The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Kingsley Club


Kingsley Club

Architect: Mike DeVries
Year: 2001

600 Niblick Trail , Kingsley, Michigan 49649
(231) 263-3000

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available
on-site accommodations


The genesis of the Kingsley Club goes back to 1998 when one of the founders stumbled across a real estate ad in the classified section of the Traverse City newspaper. This gentleman made a visit to the 320 acre site and found a wonderful piece of property that would be perfectly suited for a golf course. He introduced the idea to a long time friend and three days later the two men purchased the land for the Kingsley Club. The two co-founders hired long time head professional from Crystal Downs, Fred Muller, as a consultant and Mike DeVries as the architect and before 1998 was over construction had begun. Three years later in the spring of 2001 the course was completed and ready for play. The goal from all involved was to create a monument to the game and golf course that was based on the principles of golf course architect Alister MacKenzie’s design philosophy.

Kingsley Club, located in Kingsley Michigan is one of those places that had been on my radar for a number of years and that I was hoping to visit sooner rather than later. While Kingsley Club is not on the Golf Digest Top 100 list, one of the lessons I have learned over the last five years is that there are a lot of incredible golf courses out there that, for a variety of reasons, may not be on the Top 100 list. A number of my friends had visited Kingsley Club and reported back favorably so I added it to my personalized list of courses I needed to see.

Earlier in the morning we had played a game at Crystal Downs and as we were waiting for our turn to go off the 1st tee our host casually said “If you are looking to play a game this afternoon you should check out this course, Kingsley Club, located about an hour up the road from here. It’s quite a golf course.” Yet another endorsement for Kingsley Club which made me even more excited to see it.

Once we finished up at Crystal Downs we hopped in the car and made our way to Kingsley. It was late in the day but fortunately northern Michigan has an extraordinarily long days in July and we still had plenty of daylight to get our round in. When we arrived to the parking lot we were one of 3 cars and there was not another soul in sight. I love late afternoon rounds when the course is empty. We quickly checked in at the pro shop and then made our way to the 1st tee where we selected the combo Gold/Blue member tees and got our game started.

Hole 1 – 568 yards – par 5
Standing on the tee at this 1st hole is visually dramatic and makes quite the first impression. The split fairway offers an option off the tee that allows for a bolder line to the right or a safer play to the left of the bunker complex.
 
Kingsley Club
 
This hole plays basically straight up hill on the approach shot into the green. The photo below was taken from the fairway.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look at the green which only hints at the contours found at the Kingsley Club.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 2 – 161 yards – par 3
Here we have a fairly straightforward par 3 hole. The green is large and it is advisable to hit it because the bunkers surrounding the green do not make for a fun second shot here.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 3 – 412 yards – par 4
This hole offers the choice off the tee for how much the player wants to bite off. The further right the more carry is required to reach the fairway. Along with the added risk of a bold line comes the reward of a shorter approach into the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Below is a look at the 3rd green which was massive. The hole location was particularly unfriendly in that it was sitting atop a narrow ridge that ran down the middle of the green. All of us three putted this one!!
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look back down the hole from behind the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 4 – 411 yards – par 4
This hole is rated as the easiest hole on the course and I’m not quite sure why. There is a big fall off to the left side of the fairway that doesn’t make for the easiest of approach shots. Note that in the photo below the yellow flag is for the 2nd hole and to the right of it is a blue flag that is barely visible.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look at the approach shot into the 4th green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
And a view of the 4th green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 5 – 191 yards – par 3
This hole is an interesting par 3 that requires a long iron or hybrid for most players. All of us yanked our tee shots to the left but when we arrived at the green found them no more than 20 feet from the hole. The green has a bit of a bowl shape to it that is very forgiving when the flag is on the right side of the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 6 – 373 yards – par 4
Here we have a hole that I really liked quite a bit. The fairway falls from right to left so a tee ball that flies down the right side will likely end up on the left side with a good view into the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Below is a look at the green. Note that it is possible to run the ball onto the green, but the opening is pretty narrow.
 
Kingsley Club
 
And another look at the green from the hill on the right side.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 7 – 512 yards – par 4
Below is a view of the 7th hole from the tee box.
 
Kingsley Club
 
The second shot here is blind which makes it a wise decision to walk to the top of the hill and get an aiming point for the layup shot.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look at the green which is protected by a number of bunkers as well as a fairly undulating putting surface. This flag is all the way at the back of the green which brings the rear bunkers into the play. Getting up and down from the back bunkers to a rear hole location is darn near impossible.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 8 – 360 yards – par 4
This short par 4 hole does not require a driver off the tee for longer hitters. Hitting the tee ball to the left of the bunker complex is probably the safest line from the tee. There is fairway to the right of the bunkers so that is an option as well.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a view of the green from just right of the bunkers in the middle of the fairway.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 9 – 135 yards – par 3
This short par 3 is a vexing little hole. The photo below does not do justice to the undulation on green but I can attest to the importance of hitting the green in the right spot.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 10 – 393 yards – par 4
Below is a look at the approach shot into the 10th green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 11 – 180 yards – par 3
This mid-length one shot hole is fairly straight forward. With a bunker in the middle front and middle back hole locations like the one in the photo below make for trouble coming and going.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 12 – 425 yards – par 4
This hole is lengthy but gives up some extra yardage with the downhill tee shot. It is also worth nothing that the Kingsley Club plays very firm which means that drives get a bit of extra roll once they hit they hit the ground which effectively shortens the course a little bit.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look at the approach into the green which is a perfect opportunity for a low running shot.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Below is a view of the green from the hill on the upper left side.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 13 – 292 yards – par 4
This short little par 4 plays uphill, but may still be drivable for very big hitters. I didn’t see any reason not to hit driver here.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Of course I carved my tee ball off to the right, but was still left with just a short pitch to the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Below is a photo that shows some of the movement on the green. My pitch rolled out towards the back of the green and I was lucky to get a two putt from where I was.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 14 – 510 yards – par 5
Here we have a moderate length par 5 that is reachable in two with a good drive that rolls out a little extra.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Again, the front of the green is wide open so players going for the green in two have the opportunity to miss short and hope that the ball has enough on it to roll onto the putting surface.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 15 – 421 yards – par 4
Below is a look at the approach into the 15th green. Approach shots need to carry all the way to the green or else they will end up rolling back down to the fairway.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is another look at the green from the right hand side.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 16 – 175 yards – par 3
This nice little par 3 offers plenty of bail out room to the right side. Players opting to utilize that side of the hole will likely be faced with a fast chip or putt to the hole location. This is yet another green where the ball could be bounced on with a low ground shot.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Below is a closer look at the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 17 – 509 yards – par 5
Here we have another par 5 that may be in reach for longer hitters. The tee shot plays uphill, but the second shot plays downhill. The photo below was taken from the tee box.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Here is a look at the shot into the green from the top of the hill.
 
