Kingsley Club


#4 Best Golf Courses in Michigan 2017-2018 – Golf Digest
#18 Best Modern Course – Golfweek
#133 America’s Second 100 Greatest Courses
Top 20 Best Damn Club’s Around – Golf Digest

I could play Kingsley Club every single day and it would never get old.

I didn’t sleep well the night before Kingsley, I was so excited to play the golf course and see what all the buzz was about.  For weeks I spent ample time reading about the holes in advance and plotting out my commute about 2 hours north to the club.  I woke up plenty early as if it were Christmas morning.  We planned on teeing it at 1PM at Kingsley, so I was going to arrive around noon.  I left with plenty of time to spare and took my time driving north.  I spent the majority of my drive listening to my audiobook of Zen Golf, hydrating (it was upper 80 degree temps), and visualizing my drive on the first hole that I’d seen pictures of and heard about from my buddies that have played.  I was jacked to say the least.

Finding the course is exactly how it is described by those that have played, it’s in the middle of nowhere.  Yes, at one point I did question whether or not the dirt road I was heading down was the right direction but I trusted my map and then there she was; The lone sign pointing me towards Kingsley.  It was going to be a good damn day.


My host was running just a little late becuase he ended up playing Crystal Downs that morning with none other than Mike DeVries, who is the architect of Kingsley Club.  Our brief delay allowed me plenty of time to hit some shags on the range and roll some putts.  I was taking it all in.  And yes I did have a Jameson and soda to calm my nerves.

The Kingsley Club is pure golf in it’s truest sense.  Their motto, “In the Spirit of the Game” rings true in just about every aspect of the golf experience.  Let’s start with the clubhouse.  It was made for golfers, not country clubbers, which being a member of a country club myself I can appreciate.  This is a place to escape to so that you can focus on golf alone.  You won’t find a ballroom.  You won’t find a tennis court or pool.  You’ll find a trailer.  As you walk up the steps you find a stash of sunscreen and bug sprays on the porch, and you enter to find the small but adequate pro shop (which would make up the living room of the trailer).  Just past the counter is a trailers kitchen to the left and to the right of that is a living room with a sofa and the golf channel on TV.  The one bathroom of the doublewide serves as the clubs main facility and the two bedrooms of the trailer are offices for the staff.  Taped up on the walls in the main room are plans for a simple but impressive clubhouse that they plan to break ground on in the Fall of 2017, according to my host.

The kitchen is small, but don’t let that fool you, the food that the chef pumps out of that area is nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced from a club before.  I’ll tell you about that in a bit.


When you walk out the clubhouse around the putting green and get your first glimpse of the golf course it is stunning.  Kingsley Club is cut out of some absolutely gorgeous wooded and hilly property just south of Traverse City, in Northern Michigan.  Although I’ve never played links golf in the British Isles, Kingsley Club is said to represent the same challenges as those tracks.  The fescue fairways are something I’ve never played on before, and was a very unique experience.  It is said that only three highly regarded courses in America (including Kingsley) feature fescue fairways.  The bent grass greens are quick yet true.  I believe they were rolling to about a 10 or 11 when we played.  The routing of Kingsley through the rolling hills of the “middle of nowhere” location is stunning.  You get to play a links-design course in the most remote and rugged location that you wouldn’t think possible.  It’s obvious that DeVries didn’t have to move much dirt in designing the golf course as the track is geniously layed out through the natural terrain.  The bunkering is natural and beautiful.  The trees don’t really come into play except for on borders of a few holes.  What is really cool is that Kingsley is routed somewhat like a maze on some of the holes, so you can strategically check pin placements of many holes before you play them.  What you will find out is most people haven’t heard about Kingsley.  It’s kind of a best kept secret, and I’m pretty sure they want to keep it that way.  I understand why.  This place is all about golf, and I freaking loved it.


When my host arrived we made our way to the first tee and I was ready to go.  I had ripped some drivers on the range and was puring my irons.  My host was playing at a +3 that day, and I was playing at a 10, so I defintely had some nervousness to play well so I didn’t slow him down.  The other two in our group, friends of my host, were from Grand Rapids, MI and Orlando, FL.  We played the Gold tees (tips) the entire time at Kingsley and on the first hole, a big drive is a welcomed accomplishment.

