A Clear Vision At Crystal Lake Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
In a year when many courses are in tip-top shape it only stands to reason that a course like Crystal Lake Golf Club is the cream of the crop. Under the watchful eye and hands-on management of Jim Orlando this well-established beauty is ever evolving and ever improving. The improvements aren’t just limited to the playing surfaces either. ‘The Pub’ is a warm and welcoming addition to the clubhouse layout. It is part of Jim’s vision and another example of how Crystal Lake is raising the bar on customer satisfaction and always reaching to give a fuller experience to their patrons.
With an atmosphere designed to entice pre-round or post-round refreshments and a menu that will serve any taste… The Pub is ready for action. A soft opening in mid-September was held and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive from the lighting, to the layout, to the quality of the wood finishing accents. In total, a wonderful addition to an already great facility. I’m sure Crystal Lake regulars were chomping at the bit for the official Grand Opening, which just happened on September 28th. The Pub offers them a comfortable, relaxing space to tally up those scorecards and just the right vibe for extending a good day.
The Pub’s menu is a collection of favorites from the Smoked Beef Brisket and well-built Juicy Lucy on the sandwich side to a couple of standout starters with the Nacho plate (huge!) to the Stuffed Mushrooms which are filled with three cheeses and an excellent Italian sausage. Head Chef Ryan Lundstrom has been on the staff for years and continues to deliver great individual meals as well as a broad selection of banquet options.
Speaking of banquets, the overall clubhouse layout is ideal for weddings and small to medium group outings. Understandably Crystal Lake continues to be a very busy spot for wedding receptions. The large banquet room was recently updated with new lighting, a raised ceiling and contemporary wall coverings. The room has two large walls of picturesque windows that offer great views of the 16th & 18th greens during any season. Guests can also relax on the landscaped patio or enjoy the fireplace in the spacious foyer. If weather permits you also have the option of using the beautifully designed Wedding gazebo. A spacious wrap-around deck offers great outdoor dining space or a casual meeting area as needed. Larger groups can fill The Pub and spill over into the adjacent dining room, which is lined with large windows.
During a recent round I had the good fortune to play with one of the Crystal Lake employee’s, Bill Stiehm. Like everyone I’ve met at Crystal Lake from LPGA instructor extraordinaire Sheryl Maize to GM Jim Orlando; Bill is a consummate pro. He also has plenty of punch in his bag with a stellar long-iron game and a lights-out short game. It was one of my favorite outings of the year. Bill was able to share some nuances and approaches to the challenging par 4’s that resulted in a decent round despite some errant drives. There are plenty of dogleg corners and fairways bunkers that require your full attention. However, the real troublemaker is the infamous par 5, #13. At 516 yards from the black tee’s it certainly isn’t long, but boy, is it ever crooked. The signature hole zig-zags twice and then unwinds with an undulating green. The fairway snakes through marshlands that create a soft feel underfoot. In 2017 the grounds crew installed additional drainage and removed a few tree’s at the corners to try to minimize pace of play concerns, which has worked beautifully with the overall Garret Gill design.
I’m not sure I have walked on finer fairways this year, they were cut to perfection with minimal scars and the greens are still rolling like silk rug. This is really evident on the closing sequence of holes from #15 through #18 that feature patches of natural fescue, well placed bunkering and those wonderful greens. Each of these par 4’s has its own distinct character and whether you are playing into the wind or with it will determine how aggressive you can be off the tee. We had a drive run up on us at the 18th green where the prevailing western wind was blowing hard at our backs. By our estimate the drive must have been 330+ yards. A bomb that was preceded by a faint call from the tee box… fore! Impressive indeed.
Given the wide array of hosting options and the fabulous new Pub, it’s no surprise that Jim and his team are expecting the growth trend in both golf rounds and event hosting to continue. The golf course has never looked or played better. To quote Bill, “A bad day of golf is still better than a good day at the office.” Truer words have never been spoken, especially at Crystal Lake.