Crystal Downs offers the best of two worlds. Unlike many links courses (such as those that host the Open), the greens are its primary defense. Like many links courses (such as those that host the Open), its other defenses are the wind, the fesque rough, the imaginative bunkering that highlights the terrain, and the lumpy, bumpy fairways. When the Maxwell/MacKenzie greens are combined with these other natural features, an unusually testing layout is the result, despite the scorecardshowing acourse that barely measures 6,500 yards.
To appreciate the challenge of the course, the golfer needs to start with the greens. Fred Muller, the long time professional at Crystal Downs, has seen someone putt off every green at least twice. The pitch on greens like the 2nd or 11th isalmost staggeringas there is in excess of six feet (!) of fall from back to front. The contouring of greens like the 5th and 16th holes is frightening, especially whenone seesthe first puttslide into agreenside bunker. Collectively, the greens at Crystal Downs surely rival those at Oakmont as the most intimidating in golf.
Even without the greens, Crystal Downs with its English style clubhouse perched on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan with viewsover to Crystal Lake is an inspiring place. The fescue coupled with the dramatic bunkering gives the course a rich texture generally not found in the United States where parkland courses dominate. The rough compliments the bunkering to form the strategy on a number of holes. For instance, if the golfer takes on the bunker in the crook of the dogleg right 4th hole, he has the optimal angle into agreen which best accepts a run up shot from its right front. However, if the golfer shies away from this bunker, his tee balleither goes through the fairway and into the tall stuff and/or his approach angle progressively gets tougher.