The first hole is a 571 yard par 5 that has an amazing view from the teebox.  There is a large mound of long fescue and bunkers in the middle of the fairway and you have the option of hitting to the split fairway on the right, or the left, or going big and hitting it over the mound.  With the way I was hitting it on the range there was no question, I was going over and that is just what I did.  I mashed a drive with a nice little baby draw right over the middle and was sitting about 5 yards from my host in position “A”, just in the left rough, as the ball rolled down and through the fairway.  I had’t been hitting my 3-metal very good so I didn’t go for the green in two (we were about 250 yards out), rather I grabbed a 5-iron and hit one up to about 60 yards in the center of the fairway facing the green.  So far, so good!  I had a half-gap wedge to hit the green in regulation, and the gap wedge was my money club.  I was going to hit down on it and create a litte juice so that it would stop beautifully on the green on the upper tier.  The first green is severely tiered, and the pin was up above.  The entire green slopes back to front.  I hit it well but just took a little too much divot, and the ball stopped right on the crest of the first hill and sucked back down to the bottom tier.  Now I had a challenging 2-putt for an opening par.  What do you think I did?  I underestimated Kingsley.  My first putt up the hill I didn’t hit hard enough, it made it to the crest and then started to roll back down to me.  Shit.  I had a longer putt than my first attempt.  I wasn’t going to leave that short.  I blew it up the hill to about 10 feet past the hole.   Missed that bogey coming back.  Yes, I FOUR-PUTTED the first green at Kingsley for double-bogey.  We all had some laughs becuase I literally don’t remember the last time in years that I had four putted anywhere, and I do it on the first hole at Kingsley.  Nice double bogey, jackass.  We were on to the second hole, and I needed to get my act together!

The second hole is a 155 yard par-3 with one of the most intimidating tee shots I’ve played on a par-3 before.  Imagine having to hit an all-carry shot to a two-tiered green with severe trouble on all sides (bunkers and overgrown fescue), and multiple spots to set up the tee boxes surrounding the hole.  Playing the tips we had a view that required an extremely accurate shot. It should be noted that we were elevated above most of the golf course so it is very beautiful at the same time.  You have to hit the green here, or you are screwed.  I walked away with double bogey.  This was when I started to realize I needed to pull myself together to survive the round.  Even though I told myself I didn’t care what number I posted that day, I certainly didn’t want to make my +3 cart partner watch some douche making double bogeys all day on his course.  I’m happy to say that things turned around, thank the Lord.

Amidst my awe of the golf course and my panicked efforts to focus on hitting better golf shots, I forgot to take many pictures of Kingsley, so that is why I have so few here.  When I go back I’ll be sure to make up for that.  I started scraping up some pars and was having a blast.  The golf course features hole after hole of true golf, and it was damn fun.  Every hole I found myself saying, “Wow how did he (Mike DeVries) have the vision to layout this hole here”?  Kingsley provides a golf nut like myself an amazing display of what good golf course architecture looks like, in it’s most classic form.  It is such a treat.

The ninth hole almost made some magic for our group.  Hole 9 is a 140 yard par-3 that looks back directly at the clubhouse.  I hit a beautifully pure shot and stuck it to about 3 feet to the kidney shaped green that is guarded by bunkers on the front.  I was feeling good now.  The next guy in our group steps up and sends one right at the stick, it lands just short right and starts rolling at the hole.  We all became quiet.  It rolled right to the cup and promptly hit the wooden flagstick and sat about an inch outside.  We all thought it was going to drop, but it didn’t.  It was an exciting moment to say the least.  Sadly, I missed an easy look at bird and walked away with par.  My putting really sucked at Kingsley.  I had a handful of good looks at bird all day and was left with tap-in pars, but I was having so much fun.

My host informed me that Kingsley is never busy, as a huge chunk of membership is national and play when visiting Northern Michigan.  I did a little research and the national membership is impressive to say the least, with members from places like Pine Valley, Cypress Point, and Crystal Downs just to name a few.  We never had a group in front or behind us the entire time playing Kingsley.  It was like we had the entire place to ourselves.


