The Kingsley Club
MI, USA

6th hole, 395 yards: The 6th offers a type of combination the authors love: an intimidating drive (that needs to have some length) followed by just a tight pitch. The view from the back tee is the most fearsome on the course, as precious little of the fairway is visible, and what is visible is an abrupt knob that seems none too friendly. The hole offers much more than just a fear-inducing tee shot, though, as the approach is first-rate. The green is visible between two hills but is far from receptive, as it easily shrugs ball off its left side and, thanks to the closely mown area surrounding the green, some distance away. A player’s pitch that lands on the left edge could well finish 15 yards from the green.

The approach to the 6th looks friendly . . .

The approach to the 6th looks friendly . . .

. . . but this view from the 4th tee shows the drop-off to the player's left of the green.

. . . but this view from the 4th tee shows the drop-off to the player's left of the green.

9th hole, 135/160 yards: The most controversial hole at the Kingsley Club, the 9th offers two directions of play a full 90 degrees apart. When played from the western (and shorter) tee, finding the kidney-shaped green with even a wedge is a demanding task, as the right side of the green is quite shallow, with deep bunkers in front and a sharp drop-off behind. The best play from this tee is to play to the left side of the green, using the significant slope on that side to stop the ball. This corner of the green is sloped sufficiently so as to allow a player to putt from either end of the green to the other. From the southern (and longer) tee the shot is more straightforward, as the task is more one of accuracy over distance control. The authors prefer the southern tee, although not because it is more ‘fair’ (whatever that means!). Rather, they prefer it as it makes the hole play at a different angle (for the wind) than the 2nd and also ensures that a different club will be used than at the 2nd. Should, then, the western tee be abandoned? No, because remember that the Kingsley Club is a private club, built for its members’ play. Few people ever complain about having too much variety at their own club! Plus, the 9th hole, set in front of the clubhouse, offers a good stage for play-offs, etc.

The 9th from the south tee, with the temporary clubhouse beyond the green.

The 9th from the south tee, with the temporary clubhouse beyond the green.

13th hole, 285 yards: Just when the authors think the field of golf course architecture is running out of original holes/ideas, they come across the 13th at the Kingsley Club. The hole is labeled a two-shotter, although it is possible to play a 3-wood hole-high to the left of a front hole location. From the tee, the player faces the following prospect: a tall drop to the right (to the 12th fairway), a greenside bunker guarding the right side of the green, a greenside bunker guarding the left front of the green (and only some 15 yards between the two bunkers), and lots of fairway to the left. What the player can’t see from the tee is perhaps the wildest green with which the authors are familiar. Before the 58 yard deep green narrows to its neck at the rear, the green abruptly drops several feet in a bowl that comprises the center-right portion of the green. The drop off to the left of the green and the bunker on the left two-thirds back assures that any ‘safe’ drive left of the green leaves the player with a most nervy chip up the bank to the green. A player who is on the front of the green in one but has the hole in the extreme back could walk away with a 6 on his card without really playing a poor shot. Believe it or not, the green was not manufactured much; the front-right hole location had to be created a bit, but the rest of the green is essentially as DeVries found it.

The view from the 13th tee is tempting . . .

The view from the 13th tee is tempting . . .

. . . but the fun really begins at the green.  This view from the back right bunker shows the bowl in

. . . but the fun really begins at the green. This view from the back right bunker shows the bowl in the right side of the green.

This view from the back-left of the 13th green shows the 'safe' play to the left off the tee leaves no bargain of a chip shot.  The bunker in the foreground dominates play when the hole is in the narrow rear neck of the green.

This view from the back-left of the 13th green shows the 'safe' play to the left off the tee leaves no bargain of a chip shot. The bunker in the foreground dominates play when the hole is in the narrow rear neck of the green.

15th hole, 455 yards: A wonderful example of a ‘half-par’ hole and at just the right stage of the round, the 15th never lets the player become comfortable. First, the tee shot is an awkward one for most players, as the hole bends to the left but the fairway slopes to the right, almost requiring a draw off the tee. The tee shot will often hit into the slope of the fairway, reducing any roll and leaving the player with a long-iron or fairway wood to the smallest green on the course, raised several feet and blended into the hillside to the right. Some people have criticized the hole as being too difficult, but it is one of the authors’ favorites on the course. As there is no great danger to get into from the tee and miles of fairway left of the green, it is difficult to score worse than a 5. Likewise, the player who gives the hole some thought and is able to executive a good chip has a good chance to make his 4. A player who misses the green short or to the left will face a recovery shot somewhat similar to that on the 14th at Royal Dornoch; no one ever complains that Foxy is ‘unfair’! The one legitimate claim some have about the green is that it was built up and created, while all the other green sites were essentially ‘found.’ Still, full marks to the hole.

The difficult approach to the small, raised 15th green.

The difficult approach to the small, raised 15th green.

16th hole, 215 yards: A friendly version of the Redan hole, the 16th green occupies part of a moderate hillside that is just level enough to stop golf balls. While many Redans have a drop-off to the right of the green, this version offers more than 30 yards of fairway to the right, tumbling down the hill essentially into the green. A player can therefore play a hook that lands a full 20 yards right of the green and then have the satisfaction of watching his ball chase down the hill and onto the green. The length of the hole encourages players to use that tact, as the hole would be less interesting with, say, a 7-iron in hand rather than a 3-iron. Also, while standing on the tee, the player plays directly across the bunkers well left of the 15th green. The bunkers ‘look’ as though they belong on each hole, testimony to the thought that went into the design and shaping.

16th hole, 215 yards: A friendly version of the Redan hole, the 16th green occupies part of a moderate hillside that is just level enough to stop golf balls. While many Redans have a drop-off to the right of the green, this version offers more than 30 yards of fairway to the right, tumbling down the hill essentially into the green. A player can therefore play a hook that lands a full 20 yards right of the green and then have the satisfaction of watching his ball chase down the hill and onto the green. The length of the hole encourages players to use that tact, as the hole would be less interesting with, say, a 7-iron in hand rather than a 3-iron. Also, while standing on the tee, the player plays directly across the bunkers well left of the 15th green. The bunkers 'look' as though they belong on each hole, testimony to the thought that went into the design and shaping.

The 16th, encouraging the player to bounce the ball in from the right.

A common question in interviews on this web site is ‘How do you think this period of architecture will be viewed in 50 years?’ With courses like the Kingsley Club, Friar’s Head, Inniscrone, and Pacific Dunes being built in just the last couple of years, the authors are confident the answer is ‘Very well.’ So many of today’s architects started out together (e.g., Mike DeVries, Tom Doak, and Gil Hanse have worked together, in addition to people such as Bill Coore, Doak, John Harbottle, Jim Urbina, and Rod Whitman who have worked with Pete Dye), that they share similar visions of what golf ought to be, but, thankfully, their approaches are all a bit different.

The natural 445 yard 12th, with part of the 13th green visible at right.

The natural 445 yard 12th, with part of the 13th green visible at right.

The End