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Benzonia Academy Lecture: The 100 Year History of Crystal Downs

Lecturer: Dave Rosenberger

Location: Mills Community House

Dave Rosenberger is a tax attorney residing and working in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  He played his first round of golf at age 13 and instantly was enamored with the game.  At that same early age, he met his future bride, Mary Ann Ross. 

Dave and Mary Ann married in 1972, and via a wedding gift from long-time friends of Dave’s parents, the couple honeymooned in a cottage on Crystal Lake and were treated to a round of golf and dinner at Crystal Downs Country Club.  After playing only the first two holes of the course, Dave recalls remarking to his wife that “this is the greatest golf course I’ve ever played.”

After that first encounter with Crystal Downs, Dave made annual return visits to the course during the two weeks each August that he and Mary Ann vacationed with her parents, Ivan and Betty, at the Hoot Owl Inn on Silver Lake in Traverse City.  On the return drive to TC, Dave remembers celebrating each round of golf with a piece of cherry pie ala mode at the Cherry Hut in Beulah.  History and traditions were being made.

In 1988, after a disappointing September vacation in Harbor Springs where Dave found it difficult to get a tee time at any of the many courses there, he contacted two of his law partners who were members at Crystal Downs.  Dave inquired of them whether there were any homes for sale on or near the course.  Both partners advised Dave that there were some “curious little cottages” behind the clubhouse that had been renovated recently and were available for purchase.  Two trips to Frankfort in November 1988 convinced Dave and Mary Ann that they were ready to commit to Crystal Downs, and in early 1989 they became homeowners and members.

Having settled on Frankfort as a summer residence, Dave decided to learn more about the city’s origins, the logging era, the car ferries, and in particular, how such an outstanding golf course and unique summer residential community at Crystal Downs had come into existence in the somewhat remote northwest Michigan area.  A friend, fellow lawyer and golfing partner gave Dave some old Frankfort postcards, which started Dave on a quest for every local postcard he could find.  That collection branched into a search for historical maps, newspaper articles, promotional brochures and anything else that could shed light on Crystal Downs and the surrounding community.

In his presentation for the Benzie County Historical Society on July 11, Dave will recount where and how he looked for historical information and will share many of the photographs and other items he has recovered over the years.  The talk will focus on the story of how renowned golf course architect, Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Augusta National and Cypress Point in the U.S., Royal Melbourne in Australia, the Jockey Club in Argentina, Titirangi in New Zealand, Lahinch and Cork in Ireland and other renowned courses worldwide, happened to visit such an out-of-the-way place as Frankfort, and who were the individuals who conceived  and implemented the Crystal Downs community.  Dave also will cover the connections between Crystal Downs, Frankfort, the Congregational Summer Assembly, Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan, and recount stories about local residents who have been integral to the club’s operations and preservation of its traditions.