When we finally made it to 18, I got to experience a little Kingsley tradition.  18 is a 422 yard par-4 that is pretty straight away.  I learned however that you take two shots off the tee here, and they are both enjoyable.  The first is a big drive down the middle (which I happily accomplished) and the second is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey which is hidden in a mailbox in a rock wall if you know where to look!  Two days before I played Kingsley, Jimmy Walker of the PGA Tour played and tweeted a picture of himself taking a healthy pull from the Jameson Bottle.  I hit the same bottle with authority!


After we finished 18 we headed up to the clubhouse to sit down for a 5-course dinner that was out of this world.  Our host had the chef put together a dining experience that knocked our socks off.  Chef Ben informed me that his goal was to have the food reflect the same quality as the golf course, and he didn’t disappoint.  The first course was a pork dish of some sort, and it was awesome.  Then we moved on to a quinoa salad.  After that Chef Ben brought out the best duck that I had ever had.   We were all marveling at the tendernous and flavor.  After the duck we were stuffed.  The Chef asked how we wanted our filet mignon (main course) cooked and we started laughing.  None of us could comprehend eating any more.  There was no better option than to go play 3 holes and work up an appetite!  We hit the course again for some evening fun.  We returned to dinner and polished off our steak and all had to take our cherry cobbler to go in the golf cart as we wanted back out onto the course.  We played until we couldn’t see anymore, and it was a perfect summer night for golf.  We literally played 30 holes all the way up to 10:00PM, and I could’ve kept going for hours if we had more daylight!

We played the Par 71 tips from 6956 yards and I shot 88 on our first 18 holes.  I had a two-hour drive back down to Grand Rapids, MI in the dark, and I was thinking about Kingsley the entire time.  I cannot wait to go back.

Victoria National

#42 America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – Golf Digest 2017-2018
#1 The Best Golf Courses in Indiana – Golf Digest 2017-2018

Victoria National was the first bucket list course in Indiana that I played, and was a pretty special one coming in ranked as the #1 course in Indiana (both public and private) and being listed in the top 50 courses in America. There is a pretty neat pic of the mural in the locker room below.


My buddy Matt and I flew on a 6AM flight to Detroit and arrived in Evansville around 11:30AM.  Exhausted, we met up with our hosts (members at Victoria National) and discussed the day over some Chick-Fil-A.  We had a 2PM tee time and arrived at the course about an hour early to get warmed up.  It’s amazing what a few hours on planes and in airports can do to your body, evidenced by my first few swings on the driving range.


One of the first things to note:  When I think of “Indiana Golf”, what I picture is NOTHING like what Victoria National actually is.  Simply put, it is beautiful.  Rolling hills, winding rivers and creeks, elevation changes, natural rock walls, it’s truly amazing.  Victoria National is a Tom Fazio course carved out of an old strip mine.  I literally was in awe for the first 5 holes as I took in the landscape.  That and I was also in a state of utter shock as I had probably the worst 5-hole start in the history of golf.

Victoria National was easily the most challenging golf I’ve ever played.  We played in May, a little less than a month after the Web.com tour event took place.  The course conditions were insane.  Fazio really liked to create a lot of Risk/Reward type shots on the golf course, and I’m an aggressive player so I took just about all of them I could, and paid for it.

The second hole was where I took the first risk.  After coming off an opening bogey, I stepped up to a 323 yard par-4, slight dogleg left that literally follows the cliff line of a strip mine with a beautiful river below.  This hole was visually stunning.  The easy shot off the tee is an iron or hybrid out to a generous fairway.  The risky shot is to take an aggressive line over the water and follow the edge of the cliff down the left side to cut the corner and go for the green off the tee.  We had a little wind at the back so I went for it, and of course I pulled my drive into the shit.  Of course to make matters worse I took my drop and stuck an 8-iron to about 3 feet and of course what was next?  3-putts.  I kind of forgot how quick the greens were as I didn’t have to use my putter on the first hole.  I blew it by and missed the 8 footer coming back.  Nice double.  Thanks Victoria.

