The Kingsley Club, located near a small town of the same name in northern Michigan, was built with a little different philosophy from most of the "Up North" golf courses.
"We wanted to build a pure golf course; a traditional-type private course with minimal impact on the landscape. Making money wasn't our driving force," said Ed Walker, a Traverse City businessman who is one of the partners behind The Kingsley Club. "There won't be a housing development surrounding the course. It's designed for people who love the game of golf, and exists solely for the enjoyment of its members and guests."
The club's founders are Walker and his partner Art Preston, a long-time friend and business associate of Walker's who owns property in Michigan, Kentucky and Texas; and Fred Muller, the PGA professional at Crystal Downs Country Club, who has served as a consultant on the project.
Muller, who introduced the other two several years ago at Crystal Downs, is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Alister MacKenzie's traditional golf course architectural philosophy. "The more we talked, the more the idea became intriguing, and then I found this 400-acre piece of property near Kingsley surrounded on three sides by state land," Walker said. "With high rolling grassland and sparsely vegetated soil, it was perfect for the type course we wanted to build. The topography was already there," Walker said, describing the property. "We didn't have to create tee boxes and bunker areas. The natural formations were already there, and, with no wetlands involved, we had no environmental issues."
The club is committed to preserving the environment and worked closely with the Audubon Society in the development of the course, according to Muller. Mike DeVries, a relatively new golf course architect who has worked with Tom Doak and Tom Fazio, was selected for his expertise in working with such a setting.
"Fred knew Mike well, and felt like he was the best person for us to work with even though he hasn't built many courses in Michigan," said Walker. "He has a minimalist architectural philosophy, and that was what we were looking for."
Nestled among mature hardwoods and white pines, the Kingsley Club is located about 12 miles south of Traverse City. Its high rolling pastures offer beautiful vistas from several points around the 18-hole course, according to director of golf Bob Pillard. "The par-71 course is designed with a wide variety of tees ranging up to 6,911 yards. Each hole is designed to offer options on routing and types of shots.
"It's a classic design that follows the lay of the land," said the PGA Professional. "The course has a Scottish feel to it; like a golf course built in the 1920s." You won't find any water on the course, but, if you like bunkers, you're in luck. There are 129 of them scattered around the course. And, if you like to walk, again you are in luck. The course, according to Walker, was designed to walk, which is encouraged by a caddie program. Power carts will be available as an option.
"It's a course that you'll want to walk," he explained, "and, that's the way we wanted it designed. I like to be able to see other holes when I play golf. I don't like the isolation you feel on many courses with individual holes. Old-style, traditional courses were designed to walk, and that's what we've achieved at Kingsley Club."
The course, which is slated to open in early June, will be available only to club members and their guests, and club membership will be limited to the first 250 who join. "Over 30 members have already joined, and the course isn't even open yet," said Walker. "We wanted to create a place with few rules and no starting times; where kindred spirits gather to have fun, make friends and play golf. If we took in more members we would have to have rules and starting times."
An extensive practice facility with a short-game area, putting green, driving range and pro shop will be located across from the clubhouse. The clubhouse sits atop a high ridge overlooking the 10th fairway and offers spectacular views of the course. A few "club cottages" will be built in the same style as the clubhouse -- to provide lodging for national members and guests. Guide services, utilizing local hunters and fishermen, will also be available for members to enjoy trout fishing on area rivers and upland game hunting on adjoining state land.
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