Situated in northern Michigan’s lower peninsula, around nine miles from the small town of Roscommon, Forest Dunes Golf Club began operation at the start of the new millennium as a private facility, with members playing an 18-hole layout designed by Tom Weiskopf. Acquired by Arkansan businessmen Lew Thompson and Sam Mathias in 2011, the golf facility is now fully open to the public.
The original Weiskopf course was joined in 2016 by a new 18-hole layout that came straight from the drawing boards of Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design Company. Called The Loop, it’s the realisation of a long-held “dream concept” project for the architect, featuring eighteen distinct fairways and greens that are fully reversible, allowing golfers to play the same course in two different directions on consecutive days.
“This is a concept I have thought about for 30 years,” Doak said. “You need the right site and the right client to understand the appeal of it. At Forest Dunes we finally have both. The appeal of a reversible course is people would want to play it both ways. You are getting two golf courses in one.” The clockwise routing is called the Black Course with the anti-clockwise routing called the Red Course. Both play to a par of 70 with five par threes on each scorecard.
The property was perfectly suited for such a unique project because of the gently undulating nature of the landscape, with no dramatic changes in elevation, and this allowed Brian Slawnik, one of Doak’s senior associates, to develop the course in one direction whilst he designed the other.
The Black is said to be the more difficult of the two 18-hole layouts, with the right doglegged par four 12th earmarked as a potential “signature hole”. The par four 6th on the Red doglegs left to a raised green and it’s also a hole that’s worth looking out for when you play the layout in reverse.
I saw some pictures of the course and was debating playing because it didn't look spectacular. Boy was I wrong! I was blown away by the course.
With very wide fairways that play firm, it is welcoming to the high handicap golfer off the tee. However, the greens are the defense with severe undulations and they play fast and firm. I'd describe the course as difficult to double bogey because you can put from 30 feet in the fairway; however, it is tough to par any holes because the greens are difficult to hold if you fly it onto them. That is true links style, which we are not used to in the U.S., but it is a lot of fun!
Doak's design to make it reversible was architectural brilliance and a great contribution to this great era of golf architecture we are now in.
To correct the other review on here, caddies are not required and carts are now allowed. I prefer walking though and it is designed for walking.
Even though The Old Course at St. Andrews was originally conceived as a reversible layout it has been rarely used as such since 1914. The Loop has long been a passion of local Architect Tom Doak to create the only reversible golf course ever built in North America. Since it opened in 2016 it has become the most talked about and awarded golf course in the U.S. So much so that in 2017 Golf Digest named The Loop the “Best New Public Golf Course” and Golf Magazine called it the “Best New Golf Course You Can Play”.
It’s hard to fathom that one day you play clockwise where you are approaching a green that is wide and shallow with plenty of bunkers and the next day on the counter clockwise track you are faced with a skinny green with no visible danger. Doak was ingenious in laying out a minimalistic design using expansive fairways, gentle elevation changes and thorny evergreen gorse-like shrubs to re-create a Scottish heathlands-style course. The fairways and tee blocks are fescue grass so there are no carts allowed (walking only).
The first 150 yards off each tee are maintained since it serves as the approach on the next day. The large greens are hybrid bent grass that are firm and fast with big undulations. You will need to learn how to bump-and-run with a 7-iron since nothing holds on these crested putting surfaces. I’ll guarantee that you will putt off the green at least once. There are about 50 non-manicured bunkers and plenty of wasteland with sand that is deep and soft sourced on property and reportedly rated the best around.
A caddy is mandatory and costs $100 + $40 tip or $60 per person for a twosome plus $30 tip.
PS. A distance finder would be helpful since there are no yardage stakes on the fairway.
To read about more of Dave Finn's adventures visit www.golftravelandleisure.com