The rough was insane and literally was a penalty stroke in and of itself if you found it.  It was extremely dense and deep, and I couldn’t figure out any distances out of it.  To make it even tougher, that rough finds itself VERY close to the greens.  There really isn’t much of a collar, and with some of the tucked pins, it comes into play big time.  The greens were hard and fast.  They may have been the quickest I’ve played on.  I had a hard time holding greens.  I hit a lot of good golf shots into greens that just didn’t hold and ended up in the green side rough which was almost impossible to get up and down out of.  Getting up and down was very very tough.  I only managed to hit 9 fairways on the round, and 3 greens in regulation.  To say I was struggling to get up and down in those conditions would be an understatement.


The last 4 holes I had read quite a bit about, as they are well known to be an absolute bitch and some of the toughest finishing holes in Indiana.  I actually played them decent for as tough as the round was treating me.  On the par-5 530 yard #15 I hit the fairway and green in reg, and of course 3-jacked for bogey.  #16 was a 168 yard par 3, and a completely gorgeous hole. The pin was tucked right (pic below).  I hit an 8-iron right at the stick and it just couldn’t bite.  It found the green side rough and I walked away with bogey.


I hit the fairway on 17, but again missed the green in the rough and took a bogey there and then stepped up to #18.

The view from the tee box on #18 was absolutely gorgeous.  18 is a par 4 that doglegs to the right around a large mass of water.  It actually reminded me a bit of #18 at Bay Hill.  I took a pretty aggressive line and hit a big bomb that left me about 80 yards in the middle of the fairway.  Sitting there in the middle of the fairway, all of the couples eating dinner in the very nearby clubhouse were looking down on me.  I had to stick this next shot to impress them after the drive that I hit so perfect.  Chunk.  I came up short of the green about 10 yards and then of course couldn’t get up and down.  Nice bogey finish knucklehead.


On the day I shot my handicap on the number with 4 trout balls, 38 putts, 9 fairways, and 3 greens.  I was exhausted.

If you play Victoria National try and get hooked up to stay in the cottages (below) that overlook #18. We stayed in them and they are very nice and would make a great guys trip hangout. Not to mention sitting at the fire pit overlooking the course is a perfect way to end the day! I cannot wait to go back.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge


Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge serves as my first course write-up, and is a fitting one!  To date, I would say this has been my most memorable golf experience.

I played Bay Hill on Tuesday May 2, 2017 with my father-in-law.  After doing some research on the club, I discovered that access to the golf course can be obtained by staying at the lodge.  That was a no-brainer!  

The days leading up to Bay Hill were a rollercoaster of anxiety as I constantly tracked the weather forecast.  Storms were in sight.  The night before the round, I remember looking at my phone and seeing a 100% chance of storms starting at 7:00AM, lasting all day.  I crossed my fingers for good luck, said a prayer, and went to sleep.

The morning of Bay Hill when my alarm went off I immediately looked outside and checked the forecast.  It was not raining, and it showed only a 50% chance of storms closer to noon.  I cannot tell you how excited I was!

We arrived at Bay Hill an hour before our tee-time.  Driving in I had goosebumps knowing that these were fairly sacred grounds that the King himself frequented for many years.  After getting checked in and situated, I headed to the practice range.  I hit about a dozen 8-irons, and was absolutely puring them.  From there I started hitting 50 degree wedges and was feeling great.  We were hitting off of an artificial surface which I wasn’t too comfortable with at first, but got used to it eventually.  As I took a step back to take a breather I found myself looking at the end of the driving range where Mr. Palmer himself used to setup and hit balls.  It was surreal.  Just as I grabbed my driver I felt the first raindrop.

The rain arrived early, but it was just a light sprinkle.  It was the storm clouds looming in the distance that had me concerned.  I spent about 10 minutes on the practice green, to get a feel for the speed, and then I heard my name announced over the microphone that I was next on the tee.  


