 9, where a golfers only option is to take a defensive approach as you simply can't afford to pin-seek. With that being said, almost every hole offers multiple routes for playing the hole and it is usually only the poorly executed aggressive strategy that is punished. Birdies are available for good shots. Quite simply, this course asks questions more than almost any course that I've ever played. I think about this course more than any almost any other course I've played. It is fun, memorable, adventurous golf at its finest.
I guess I'm not a DeVries fan. I was at cape wickham 2 years ago and while I thought CW was better than Ocean Dunes, I thought it wildly overrated. Kingsley isn't as good. Interesting maybe, but not golf as a very well traveled golfer knows it. sorry, Mr. D.
It's okay to say you're not a fan of X, but when your only rhetorical point is that you're a well-travelled golfer you maybe need to not be reviewing golf courses. I'm a well-traveled golfer, too, and I loved Kingsley. Cool, we cancel each other out. Yawn.
If you are not a Mike DeVries fan that’s your opinion but a score of 2.5 balls is a course that is below par and has questionable maintenance. A score of 3 balls is a mediocre course with a couple noteworthy holes. For a course that Top100 golf easily has in the top 100 in North America that has zero conditioning issues with superb architecture sounds more like you have a problem with Mike DeVries to me. It’s ok to share your opinion within the understanding of the system this is just irresponsible.
Naturally, you can have your opinion like everyone else and it's no issue to not like a course for whatever reason but if you are going to place a review you should try to back up your rating or your thoughts based on your reasoning so everyone can understand why you feel the way you do about the course. If you rate this course as a 2.5 ball then I question whether or not you actually made it there to play at all. 2.5 balls would fit for a very below average course in any state in the US. If you are from the US that means, find one of the worst public courses, with poor maintenance and a routing that is really bad, with poor, boring greens and below average bunkering and that's what you'd expect. None of these things have anything to do with Kingsley Club. In fact, they are so far from reality that it seems like you are mistaken about what course you actually played. Even the most stern and informed critics have praised the routing, set up, variety and pretty much everything about this course which by no means says you or anyone else has to like it, but again if you don't and you want to post something like this on a public forum then you should offer some kind of reasoning to support your opinion. BTW: I also feel that CW is overrated but only in the context of Golf Digest putting it in the World Top 10. I personally vote it into the World Top 100 though.
I had a 36 hole day at the Kingsley Club, which was one of the top golfing experiences of my life. It starts out with an up, down and up again Par 5 that sets the tone for the type of elevation changes you can expect throughout the course. If you get out of position on the front nine, there are a lot of wild slopes that could get you into trouble. The Par 3 2nd and 9th especially have very extreme green surrounds of perched up greens that make up and down, or even getting down in 3 very challenging. The back nine includes my favorite section of the course in holes 12-17. The standout drivable 13th with one of the craziest greens you will ever see, and the reachable par 5 13th are sandwiched by two difficult par 4’s. The long 15th is particularly tough, hitting to a fairway that slants left to right, with trees that block the perched green out from the very right side of the fairway. The 16th is a long massive Redan-esque hole with an enormous kicker slope on the right side that is a blast to play. The 17th was another hole I really like where there is an enormous ski slope in the middle of the driving zone. In my first round, my drive crested the hill and rolled all the way down for a mid-iron into the green. In the second round, my drive got caught up in the bunkers at the top of the hill and I had to play it as a three shot hole. A swig of whiskey on the 18th is a wonderful tradition to cap off such a memorable round.
"In the spirit of the game." That is the mantra for The Kingsley Club. Pure magic. Pure fun. When you arrive at The Kingsley Club you encounter simplicity -- no bells and whistles clubhouses -- no staff people suffocating you -- no inclusions that scream "excess" to the max. The 18-holes is the storyline here and the journey starts off in a big time way with the exciting par-5 1st.
The players are faced with a big time decision at the outset. How aggressive or safe does one wish to play on the 610-yard opener. The land on the outward side is simply top tier -- always moving in one direction or the other -- the bounce of the ball is always an element to be considered when deciding on one's line of attack.
