Like many isolated golf resorts that have sprung up over the past two decades, the drive to Forest Dunes paints a picture of the whole experience to come. Long one-lane country roads lead to a vast oasis of golf which is justâ¦ over there.
That’s the point. When you are there, you are there. No need to go anywhere else. And so, the two white-tailed deer figurines that make up the entrance panel to Forest Dunes fit perfectly. It is the desert. But what they should also have up front is some sort of carnival hype man, shouting, âCome one, come all! Tom Doak’s Magic House of Mirrors! ”
Yeah, The Loop is pretty trippy. In all the best ways.
Nestled in northern Michigan, between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in a village of 1,000 people, Forest Dunes looks a lot like a destination summer camp. Golf by day, relax under the stars at night. Sing some Kumbaya if you want. But, frankly, don’t do much else. That’s the beauty of it. The “camp” part is also important. You are leaving to learn something here. And all it really takes is two days. Our trio of GOLF.com employees including Dylan Dethier and James colgan, ventured to Forest Dunes for our own summer golf camp, and here’s what we learned.
Its reversible course, The Loop, is magnificent
In this area, I have the good fortune to play quite a few rounds on excellent golf courses. And maybe once a year I’ll end a ride saying to myself, âWow, this is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The Loop is one of those tracks. There is basically no such thing.
Our sherpa for the week was Tyler Tabor, a modest 6 year old disabled person who worked at Forest Dunes for four years. He made it clear when he said, âWe think this is the first and only truly reversible course in America. Â»Need more encouragement?
The loop changes direction depending on the calendar, with the black route on odd days and the red route on even days. (For those wondering, on the 31 or so days of the summer months, they’ll be hosting an event called The Dual, a better two-way ball where players play the course in one direction in the morning and in the opposite direction after. midday. )
And so, any trip to Forest Dunes requires at least two days, one to play The Loop each way, the second of which will really make your head spin. Wait, what hole was that yesterday? Was it a par 4 green from that direction? Oh, that’s the big bunker you played 16 hours agoâ¦ â No golf course invokes the word “yesterday” more than The Loop.
The three images below should help explain what reversibility looks like from above and how important different hole lengths are to the direction the green is heading.
Doak’s outburst couldn’t have happened without Tom Weiskopf
Forest Dunes’ first course is actually called Forest Dunes, and it was designed by Tom Weiskopf long before Doak arrived. Weiskopf originally built the most forested park course for private ownership, but now that it’s public, it can shine alongside The Loop better than ever.
Forest Dunes itself is more than worth your time. It is ranked # 73 in our top 100 courses you can play. With more shade from the trees, this course plays a bit softer on the fairways and greens (although these were going extremely fast the morning we played) and much more difficult on the rough. It’s an inherently different test, especially for the player struggling off the tee (that’s me!). And so when I got an 83 at Forest Dunes one day after shooting an 82 at The Loop, I knew very well which of the two scores was better. The 83, by a full four strokes on my index finger. Anyone who visits Forest Dunes and doesn’t play the original course has missed it. Just make sure you order your tours appropriately. It will play very differently from The Loop.
Distance golf is a hot ticket
Name a golf friend’s destination and determine if there is a major airport within an hour of the property. Chances are there isn’t. Bandon. Sand valley. Streamsong. Pinehurst. Gamble Sands. Pooch. They are all distant! And some obviously more than others (Pinehurst isn’t that far from Charlotte or Raleigh, and Streamsong is sort of close to Tampa), but remoteness is a plus for large golf resorts, it seems. -he. So it makes sense that when Forest Dunes went on sale in 2020, it was acquired by the original developers of Streamsong Resort and its three courses. So yes, another course could be in the maps at Forest Dunes.
When it comes to remoteness, Forest Dunes ranks first among the others listed above. It’s 5.5 hours from Chicago, three from Detroit and easily accessible from Canada. The nearest airport is Traverse City which is not that big, but the beauty of this ride is that the golf course offers at the end of your trip. This rainbow actually has a pot of gold.
Angles matter more than ever!
The Loop Superintendent has one of the most delicate and creative jobs in all of golf. There are no real “starting fields” at The Loop, just flat areas on short grass that you can possibly play from, if the super sticks the starting marker that day. And notice the singularity there. The Loop tees are marked with a single small flag in the ground and the unwritten rule of “Play it around here”.
Due to its openness, there are potential teeing areas everywhere, with most par-3s having a quarter-circle (or more) of potential hit points surrounding the green. Why is this important? Well, that keeps divots from building up, for example. But it also completely changes the way the hole settles on the green.
Since the greens are meant to be played back and forth, it follows that just about anywhere between these vectors is a potential approach shot as well. What the opening of The Loop does by playing a whole round with the same ball, you also have to say “This green is not accessible from here, buddy.” Have I given this inanimate playground a functioning voice and brain? This will be happening at Tom Doak’s Maison des Glaces.