As I approached the tee box, I was happy to meet our Forecaddie, Hector.  He was a great guy with a fun sense of humor.  He says to our group, “First hole, par four, easy hole”.  I stepped up to the tee box with a ton of confidence because I was ripping driver on the range.  I stuck my tee in the ground and placed a brand new ProV1X on top of it with the logo “Jack’s Dad” happily in view.  I looked up to the sky for a brief moment during my practice swings as a sign of respect to Arnold Palmer and said a quick prayer dedicating the first shot to my grandfather “Papa” who would’ve been thrilled to hear about this day.

I hit a big drive down the left side where some sparse trees come into play.  I wasn’t in the middle of the fairway but I was in decent shape.  Then the first horn blew.  

After hitting our tee shots we were called off for thunder and lightning so we headed into the clubhouse to kill time.  The staff in the golf shop let us know that it could be noon before we got back out (our tee time was at 9:30AM).  Although bummed to be off the course so quick, my father-in-law and myself spent a lot of time walking through the Club & Lodge and taking in all of the history that covered the walls.  

Arnold’s contributions to the game of golf couldn’t be summed up by what hung on the walls and remained in the clubhouse, but to say it was a special experience to walk the halls and take it all in would be an understatement.  I’m from Grand Rapids, Michigan, so to see this picture hanging was pretty neat!


The delay was shorter than expected and we were back on the course in about an hour.  I’m sure the pro shops at famous clubs love rain because we did spend a little extra money on logo merchandise!  We resumed play with our group and moved on.  I was just starting to get in a rhythm and then while on the 5th green, the horn blew again.  We returned to the clubhouse for round 2.  This round included a couple Kettle and Cran’s while we talked with other players that were anxiously awaiting their return to the round.  After about another hour, we headed back out to hole 6 to resume play.  Luckily this was the last delay we would have to experience.  After a few more holes we regained our rhythm and made the turn feeling excited and grateful to be on the golf course.  

One of the things that stood out to me about Bay Hill is how “in play” the water can be  on some of its famous holes.  The design creates some definite “risk/reward” holes and I’m not going to lie, I lost 3 balls in the water that day.  Holes 3 and 6 are a lot of fun to play, but I was the victim of water on hole 3 after pulling my approach shot.  The water is just a couple of feet from the green, so playing to the center is critical.  We had a pin that was back left and I went for it aggressively and paid the price.

I’m proud to say that I made par on hole 6 (par 5).  That is a pretty intimidating and exciting tee shot to hit.  I blasted a drive down over the water and was the only one in our group to find the fairway.  

The highlight of the day was on 18 when I made bogey.  Yes bogey.  Bear with me.  18 is a par 4 that many would recognize from pictures and TV.  It is a 461 yard par 4 with massive water along most of the right side of the hole.  The green wraps around the back end of the water, and depending on where the pin is, can create a pretty stressful “all carry” shot.  I hit a bad drive off the tee and left myself a long shot, all carry about 225 yards into the wind over the water.  I hit it short about 10 yards and dunked it.  I had to take a drop back about 150 yards out and hit my 8 iron to about 20 feet.  I had that putt for bogey.  The rest is history.  I hit the best putt of the day, with a perfect pace.  Thanks to the great read by Hector, it found the bottom of the cup for bogey.  We all celebrated greatly as nobody was making long putts that day.  The pictures below show the putt that my father in law caught on camera, right as I hit it and just before it was about to drop.  I love how you can see Hector starting to celebrate as the putt is ready to go in.


Hector’s sense of humor can be summed up in his statement after I dropped the putt: “Great Putt… Better Read!”

The day was made even better by driving back to our rental house in Orlando to see my 18-month old son and bring him his first Bay Hill sippy cup.  I traded my father-in-law for my wife and headed back to the Lodge for our evening stay.
Staying at Bay Hill Club & Lodge was just as great as golfing there.  The lodge is simple, humble, classic and refined all at the same time.  Hanging out at the club was amazing and the staff were very welcoming and accommodating.  Our room was very nice and it overlooked the practice green (picture below).


My wife and I enjoyed heading into the bar and grabbing some cocktails and walking the grounds.  The statue of Arnold Palmer that graces the first tee is a sight to be seen, and the atmosphere of this club in the evening is hard to put to words.


