Course Review: Crystal Lake – October 1, 2023
I played Crystal Lake Golf Course during the first week of October.
Fortunately, I have this opportunity most every week and have played the course over 100 times in the past three years and I really like the direction that owner Kevin Bliss and his team is taking the course.
The land the course sits on, in Mapleville, RI, used to be owned by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart (i.e. overseers of Mount St. Charles Academy) but they sold the land many years back.
A course was started and Bliss purchased the land and turned it into Crystal Lake. I understand the course to be about 119 acres and the lake ~ officially known as Sucker Lake ~ is about 70 acres. The course architects were limited to what they could and can do, due to the large lake but the course turned out well.
The course has about 100 inner members and receives a good amount of play – often 200 total rounds in a given summer day. If there is a nearby public course that is in better condition than Crystal Lake, I don’t know what it is.
I think the superintendent had a breakthrough year and I have never seen the course in better condition. The previous aggravation I had with the course has been addressed to my satisfaction.
One of the worst golf holes in the state has been turned into a much fairer and most interesting one.
The first of back to back par 5’s – the 5th hole – was universally hated by many golfers.
The tee shot direct to the green was blocked by tall trees so the play for a decent player was: long iron or hybrid ~ long iron or hybrid and short wedge to a green that didn’t hold all but the most perfectly struck, high approaches.
Those (unfair) trees have been dramatically trimmed and the hole is now a nice risk / reward hole. A good player can now take a driver over the corner and, if not in the correct fairway position, must lay up or pull off a very difficult cut shot to a small green with trouble left and long.
However, if on the left side (correct side) of the fairway, one can go for the small green in two. And for the majority of players, the green has been soften up and is a fair green to accept 3rd shot wedges.
I am sure it is me, but the changes on this hole makes me feel much better about the entire course.
Another welcome change is the tree cutting around the 11th green. The 11th hole, a beautiful, pleasingly-appearing downhill par 3, had significant issues with trees crowding out the sun, making the green a terrible opportunity to putt. Now it is just as good as the rest of the greens – which means in excellent shape.
The course is pretty much built on a sand pit and drains very well. From the Blue Tees, the course is rated 69.1 / 119 and is a par 71. For someone with limited ability as me, I tee it up with the idea of breaking 80 and do so maybe 1/5 times.
The front is a par 36 and more difficult than the back (par 35). For me, if I can shot 41 or better on the front, I am thinking sub 80 for the round. Sometimes that even happens!
The course has a nearby range – a very short car ride away – but it is adequate at best with mediocre range balls. The automated ball machine only takes cash and I always need to remember to take a $10 bill as the ball machine does not make change. Very often I see a new visitor at the range looking to others for two tens for a $20.
Another issue players had with the range is no bathrooms and ownership has installed two modern bathrooms there for public use.
I view this course in a Goldilocks way: not too easy, not too hard and seemingly always in excellent condition. I feel excited about golf when I get to this course and I am generally happy when I finish my round here.
I guess those things are really important because golf is a game to be enjoyed.
The greens fees with a cart run from about $60 during the week to about $75 on the weekend. An emphasis for the Club is the tavern which has excellent food and a full bar.
The patio overlooking the 18 green is very nice. There is very nice and elaborate cart path stonework around the course, but it needs to be finished. For example, the 14th par 5 has poor cart paths that are very much in play for approach shots.
The course partially replaced its aging golf cart fleet and has the old ones mixed in with the news ones. The new ones have a black canopy ~ take those if available.
In my opinion, considering the interesting and well-maintained course, the high quality staff that is very patron-friendly and the reasonable prices, Crystal Lake is one of my favorite public courses in Rhode Island.