Any regular visitor to this golf web site knows I’m a big Tom Doak fan. If you don’t know, Tom Doak is a leading golf course architect who has designed many great tracks. I’ve had the pleasure of playing several and really enjoy them. When I had the opportunity to play a Doak design in northern Michigan I jumped at the chance. A wise jump, no doubt.
Black Forest Golf Course Overview
Black Forest is located in Gaylord, Michigan. The Gaylord area in northern Michigan is a golf mecca. The terrain, deep and dense forest and climate make for fantastic quality golf.
The course opened back in 1992 and was the first for Doak. Hell of a start I’d say. This par-73 (yes you read that right) course occupies roughly 400 acres. For reference, Augusta National (home of the Masters) occupies about 360. Total yardage from the Black tees (the tips) is 7,044. Black Forest is not long by modern standards, but this course is not all about length. Rating from the tips is 74.3 with a slope of 147. Don’t let the tough rating scare you from playing the track though. There are five sets of tees for players of all ability levels.
Since its opening Black Forest has earned many awards like “Top New Public Courses in America” by Golf Digest and “Best Public Course in Northern Michigan” by Detroit News.
With the plush forest framing up each hole at Black Forest, tee shots are high on the aesthetic level. Many tees are elevated and require the player to carry some native areas, but the carries are not overly challenging.
The length and design of many holes allows the player to pick a strategy, like on the shorter par-4 holes, 3-6-9-11. Bombers could try to drive the green or close to it, while the more strategic (a.k.a. short hitters) might pick an iron or hybrid off the tee for placement and a good 2nd shot yardage.
With five sets of tees, players can bite off as much as they want to provide themselves with the right challenge.
There’s quite a variance in fairway styles at Black Forest. Some holes, like the 1st, can have fairly flat and straightforward landing areas which provide an easy stance and 2nd shot. Holes like the front nine’s toughest hole, the par-4 2nd, have severe mounding and sloping in the fairway. Hit the wrong side of one and the ball bounces unfavorably or like mine, stops dead on an up-slope leaving a long 2nd shot.
There are a couple of fairways which slope one way, but promote a shot which curves the other. In other words, a hole which gives a player a down hill-side hill lie which promotes a fade, but asks for a draw approach. Tricky there Mr. Doak.
The greens at Black Forest were tough for me to read. More rounds played there and better course knowledge would certainly help. I found that many greens had double breaking putts because of the sloping. After managing to reach the par-5 7th in two shots I 3-jacked for a nice par from about 12 feet. That being said, the sloping isn’t overly extreme or too crazy. It is simply a case of needing more experience and feel for the putting surfaces.
The greens rolled nice and smooth and were very soft and receptive to approach shots as well as short game chips and pitches.
The clubhouse oozes personality and charm. Loved it. The bar, cafe and pro shop are very comfortable and homey feeling. Multiple seating areas outside make for a very enjoyable 19th hole gathering.
Black Forest is a very fun and challenging track. I’d definitely put the course on the play list if traveling to northern Michigan to play the Treetops courses.