Bernardston’s Crumpin-Fox Club ranked No. 23 golf course layout in country 

A view off the tee box at Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston.

A view off the tee box at Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 01-26-2024 5:12 PM

Add another in the long list of accolades for Bernardston’s Crumpin-Fox Club.

Golf Advisor, the longtime golf ranking system that now operates under NBC’s Golf Pass umbrella, ranked the top 25 public golf course layouts in the country going into the 2024 year and CFC made the list, checking in at No. 23. It was the only course in New England to be selected. 

The rankings were compiled based on reviews from those who played the course. Golf Pass wrote “These 25 public golf courses consistently rated highly for the quality of their layouts in Golf Pass reviews from 2023. They had to offer public tee times and gather at least 10 reviews to be eligible for this list.”

CFC certainly does well in the review department. Out of the 489 reviews from people who played the course on Golf Pass, 98.9 percent said they’d recommend the course. In a rating system based on stars, with five stars the max, Crumpin-Fox received a 4.9 star rating for its layout.

“This is a big one for us,” Crumpin-Fox Club head golf professional Jamie Ballard said. “The rankings are all based on unsolicited reviews of people who played our course which is part of why it’s so big for us. We’ve been on different lists where politics are involved. They’ll send someone to an area, they go to the best course on a list and move on which we’re still honored to be recognized by them.

“This one is a testament to our staff and our property,” he continued. “These are ratings from people we don’t know are giving them. It could be anyone who plays our course who gives the rating which makes this recognition more special.” 

Ballard credited his staff multiple times for their professionalism and treating all who come to play with respect. 

“We try to treat everyone like they’ve come to play at a private club,” Ballard said. “We want to make it a welcoming experience which is part of why I was excited about this for our staff. Personally speaking, it’s hard to get to a point where you make a place a fun place to work. We had a hard time filling out a staff seven years ago when I first started. Now, it’s a cool place to work for kids.” 

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It’s not the first time Golf Advisor has given Crumpin-Fox positive ratings, as back in 2016 the club’s layout ranked No. 15 in the country. In 2020 Golf Advisor ranked Crump as the No. 33 toughest public course to play, making it the most challenging in all of Massachusetts and New England. Also in 2016, Crump was ranked the 32nd best course in America. 

What makes Crumpin-Fox’s design so special? Ballard said it’s the fact that each hole has a chance to be memorable, and the course offers unique challenges each time out. 

“We’re a challenging course but we’re challenging in a fair way,” Ballard said. “If you hit it to the middle of the fairway off the tee box you’re not going to end up in a divot or a hole. It’s a place where you can hit birdies all day long if you play it the right way. Every hole you have to think your way through. That’s what makes it a good golf course to me. It has a good flow and every hole feels separate but flows into one another.”

Ballard gave the example of how the eighth hole is consistently ranked as the hardest par five in the region, but the hole before it is a great birdie opportunity. 

“Our [eighth hole] is consistently ranked the hardest in New England,” Ballard said. “The seventh hole before it is a short par four which gives you a birdie opportunity. It can take your lunch on certain holes and it has stretches where it lets you back in. It’s why people like it. It’s a fair challenge. We hear from members that they don’t get sick of being out there. You remember each hole. It’s not just a couple of good ones.”

Ballard also credited the Van Epps Family, Crumpin-Fox’s owners, for always investing money and resources into making the club what it is today. 

From tree clearing projects, finding ways to get more light on the course, new irrigation systems and many other projects, the Van Epps family has supported all things that help improve the course. 

“We’re lucky to have the ownership that we do with the Van Epps family,” Ballard said. “They want to always make the course better. They’ve funded different projects and supported things that bring revenue back into the golf course itself. Ownership has invested heavily to make the course what it has become. We couldn’t have come close to doing it without that.” 

The course wouldn’t be what it is without the hard work of the grounds crew. When working at a golf course in New England, the grounds crew must deal with all four seasons, as well as whatever wild weather comes to the area — like this past summer where rain trounced the area. 

“We had pumps running all over the course, pumping millions of gallons of water,” said Ballard. “It’s unique having a course in New England. People don’t realize how much work gets put into it. Our grounds crew puts so much energy in and don’t get the accolades. They work their butts off.” 

When you earn national rankings, more big events come your way. 

Ballard said Crumpin-Fox sees an uptick in organizations reaching out after receiving some national recognition, from people just looking to play the course to companies who are looking to host charities or outings. 

That also leads to golf organizations hosting tournaments there. The USGA and Mass Golf are making the New England Junior Amateur Championship’s permanent home at Crumpin-Fox starting in 2025. This summer, Crump will host the Mass Golf’s Father-Daughter championship on Aug. 1.

“We’ll draw from all over New England, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire,” Ballard said. “Location wise, we’re a good spot. They love having events here because of the course. We want to continue to grow and get better and continue to make this a place where people want to come and host events at.”