Review: Crystal Lake Golf Club

Course Name: Crystal Lake Golf Club

Designer: Howard Maurer (2003)

Location: Burrillville, Rhode Island

History: Opened in 2003, Crystal Lake is a semi-private club. The clubhouse is a popular venue for weddings.

Conditions: 8/10, Crystal Lake was in fantastic shape when I played. The bentgrass greens were fast and rolled true while the teeboxes and fairways were pristine. The rough here was also nicer and thicker than most public courses in the area.

Value: 6/10, While only $33 walking during the weeks, Crystal Lake is pretty much a carts only course, with distant teeboxes and lots of elevation changes. 18 with a cart on the weekend will cost you $62, which is a bit overpriced.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                 71            6240              69.8               121

Blue                   71            5966              69.1               119

White                71            5590              66.6               116

Red                    71            4854              67.7               114

Best Score: 84 (Blue Tees), 8/18/2014 with Ryan S. and someone we met at the course

Front 9 Best: 41 (Blue Tees), 8/18/2014 with Ryan S. and someone we met at the course

Back 9 Best: 43 (Blue Tees), 8/18/2014 with someone I met at the course

Hole Descriptions: I found Crystal Lake to be a bit underrated, but perhaps its isolated location in the Northwestern corner of Rhode Island is the cause. There is strong hole variation at Crystal Lake, with several holes featuring massive elevation changes and a few holes overlooking the eponymous lake. This is undoubtedly one of the better public golf designs in Rhode Island, and I enjoyed it slightly more than Howard Maurer’s other design Wentworth Hills.

The opening hole at Crystal Lake is a straightaway 362 yard par 4 that requires an accurate drive. A brief set of trees lines both sides of this fairway about 150 yards from the teebox, with a set of deep bunkers after the left tree. This entire hole is sloped right-to-left, leaving some difficult lies on your approach. This green is tiny and quite undulating, with a devastating set of deep bunkers to the left. Given how the fairway’s slope aligns you left, I felt these were extremely well-thought out bunkers. The 2nd hole is another superb hole as an 185 yard downhill par 3. With OB far to the left, and a series of bunkers lining the right, one must find the large green on this hole to be successful. Like the 1st, the 2nd green is interesting, with everything sloping towards a gully in the mid-right portion.

After a wild ride through the woods, you encounter the 3rd hole, one of the hardest on the course. At 408 yards, this long par 4box plays straight uphill. Out of bounds lines the entire left side of the hole while the green is narrow and undulating, with a well-placed bunker short right. The guy we played with hit his ball into the thick woods left and went DEEP in there looking for it. He came out with about 25 balls and probably an equal number of ticks. While not as difficult as the 3rd, the 4th is similarly a longer 392 yard par 4 with OB left. Mounding on the right confers some difficult lies, but there’s no doubt right is the miss here.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the par 5 5th or any of the three-shotters at Crystal Lake. Officially 545 yards on the scorecard, the 5th is a sharp dogleg right that requires iron of the tee unless you want to slice/carry trees on the right. A set of three bunkers on the left corner of the dogleg about 200 yards from the teebox comes into play for those who run through the fairway. On your layup, the fairway narrows to almost nothing, with dense forest on the left and several bunkers on the right. To hit this elevated green, you must shoot through a gap of trees and over a small pot bunker in front of this green. This is just a target-golf, goofy hole, and one that could inflict some damage to your scorecard. There are only three par fives on the course, but another poorly designed par 5 follows in the 460 yard 6th. This is a sharp dogleg left that essentially plays as two separate holes. On the drive, you must hit the ball about 250 yards straight with OB on the left. From here, you must carry bushes to another fairway 90 degrees to the left. This hole is reachable in two, but feels disjointed and forced.

After two regrettable par fives, Crystal Lake’s front 9 finishes with a flurry of strong holes beginning with the 445 yard par 4 7th. This number 1 handicap hole plays slightly downhill to a narrow fairway with a trio of fairway bunkers to the right. What makes this hole great is the approach to a tight green guarded with bunkers to the left and a small pond on the right. Given that this hole plays almost 450 yards, many golfers will have difficulty hitting this green with long iron or hybrid. Another strong par 3, the 8th hole plays uphill at 192 yards. Bunkers guard the entire right side of this hole, but the worse miss is actually long, as I learned the hard way. This green slopes back-to-front, making a long up-and-down a rarity. The front side closes with an interesting drivable par 4 in the 308 yard 9th. This is a really simple hole to hit iron-wedge, but players risking it with driver will have to contend with a multitude of bunkers near this tricky green.

