The Crown's as close to 'metro golf' as you get in Traverse City
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.— For a town with more than 100 golf courses about a half-hour's drive from Traverse City, there aren't too many worthy tracks just a hop, skip and jump away. Most require a 10- to 20-mile weave through two-lane blacktop, placing convenience on the backburner.
Within city limits, there are a handful of nine-hole and executive courses and the private Traverse City Country Club. Pickings are slim if you're not trying to mosey too far from your downtown accommodations.
But located just minutes from downtown Traverse City lies The Crown Golf Course, an overachieving property with a family, blue-collar atmosphere to it. There's no big-name designer here, rather a collection of holes built and designed mostly by the owners themselves.
The result is a championship course with a homegrown flavor and plenty of positives to make it worth a visit. That's specially the case after it added a second nine in 1998, separating itself from the town's pack.
"When you're a nine-hole course, it's cute," Crown manager Bill Balderach said. "But it's an 18-hole game and you need 18 to be taken seriously."
The newer back nine not only towers over the front by taking up most of the property's highest points, but is also far more difficult, despite playing about the same yardage (slightly longer from the back, slightly shorter from the white, senior and women's tees). After a straight-forward 10th hole, the 11th is a long dogleg-left par 4 that has a blind tee shot and elevated green.
"The back can be 5-7 strokes harder," Balderach said. "You can have a career round until the 14th. The 14th, 15th and 16th is kind of our version of ‘Amen Corner.'"
The 14th starts the most dramatic stretch of holes at the Crown: a par-5 dogleg right that has trouble right all the way, punishing those trying to cut off a little too much distance on their drive. At 540 yards, it's a difficult hole to reach in two. Your best chance is to lay up in the landing area about 100 yards out and from there, you'll have a pretty straight-forward approach to the green.
The 15th is a tricky little par 4 measuring just 300 yards. You'd be foolish to go for the elevated green, but it's not impossible. Two solid shots can give you a very realistic shot at birdie, but there are also has plenty of options for disaster, with heather and woods all over.
The 16th is a downhill par 3, 176 yards from the back tees. There's little room right and bunkers swallowing shots short and left. It's picturesque from the tee, but its far more demanding than most other downhill par 3s that litter northern Michigan.
The front side is by no means inferior to the back nine, but most of your memorable visuals will come from the back. The uphill seventh, a short par 4, stands out as a blind approach with a wedge demands high precision.
Both par 5s are two easy pokes from being reached in two, with both playing less than 500 yards from the white tees. The four par 3s on the course are short, ranging between 150-175 yards from the championship tees.
The Crown is one of the more convenient courses in the area, located just four miles from downtown Traverse City. Conditions are about what the moderate price level indicates: solid but not immaculate.
The newer back nine is almost a totally different course, playing on the property's highest ground for the majority and has the most memorable holes. The course's length is a little short from the back tees at just 6,666 yards (par 72), so it's possibly a good first course to play on your trip.
While there are better courses in the surrounding areas, it's probably ideal for those who want to squeak in an extra round after work or dinner and don't want to waste precious sunlight in the car.
Rates are $49 weekdays and $59 weekends during the high season (June 16-Sept. 4). Stay-and-play packages are available through the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Twilight starts at 2 p.m. and the green fees are $33 weekday and $39 weekend. The Crown is also walker-friendly and has discounted rates for hoofers ($37 weekday and $47 weekend).
Stay and play
The Bayshore Inn is an old-style, elegant inn on the shores of the bay within walking distance to downtown Traverse City. Most rooms have balconies overlooking a small sandy beach that is sure to get anyone out of bed for an early tee time in the morning.
Mulligan's Pub & Grill is a cozy, full-service restaurant located in the clubhouse, featuring a full bar and menu, along with pretty young wait staff. The menu features everything from sandwiches to sirloins and ribs, and the bar is fully stocked with beer, wine and liquor. The restaurant is open year-round and features many offseason specials in the winter.
March 14, 2007