Our bartender was a nice lady who was just coming up on her 20th year with the club.  She told us stories of her interactions with Mr. Palmer over the years, and even served us some of his personal favorite drinks.  I was definitely caught off guard when she invited us to come back after dinner for a “hummer”.  A hummer was Arnold Palmer’s favorite night-cap drink, and basically tastes like a chocolate milk shake, but of course is loaded with Kettle One.  The bar is exactly what you would want a bar at a golf club to be like.; comfortable ambiance, welcoming leather chairs, and a warm fireplace.  


When we returned to our room I turned on the tv and set back to relax and fall asleep.  The “lodge channel” is set to play hours of different specials and documentary programs about Arnold Palmer.  I never had to even switch to the normal TV channels.  I passed out watching the story of Arnold’s life, and fell asleep a happy man.

I cannot wait to go back.

The Indiana Bucket List

french-lick-dye-course-8

Golf Digest – The Best Golf Courses in Indiana (2015-2016)

Courses I’ve played are crossed off!  Links go to directly to blog posts!

  1. (1) Victoria National G.C., Newburgh †
  2. (2) Crooked Stick G.C., Carmel †
  3. (3) The Pete Dye Cse. at French Lick Resort (above), French Lick † √ ★
  4. (4) Sycamore Hills G.C., Fort Wayne Δ
  5. (5) Wolf Run G.C., Zionsville Δ
  6. (6) The Donald Ross Cse. at French Lick Resort, French Lick √ ★
  7. (12) South Bend C.C., South Bend
  8. (9) Brickyard Crossing G. Cse., Indianapolis ★
  9. (8) Rock Hollow G.C., Peru ★
  10. (7) Prairie View G.C., Carmel ★
  11. (-) Broadmoor C.C., Indianapolis
  12. (-) Birck Boilermaker G. Complex (Kampen), West Lafayette ★
  13. (13) The Sagamore Club, Noblesville
  14. (11) Woodland C.C., Carmel
  15. (14) The Fort G. Cse., Indianapolis ★

KEY TO SYMBOLS

† 100 Greatest Golf Course

Second 100 Greatest

100 Greatest Public

Open to the public

The Michigan Bucket List

arcadia-bluffs

Golf Digest – The Best Golf Courses in Michigan (2015-2016)

Courses I’ve played are crossed off!

  1. (1) Crystal Downs C.C., Frankfort †
  2. (2) Oakland Hills C.C., (South) Bloomfield Hills †
  3. (3) Arcadia Bluffs G.C. (above), Arcadia † √ ★
  4. (4) Forest Dunes G.C., Roscommon Δ √ ★
  5. (6) Lost Dunes G.C., Bridgman Δ
  6. (5) The Kingsley Club, Kingsley Δ
  7. (7) True North G.C., Harbor Springs
  8. (8) Point O’Woods G. & C.C., Benton Harbor
  9. (9) Marquette G.C. (Greywalls), Marquette ★
  10. (10) Tullymore G.C., Stanwood Δ √ ★
  11. (12.) Wuskowhan Players Club, West Olive
  12. (-) LochenHeath G.C., Acme
  13. (11) Oakland Hills C.C. (North), Bloomfield Hills
  14. (20) Eagle Eye G.C., Bath ★
  15. (13) Franklin Hills C.C., Franklin
  16. (17) Boyne Highlands Resort (Heather), Harbor Springs ★
  17. (-) Barton Hills C.C., Ann Arbor
  18. (16) Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (The Bear), Acme √ ★
  19. (14) Bay Harbor G.C. (Links/Quarry), Bay Harbor √ ★
  20. (-) Warwick Hills G. & C.C., Grand Blanc
  21. (-) Indianwood G. & C.C. (Old), Lake Orion
  22. (22) C.C. of Detroit, Grosse Pointe Farms
  23. (21) Cedar River G.C., Bellaire ★
  24. (-) Belvedere G.C., Charlevoix
  25. (-) Boyne Highlands Resort (Arthur Hills), Harbor Springs ★

KEY TO SYMBOLS

† 100 Greatest Golf Course

Δ Second 100 Greatest

√ 100 Greatest Public

★ Open to the public

(Rank in 2013-14 in parentheses)