Golf Travel: Returning to The Loop (Michigan)

Forest Dunes Clubhouse

Roscommon, Michigan was already a golf destination with its Forest Dunes golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. Roscommon is located one hour East of Traverse City and four hours North-West of Detroit and the town doesn’t offer much of a night-life for visiting golfers.

So once you are on the Forest Dunes property, it’s all about golf.

Sculpted out of 500 acres of heavily wooded land within the Huron National Forest, the Forest Dunes Golf Club features five sets of tees making it playable for all levels of golfers. Different varieties of Bentgrasses are featured on the tees, fairways and greens on the course that measures from 4993-7113 yards.

Throughout the course, Weiskopf has utilized the natural fescue grasses of the area, the century old red and jack pine trees, ponds and waste-bunkering to frame many of the holes. Variety, it is said is the spice of life, and variety is what you get when you play the course for no two holes are alike.

THE LOOP

Now there’s a new and revolutionary golf course named The Loop at Forest Dunes, designed by Tom Doak and open for play giving the Forest Dunes property three 18-hole golf courses.

Forest Dune’s owner Lew Thompson wanted another course built on his property to keep golfers an extra night or two after playing the Weiskopf course and his criteria for the new course was that it had to ‘wow’ him.

“Wowed” by the concept of a reversible 18-hole golf course, Mr. Thompson gave the go ahead and ground was broken in 2014.

Tom Doak, a world-class golf course architect and Traverse City resident, and his Renaissance Golf Design team took on the task of building a reversible golf course – two distinct layouts using the same greens but playing clockwise one way and counter-clockwise the other.

In a press release, Mr. Doak is quoted, “This is a concept I have thought about for 30 years. 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”

As I wrote in an article in the spring 2015 edition of Flagstick Golf Magazine – I had the privilege of touring the site in an all terrain vehicle and was shown site lines for the course tees, greens and fairways from both directions. It’s a wonderful concept and I can’t wait for a return visit to play not only the reversible course but the Forest Dunes layout again.

My return visit took place in late September of 2017 and I was not disappointed in what I found.

With much public interest, The Loop had opened for play on June 27, 2016 and it is the first fully reversible 18-hole golf course in America. Being reversible means that the direction of play on the Loop changes each day. The Red course plays counter-clockwise with red flags on the front nine and white flags on the back. The Black course plays clockwise around the Loop with white flags on the front side and red flags on the back. When you play the black course and reach the first green, you are also standing on the 17th green on the red course.

My game on The Loop began on the 1st tee of the Black Course to the left of the finishing 18th green for both of the Black and Red Courses. The three sets of tees on each hole are located on a portion of the fairway and they seem to be an afterthought. Much the same as at St. Andrews many years ago where players would tee off in close proximity to the hole just completed you might have to look around for the tee grounds.

As I played the 1st hole, I took the time to look back occasionally to see how the finishing hole on the Red Course would play. Bunkers that were evident playing one way were hidden when played on the opposite routing.

As I did, I would suggest this procedure on every hole to all first-time golfers playing The Loop no matter which course you are playing.

The Loop is wide open no matter which direction you are playing and thus susceptible to wind. Fairways are composed of a mixture of fescue grasses on the sand based property. There are areas of tall fescue rough and occasional Jack Pines to avoid as well as approximately 50 bunkers strategically located to be a hindrance no matter which direction you are playing along with many more sand waste areas. There are no streams, ponds or lakes on The Loop to worry about. Fairways and greens are rock hard allowing an abundance of roll and care has to be taken to allow rollout for shots from fairways to greens.

Play on The Loop is dictated by the firm terrain and most shots whether from the tee or the fairway will roll. It may take a few holes to realize that shots hit to the flagstick will not generally hold and the back of the green you are playing is often a resting place for your ball.

As for spectacular or panoramic views you can find on many courses, they are not evident on The Loop’s 200 acres. What is spectacular is The Loop’s underlying beauty. Your concentration is on the task of keeping your ball in play on a variety of different length holes. There are no immediate visual distractions to take away from your objective while playing which is to get your golf ball into the hole.

Upon reflection, I feel that Mr. Doak has enhanced my golf experience with his reversible golf course. Aside from the routing of the course changing on a daily basis, The Loop will continually provide a challenge because of its open terrain susceptible to changing weather conditions.

Notable on The Loop is the fact that power carts are not allowed. The Loop is a walking only course. You can carry your clubs, walk with a push cart or take a caddie. Even the staff have to keep their beverage carts on the service roads near the fairways.

The Loop should be on every golfer’s bucket list.

Clubhouse, Practice Areas and Accommodations

Let’s take a look at the clubhouse and practice areas at Forest Dunes. The clubhouse houses a fully equipped pro-shop with PGA of America golf professionals in attendance. Sangomore’s Restaurant offers a grand dining room as well as a grille room and bar. Apart from an extensive menu and a multitude of televisions usually programmed to sports events, there is also a dedicated cigar menu as it seems many visiting golfers appreciate a good smoke. In addition to the indoor facilities, there is an expansive patio featuring a fire pit and a small outdoor open-air bar/restaurant. Whether you choose the indoor or outdoor areas, they are all perfect spots to reflect on your games on either the Forest Dunes course or The Loop.

Before or after your game, the full length practice range and short game area awaits your use. A natural grass putting course was also in the final stages of completion when I made my visit.

Apart from their two-story Lake Ausable Lodge located steps from the clubhouse and the first tee on the Forest Dunes course, villas and cottages are also available on the property.

As I indicated earlier, the Forest Dunes golf experience is all about golf with no other distractions while on the property. As their brochure indicates, there is no pool or spa available on site, just 54 golf holes offering great tests of your game located in the Northern Michigan Forest.

Whether you come on a golf trip by yourself or with a group of buddies, Forest Dunes can provide all of the golf experiences you require.

Forest Dunes – www.forestdunesgolf.com

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