The back 9 begins with a very difficult tight par 4. Playing parellel to the 1st hole, this hole plays similarly at 422 yards. OB lines the left side while the right side is lined with bunkers and mounds. This hole narrows considerably near the green and forces you to come in high with your approach. At 205 yards, the 11th is the longest par 3 at Crystal Lake but plays much shorter due to the fact that the green is 90 feet below the teebox. This fun hole features a relatively small green guarded by two bunkers short on either side. Choosing the right club is essential to success here.

The next two holes are short, but enjoyable par fours. The 12th plays straight uphill at only 305 yards with a series of bunkers to the left, and a tricky back-to-front sloped green. I was less fond of the 303 yard 13th, which features a generous fairway lined by OB right. At about 200 yards from the teebox, this fairway constricts on the right side with trees, with the green behind these trees. The appropriate play here is an iron to the left side of the fairway, leaving a good angle in. Anything on the right side of the fairway requires a cut or high ballflight over these trees.

Up to this point, Crystal Lake is a difficult walk, but certainly doable. The 14th teebox, however, is lightyears away from the 13th green. At 524 yards, this hole is on prime property, as Crystal Lake runs down the entire right side of the hole. The left side is a popular bailout option to avoid trees and water, but there are bunkers lining pretty much the entire landing area on the left. Like the previous hole, this fairway narrows as you reach a tricky green tucked behind the trees on the right. This is a strong par 5, and undoubtedly the best three-shotter at Crystal Lake. The easiest par 3 on the course, the 15th plays only 160 yards and is notable for a large bunker short left – so large that there is a tiny grass island inside the bunker, a feature I enjoyed aesthetically. This narrow green features several swales and I four-putted here for double after reaching the green in regulation.

The 16th is a short straightforward par 4 at 340 yards. This hole is fairly bland until you reach this heavily undulating, well-bunkered green. This was my only birdie of the day, however, so I can’t hate on this hole too much. The 17th is a strong par 4 at 415 yards. This hole is pretty much devoid of trees and features a generous fairway with bunkers and mounds on either side. This green is one of the largest at Crystal Lake and again can lead to some crooked numbers. Running back along Crystal Lake, the crescent shaped dogleg left 18th is no doubt the finest par 4 on the course. At 378 yards, this isn’t the longest hole, but accuracy is required with a hazard left and a steep hill to the right and over this fairway. A missed fairway here will lead to a very challenging approach shot over a pond and two bunkers to a tiny green. The clubhouse patio overlooks this green and is a nice finishing setting.

Best Par 3: 2nd Hole, 183 yards, 17th handicap. As a whole, I was impressed by the par threes at Crystal Lake, which I felt used the elevation to enhance the drama. The 2nd, though, was my favorite. I’m always a fan of downhill par threes, and this one is great, with a myriad of dangerous bunkers to the right and OB to the left. A tricky green makes par even more unlikely.

IMG_1721
The beautiful downhill par 3 2nd

Best Par 4: 18th Hole, 378 yards, 4th handicap. The two best holes at Crystal Lake use the lake to their advantage, including this hole. Water and trees hug the left side of this fairway but part of me wishes they’d cut the trees down to give a better (and more intimidating) view of the lake. From the fairway, this hole turns sharp left with a tough closing approach over multiple hazards. Pars on this hole will be well-earned.

Best Par 5: 14th Hole, 524 yards, 8th handicap. Again utilizing Crystal Lake, water and trees line the entire right side of this medium-length par 5. I thought the other two par fives were the worst holes on the course, so this hole would still probably be the best par 5 without the Lake.

General Comments: Although I didn’t use them, the practice facilities are solid at Crystal Lake, with a large range and practice green near the 1st tee. Surprisingly, pace of play was very brisk when we played.

Verdict: Crystal Lake is clearly the best public course in Rhode Island north of Providence. While not a must-play, the conditioning and beautiful scenery here make it a fun, worthwhile round.

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