Eighty years ago, the game’s greatest architect drew up plans for a golf course unlike anything the world has known. Long forgotten, the design has recently come to light, and an effort is under way to get the course built in the U.S.
Good rhythm and flow on a golf course is like good theater – there is a series of acts that build upon one another to create a sum greater than its parts. The rhythm and flow is critical to creating a good golf course experience because great holes that don’t connect and flow together won’t “complete” a course like a good sequence of holes can.
The great courses of the world, whether they are links like Royal Dornoch or an inland course like Augusta National, have great rhythm and flow and world-class holes that make them desirable to play every day. Certainly there are many non-famous courses that are fun and challenging for their players on a regular basis – that may be the true meaning of good rhythm and flow.
Most golf courses are like wine, requiring time and the subtle ministrations of nature to comfortably settle into their surroundings and to soften their rough edges. Still, certain wines are ready to be enjoyed at a younger age. So too the finest of the new courses, like Beaujolais Nouveau, have character that is immediately and undeniably unique.
Having grown up working at Crystal Downs in northern Michigan, I have had an appreciation of Perry Maxwell’s work for a long time. Perry’s work as Alister MacKenzie’s associate on that venerable course certainly had a great effect on his work and philosophy, as he spent three seasons there building the course now regarded as one of the best in the world. Maxwell’s respect for a landscape’s inherent qualities and use of those features in its design is one of the great aspects of the golf course at Crystal Downs. I became enamored with golf at an early age and with golf course architecture because of my exposure to Crystal Downs. I am certain that the beauty of the natural landforms of the site were an inspiration to Perry Maxwell just as they are to me to this day and I am positive that he made the course better due to his recognition of the intricacies of the land.
"Great designs are built on-site by reacting to what's inherent in the landscape. By seeking out the diverse characteristics of a site, more options and variety will be designed into the golf course strategy." - Mike DeVries
Many of the world's best golf courses possess a wild green or two. By "wild" I mean greens that possess bold contours, an eccentric configuration , unusual corresponding hazards or even a combination of these characteristics. Whatever it may be, there is a fine line between a wild green and a radical one that is plain gimmicky.
"Pilgrim's Run (No. 98). Opened in 1998, this attractive layout 30 minutes from Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers a memorable collection of holes, and it's a bargain with a weekday green fee of $49."
" The retro look is not simply a matter of the Classical courses. There's something of a traditionally oriented, back-la-basics movement in Modem course design. The four leading courses on the Modem list all sport firm, fast fescue fairways - quite a contrast to the lush, green look of American parkland golf. ... Modern golfers accustomed to pure visibility might balk at some of the quirkiness, semi-blind tee shots and scruffiness of Mike DeVries' new Kingsley (Mich.) Club (No. 98). But that's the beauty of such a list. It's fodder for discussion. And material for road trips."
"Federal law prohibits a golf periodical from publishing any best of list that doesn't include a course in northern Michigan. The Kingsley Club fills that requirement for this list, and it may be the most architecturally ambitious layout in the bunch. Mike DeVries did the design work, with visions of Crystal Downs and Sand Hills dancing in his head. His 6,911-yard course includes a par-5 on the back nine that plays 617 yards from the ego tees. Despite that one colossus, the rest of this Audubon-approved golf landscape is a study in the shotmaker's art."