On the recent HOG World Tour stop in northern Michigan I had the pleasure of staying at Forest Dunes resort, and playing the unique Tom Doak designed reversible course there called The Loop. Check out my review of The Loop.
While The Loop may be the attention grabber, Forest Dunes is home to a Tom Weiskopf design simply called Forest Dunes Golf Club. Forest Dunes Golf Club sits inside 500 acres of land within the Huron National Forest. The course is a 7,116 yard par-72 design which is quite different than The Loop. For one it isn’t reversible.
A Tale of Two Nines – Forest and Dunes
The front nine (Forest) is carved through some fairly dense northern Michigan trees in more of a traditional American parkland style of golf, less links influence. So there’s more carrying the ball and little running up shots. Due to the dense trees lining most holes, each hole is isolated. No parallel holes. It’s quite serene.
The back nine (Dunes) exits the forest and turns to a more rugged and exposed experience. The dunes on the back feature large sandy waste areas and native vegetation which line and sometimes cross the fairways and surround the greens.
Speaking of serenity… Forest Dunes occupies about 500 acres and there are no homes on the course.
The look and feel from the tee of the Weiskopf course is very pleasing to the eye. Most often it’s WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Tee shots need to be fairly accurate or they’ll end up in the dense forest, waste areas, water hazards, or some of the terrific fairway bunkering. There are a few situations where from the tee one doesn’t realize there are two different paths to take, split fairways. A better familiarization with the course would really help in those situations.
There’s also a nice bit of elevation change from tee to fairway or tee to green on the front nine. The elevation changes make the tee shots even more interesting. More rolling hills and dunes are on the back, which hide some of the native areas.
The fairways on the Weiskopf course were in terrific condition when I played there, and I found most of them thankfully. Only on the 9th did I run into tree issues. Lies on the shortgrass were like lies on high quality carpet. The only difference is you don’t want to take a divot out of high quality carpet. It won’t grow back.
Most of the fairways are not terribly penal or unforgiving. There can be positions in the fairway which are not optimal; ones that perhaps bring overhanging trees into play or bad angles to the green. A little course knowledge helps for those situations. Same goes with some of the small native areas and waste areas which can jut out from the sides of some of the fairways, especially on the back nine.
I really enjoyed the green complexes at Forest Dunes. Many of the greenside bunkers are Robert Trent Jones Sr.-like large. There can also be more rugged bunkering with native grasses around the edges and less pristine and precision in the shaping on the back.
Some greens are guarded by forced carries, water, and of course sand, so flying it all the way in those situations is required. Other greens offer options for chipping, pitching, or even putting off the surface (one of my favorite shots because chipping is one of my least favorite shots).
Despite the fact that I couldn’t make any putt for birdie inside of 10 feet, and there were a lot of them, I still enjoyed the putting surfaces. They rolled very true and well. Putts that were on line dropped but puts, like mine, that were off by even a fraction of an inch, did not.
One very unique feature at the Wekskopf course is the 19th hole. No that doesn’t refer to the bar. The bar is the 20th!
19th Hole at Forest Dunes
The 19th is a short par-3 which is used to settle matches or bets in the event that there’s a tie after the 18th is completed. What a cool idea. My group was hitting sand wedges into the green but it looked like the hole could be stretched out a bit more. One fun part, hard to see in the photo above, is the bunker in the middle of the green which made the green’s shape like a donut.
Forest Dunes has a tremendous practice facility. From numerous practice greens to a solid and interesting driving range to a very detailed and creative short game area. The answers to your game’s issues are there somewhere.
I also noticed a putting course which had just been seeded. I imagine it will be fully operational by the 2018 season, if not sooner.
The clubhouse is large and elegantly appointed inside and out. Inside the clubhouse are a few rooms, a restaurant, and the pro shop. The shop is fully stocked with great gear and apparel.
The clubhouse as seen from the 18th fairway
I enjoyed several great meals in the restaurant. Two of them were smoked filet mignons with baked potato and French onion soup. The reason I had a second one was because the first one was so good. No, they weren’t at the same sitting.
In addition to the rooms in the clubhouse, there are “villas” which are about a one minute walk from the clubhouse or any of the courses’ first tees. The villas have numerous rooms, with shared living space. Each room has its own shower. The shared living space in the villas feature large cushy reclining chairs, couches, a large flatscreen TV, kitchen, microwave, refrigerator, and kitchen table.
Villa sweet villa
I stayed in one of the villas (photo above) and loved it, sans a closet or somewhere to hang up my expensive golf shirts.
Bring bug spray.
I had a fantastic time taking on the challenge of Forest Dunes Golf Club. The variation between nines, immaculate conditioning and maintenance, and fabulous design made it one of my favorite golf experiences of the year.
Forget boring flat Florida golf or the other traditional golf travel locations. The Loop and Forest Dunes golf club are the perfect recipe for a memorable golf buddy trip.
