I think playing The Loop may have been as much fun as I have had on a golf course in a long time. It's almost stunning to see what Tom Doak pulled off here. It is simply amazing that you are able to play over the same piece of land but have the experience of playing two totally different golf courses.
I am going to review both courses separately but I can see what Tom is getting at when he considers them to be one course played two different ways.
The course is just across the parking lot from Forest Dunes but you feel like you have walked into a different world, especially when considering the front nine of Forest Dunes. The land is open, rolling, and played as firm and fast as any links course in prime condition. The layout is beautifully done and actually consists of two loops of holes interconnected by a string of roughly parallel holes in the middle. This allows for a variety of wind conditions and uses the slight rises and falls in the land to great advantage.
The Black is the clockwise arrangement with the first tee to the left of the 18th green. Teeing grounds are essentially flat areas in fairways so there aren't really any tees in the commonly understood sense. The first hole is quite a difficult par 4 with an uphill second. I loved the dogleg par-four 12th as well. The fairways were generous but fairway bunkers lurk at various intervals to the tee shots must be planned and thought out. The greens were large and undulated, but I never had the feeling that it was impossible to two-putt no matter where I was on the green. The firm conditions made it imperative to calculate the roll and wind to get close to the pins. Several greens had steep runoffs to the sides that added to the difficulty.
The firm conditions and open terrain are reminiscent of heathland courses such as Walton Heath and Hankley Common, and I think the Loop can stand its own with both those wonderful layouts. With the addition of the Loop Forest Dunes has positioned itself as an excellent destination trip and in my mind is well worth flying in to visit and play.
My only complaint would have to do with the distances from the teeing areas. The back tees are 6700 yards and to a par of 70, this is a stern challenge. The next set of tees measures 6078 and it would seem to me that an intermediate distance would suit more golfers. My wife is a 27 handicap senior golfer, and I think a few more forward tees like they have at Bandon would be a big help to golfers like her.
Date: September 15, 2021