I had been told about The Kingsley Club prior to my visit and often times the more I hear people gush about courses of recent vintage I am often left underwhelmed when I do make a visit. That was not the case with my visit here. The rare case when the complete opposite happened.
The goal of the club was to get core golfers in a setting that maximizes what they seek most -- the golf itself. It's amazing to think the ownership entrusted a relatively unknown person in the name of Mike DeVries to do the job. DeVries hails from the area and has always been a long time fan of the nearby gem Alister Mackenzie course -- Crystal Downs. DeVries delivered big time here.
What makes Kingsley so alluring is the constant changes and decisions you face. There's no set pattern -- no sense of predictability easily gleaned. Adjusting is a constant state of affair when playing. Shotmaking is the sine qua non at Kingsley.
To even have a conversation that would suggest a course can be in the same league with Crystal Downs speaks volumes on how good Kingsley really is.
There are plenty of interesting holes to mention. The downhill 7th is the perfect equal to the qualities encountered with the other par-5 on the front side. The land pitches left and the player able to work a left-to-right ball flight can reap huge dividends. Converesely, the player unable to keep the ball from going left will face a much more daunting task.
When you arrive at the par-3 9th you encounter a hole that provides plenty of fodder for what is considered fair and appropriate on a hole. The landing area is quite demanding -- but when faced with a shot that's under 170-yards I don't see it as being too much to ask for a player to be asked to execute at a high level. There's two different teeing areas -- the angles each provides presents its own set of challenges.
The lone weakness at Kingsley comes when making the turn -- I see the 10th and 11th as good holes but given what you have played already the fall-off is apparent. That changes when you reach the long par-4 12th. At 460 yards the hole is a clear statement that only the finest of shots will be rewarded. The fairway provides suffcient width but you get the feeling it's narrower. Hesitation in executing here can prove fatal.
The short par-4 13th is truly special. One would think that at 292 yards the opportunity for birdie and even eagle is certainly doable. The key at the 13th is making sure you leave your ball with the perfect angle to wherever the flag is located. The green is enormous -- the contours are akin to a stormy day on the Atlantic Ocean. Many have come to the tee thinking a low number is doable -- then left the green muttering why they fared so differently than they had expected.
Those playing Kingsley always talk about the demand of the long par-4 15th. The central aspect deals with a putting surface that is rather small and not entirely receptive to anything but a stellar approach to the perched target. The most important thing to remember about the 15th is not to steer the long approach. Being short of the green is not a bad situation but missing too far to either side is a quick roadmap for double-bogey or more.
The ending series of holes are well balanced and quite varied with a par-3, par-5 and par-4 conclusion. The 18th is good closer -- down an undulating valley -- finishing with a putting surface set in an amphitheater setting. The best part is how the green is angled and protetced by a right front bunker. A tough hole for sure but not an extreme one where finishing well is out of the question.
It's hard to put into words the incredible feeling one gets when playing such a top tier layout. Walking the grounds with the bag on your shoulder and the weather cooperating to the max provides a combination truly hard to beat.
For those always on the lookout for experiences that are truly tour de force in the deliverance of pure golf keep Kingsley on your radar screen. The time spent here will always be remembered.
by M. James Ward
Kingsley has 5 par 3’s all of which I truly enjoyed playing in the wind (and all of which I birdied, a first for me as earlier this year I actually birdied all the par 5’s at Royal Birkdale). My favorite would be their Redan hole #16. It’s an excellent version of this template hole playing to about 180 yds. The front 9 as mentioned, plays quite open, up, down, over and through the winding landscape of hills. The back 9 move into the trees but certainly doesn’t not give you the feeling that the course lacks width and/or strategy even so. It’s an excellent combination that works very well on this excellent golfing property.
Kingsley is definitely all about the golf. The clubhouse is very small and understated, more like a little cabin with the basic amenities. The only thing they lack is a locker room with a shower for those crazy guests who run straight to the airport after their game. I very highly recommend this course and definitely would consider it a destination course worth the trip up to play it if you ever have the chance.