The Loop at Forest Dunes review
I played a course a couple of days ago which I’d played dozens of times, many years ago. It isn’t on my current rota of regular stops. It was fun to get back there and play for a good change of pace. Somehow I managed to birdie the first three holes. Of course after that the golf gods clamped down on my joy and let me have it. Taught me a lesson. It didn’t hurt that much because that’s exactly what I knew they were going to do. So I outsmarted them.
On the first hole I had about an 80 yard approach shot to a back pin. I hit it 85. The ball landed behind the green and bounced backwards to about 6 feet. That was odd, but I wasn’t complaining.
They’re overwatering the golf course and the road!
Through the rest of the round I couldn’t help noticing how soggy and wet the course was. Approach shots all had to be long because they would not bounce forward. Chipping was difficult because the shots would hit such soft ground and stop almost instantly. The greens were so soggy that player footprints made putts bounce all over the place. If I stood in one place I would slowly sink, leaving a large depression.
The course was nice and green though. Sigh. I get that we are no longer in a drought, but good hell ease off on the water. Let the ball bounce. Allow the player to run up some shots. Every course doesn’t have to be as green as Augusta National Golf Club. Take links golf in Scotland for instance. The ground is very hard. The golfer can be creative by running the ball and using the contours of the ground, rather than just having to fly shots to the target.
It’s got to cost more to maintain courses that are so wet. First there’s the water cost. Second, the grass has to be cut more often and something has to be done with the clippings if they’re not mulched. Then there’s the mud issues like I saw at this course. There were areas so wet they had to be roped off.
Please rake the bunkers, in your scuba diving gear…
I ended up in one of those roped off areas short of a par-4. At the time I was in the midst of an awesome round at -3. I had to take a drop because there was standing water. Nearest relief was in the fairway. I hit my chip and the ground was so wet that the club sliced through the turf and went under the ball entirely! I don’t think the club actually touched the ball.
Take it easy with the watering. Let your members have some fun with longer distance and more creative ground game shots.
I must make a shout out to Utah’s Impact Golf Center and my buddy Jordan there. They’ve helped me quite a bit with club testing, club fixing, club maintenance, re-grips, and golf simulator/launch monitor time. I often get clubs in for review which aren’t setup right for me, or need different grips because of my tennis elbow etc. They’re great with helping me get setup to do my reviews.
In my last trip I did some sim time with Jordan who was helping to determine a shaft for the new Cobra driver which recently came in for review. Often times stock shafts are not, shall we say, consistent. I found a good shaft for my dual chicken with granny over the top swing and will be attempting to get a demo for my review. Once I had that Cobra setup right my accuracy and spin rates really dialed in.
Above are some swings with a bunch of different shafts as seen on the simulator. Strangely, I never went left. Always right or straight. That’s not the way it is on the course for me. I’d love to be that consistent and be able to ignore one side knowing it isn’t in play. Unfortunately I also learned that my swing speed is not what it used to be. Average 96mph and maxed at 99 once. I’ve lost 5mph in the last year or so.
I also had the shop take a look at my old Hogan Apex Edge Pro irons. They checked the lofts. I had to put those back in play because right now I can’t hit the Miura baby blades.
If you’re in northern Utah and need some work done on your golf gear, or need new gear, check out Impact Golf Center. In the winter they have simulators for those of us who need to play any kind of golf we can when we are buried in five feet of snow.
In an 18 hour period I played 36 holes on two golf different golf courses that were the same golf course. Sound confusing? I played the Red and Black courses which comprise Forest Dunes’ “The Loop.”
The Loop is a new course which was designed by golf architecture genius Tom Doak. It is one of three courses at Forest Dunes, in northern Michigan. The Loops is an 18 hole, par-70 course which plays one direction one day, and the opposite direction the next.
This reversible course quite a feat of engineering and creativity on the part of Doak, and I anticipate more and more golf courses will be doing this in the future. Two courses, same acreage.
I’m still mentally processing my rounds on the Loop for a future full blown review after I return from this current World Tour event in Michigan. Stay tuned. If you have questions about The Loop and/or Forest Dunes, let me know.
Forest Dunes is a golf resort in northern Michigan you should definitely put on your golf bucket list. There are four courses on the property, if you count The Loop, which is a reversible course by Tom Doak. Yesterday morning I had the thill of taking on the Forest Dunes Weiskopf course and oh what a beauty she is. I would have made a blog post about this Tour stop sooner, but the resort is quite remote and there’s not much connectivity there. Plus, I spent most of my time there golfing, eating, and sleeping in between.
I can’t quite recall if I’ve played a Weiskopf course before this one, but I must take my HOG hat off and salute Tom for such a fantastic design. Tired and a bit jet lagged I still managed it around in 80 without losing a ball, and there are massive forest areas everywhere one can do that.
The greens were spectacular and terrifyingly fast. It took quite a bit of skill, patience and green reading to navigate them.
I’ll be posting a full review of the Forest Dunes Weiskopf course here in the near future. I’m still in northern Michigan on a golf press trip which will last another five days or so which isn’t giving me much time to write or process images. Stay tuned. Until then enjoy some Forest Dunes photos.
Above: dew sweeping.
Below: panorama showing the 19th hole. Yes there is a 19th hole.