My discovery of the Kingsley Club was just dumb luck. On a buddies trip to Arcadia Bluffs and Crystal Downs, we needed a third course to play. I stumbled across the Kingsley Club review on GolfClubAtlas.com – it looked interesting, so it was added to our itinerary.
Turning into the property off a dirt road, it was apparent that we had found a hidden gem. Beyond the modest clubhouse lay rolling hills covered in wild flowers and fescue grass, with beautiful undulating fairways cutting through them. For me, it was love at first sight – a feeling of exhilaration that I find anew every time I pull into the parking lot, and every time I step onto the first tee.
The original intent of this post was to give a course tour. Among the GolfClubAtlas.com review, the Club’s website, and KingsleyGolfer.com, that tour is thoroughly covered. No need to redo what has already been well done.
Instead, this post is about why Kingsley has touched me so deeply. Why I believe that it embodies everything that is great about golf. (Thanks to fellow Kingsley member Tim B. for use of his photos)
Kingsley is certainly challenging and fun to play, and the laid-back culture of the club enhances the experience for me. But the profound sense of joy it evokes in me goes beyond fun. What makes Kingsley so special? Three words hint at the answer: Interest, Variety, and Beauty.
KINGSLEY IS INTERESTING
A good golf course catches the player’s interest on the first hole and keeps it throughout the round. A truly great golf course like Kingsley keeps the player’s interest round after round, ad infinitum. Kingsley displays its greatness to me in how it keeps my interest. It is like a puzzle to attempt to solve. It provides challenges of strategy and execution, along with a mixed bag of good and bad luck.
After I have played a really good round at a course, I often lose interest. My experience at Kingsley has been just the opposite. I have played some of my best golf there, and yet I still want more. It is simply impossible to imagine getting bored walking those fairways.
These specifics top the list of what makes Kingsley interesting:
- Blind shots – The property is hilly and Mike DeVries’s routing takes advantage of the elevation changes to create numerous blind shots. Blind shots quicken the pulse and provide interest. There are few things quite as exciting in golf as hitting one’s shot, watching it disappear, and then taking the anticipatory walk to find out how it ended up.
- Bouncing balls – The fairways and green complexes are gloriously undulating. Coupled with fescue fairways and bent grass greens that drain well, the undulations provide bounces from tee to green that make the course unpredictable. Superintendent Dan Lucas keeps the course in immaculate firm-and-fast condition, but it is not “manicured”. Kingsley will hand players good and bad breaks according to its whim. In golf, “fair” is another word for “predictable”. Predictable gets boring quickly, and does not hold a player’s interest. Kingsley is anything but predictable.
- Distance and depth-perception – Elements of the course, in concert with the often windy Northern Michigan weather, make judging true distance and selecting clubs very challenging. Even when playing repeatedly from the same spot, the shots are not the same. One is never quite sure if the club is right. Executing a confident shot in the face of that fundamental ambiguity is an interesting mental challenge indeed!
INTEREST IN IMAGES – Holes 1 and 2
KINGSLEY OFFERS VARIETY
Variety is the spice of life. It is also the hallmark of a great golf course. From tee to green, from front nine to back, Kingsley has tremendous variety.
The course has a wide variety of hole lengths and is routed to maximize directional changes. Factor in time of day and weather conditions, and Kingsley can play like an entirely different course from round to round.
Kingsley puts its variety on display:
- On the tees – Each hole offers several teeing grounds that often differ not just in length, but in direction. The player can choose to play each hole from wherever they wish. The best example of tee variety is on the par 3 9th, which can play from 106 to 240+ yards from two groups of tee boxes that are set at 90 degree angles to one another.
- On the greens – Kingsley has incredible variety in its green complexes. Some are heavily bunkered, some have few or no bunkers. Some greens accept ground approaches and recoveries, others are elevated to encourage aerial shots. There is a wide range of green sizes and shapes, some with subtle interior contours, and others more dramatic. The course has punchbowls, table-tops, crowns, horseshoes, double plateaus, and multi-tiers.
- In the feel of the nines – The outward nine is routed through sand hills. It is open and largely treeless. The inward nine has a much different feel, wandering through trees. Both nines feel expansive, but each has a distinct feel. Playing at Kingsley is like playing at Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails in the same round.
VARIETY IN IMAGES – Holes 12 and 13
KINGSLEY IS BEAUTIFUL
Kingsley possesses a rugged, natural beauty that might not be appreciated by those accustomed only to manicured, parkland golf. The minimalist first impression gives way as the course reveals contrasts of greens and browns, painted onto beautiful contours.
The grounds crew has painstakingly tended the native areas, planting fescue and wildflowers. Players who visit frequently are treated throughout the year to an ever-changing show of colors that is at once visually arresting and appropriate to the overall look of the course.
From the minor details to the grand scheme, Kingsley’s wide open spaces further contrast sky and earth into one breathtaking view after another. It is the perfect marriage of outstanding design, construction, and maintenance, with the natural beauty that makes people fall in love with Northern Michigan.
BEAUTY IN IMAGES – Holes 14, 15 and 16
Interest, variety, beauty, and much more – the founders, Mike DeVries and Dan Lucas have put together the total package in a way that resonates deep down in my soul. It is my golf heaven on earth, and I look forward to walking those fairways hundreds of times, for the rest of my life.