Kingsley Club
 
And here is a look back up the hole taken from the 18th tee.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Hole 18 – 422 yards – par 4
The finishing hole is a stout par 4 that plays slightly uphill. For those who need a boost of energy to finish the round there is a complementary bottle of whiskey available on the 18th tee if you know where to look for it. Luckily we did!!!
 
Kingsley Club
 
The photo below was taken from the tee box and as can be seen the fairway tilts from right to left.
 
Kingsley Club
 
My tee ball ended up on the left side of the fairway and left the below view into the green.
 
Kingsley Club
 
Heres is a look at the 18th green with the 1st hole in the background.
 
Kingsley Club
 
The Kingsley Club was a fun round and I really had a good time playing the course. The first nine holes had a very different feel to them than the second nine. Throughout the course there are a lot of unique bounces and fun shots to be hit, especially with all the options off the tees and for making approach shots into the green. It was nice that the course played firm and allowed our shots to go bounding down the fairway like the pros’ shots do. Kingsley is a private club but currently is open to limited outside play. I suggest visiting there while it is still a possibility . . . and maybe even joining!!! The club has cottages on site which makes it a perfect place to escape the summer heat.

  • Matt

    Once again, great course description and wonderful pictures. Your website is a truly great escape for desk-bound golf nuts like myself.
    My friends and I are actually headed to Michigan this weekend! We are covering the western sites, with Arcadia Bluffs, Tullymore, Pilgrim’s Run and another course in Grand Rapids on the agenda. We were going to play Kingsley too but decided to save it for when we return to conquer the Northern courses.

    Love the website, keep ’em coming!

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      Thanks Matt. Have fun in Michigan this weekend. Arcadia Bluffs is fantastic and you’ll love it!!!

  • Mike

    I had the unbelievably good fortune to play there in July as well while on a family vacation and was paired up with none other than designer Mike DeVries. Mike is a wonderful guy and it was a great treat to play such a fine course with the gentleman that designed it.

    What the place really has going for it as well versus some other destination type clubs is that Traverse City offers a lot to do in a nice setting and just 20-25 minutes from the course.

  • Kingsley is one of the very best golf courses I’ve ever played. Given that only Golfweek puts it on their Top 100 lists makes it one of the most under-rated courses as well.

    Your photos of the course are quite good.

    Thanks!!

  • William

    Played here in 2010 one the way to Erin Hills, Arcadia Bluffs and Whistling Straits. I liked this course the best. I agree with your take on the difference of the front and back. Loved the fescue fairways.
    Enjoyed the pictures.

  • luigiluigi

    there is nothing quite like Kingsley. guaranteed to be one of the best golf experiences of your life. perfect example of one of the world’s top hidden golf gems. yes the world!

  • Glenn

    Im heading to Michigan this May for a golf long weekend and would like some ‘well traveled’ opinion on which course to play. Right now we’re staying at Grand Traverse Resort and playing the 3 courses on site there. We’ve also got rounds scheduled at Arcadia Bluffs and Forest Dunes which are as far as I can tell are must plays also. As of right now our last round is scheduled in at Bay Harbor, but the opportunity to play Kingsley has come up and I
    would like some input on whether to pay the extra to play Kingsley, or stick with Bay Harbor, which seems like an amazing course (Links/Quarry) in its own right.

    • golftripper

      That’s a tough call Glenn. I have not played Bay Harbor so I cannot comment as to how it compares with Kingsley. I will tell you that my general rule of thumb is that I always play a private course when the opportunity arises. You never know if you will get a chance to play there another time. Bay Harbor will always be there waiting for you any time. Sounds like you have a great trip lined up. You’re going to have a great time!!!

      • Glenn

        Thanks for the reply–much appreciated. I was already leaning towards changing the plans and playing Kingsley, but when you frame it in terms of maybe never getting the chance again since its a private club that certainly tips the scales well in favor of Kingsley. It should be a great time–hopefully the first of many bigger/better golf trips for the boys.
        Enjoying the site as always!!

    • Chuck Pinter

      If staying at GTR, look at playing Lochenheath just North of the resort on US31. A little farther North of that is A-Ga-Ming resort with 36 on-Site. The Sundance course is newer and has all the accolades, but the Torch course has some great views of Torch Lake.
      Bay Harbor is really nice and unique (playing through the quarry). Personally, I would play Kingsley over Bay Harbor given the “private” nature of the facility. Bay Harbor is totally public.