Forest Dunes Golf Club - Black Course at The Loop
|Middle (W)||70||6078 yards||74.3||131|
|Front (W)||70||4982 yards||68.0||114|
|Back M: 71.7/125 W: 70.5/130||469||179||438||348||187||514||308||146||484||3073||613||414||381||222||489||193||428||529||362||3631||6704|
|Middle M: 68.6/119 W: 68.3/127||434||146||406||324||164||483||296||120||424||2797||546||397||321||195||430||179||393||491||329||3281||6078|
|Front M: 63.8/103 W: 63.2/118||362||88||338||263||127||403||183||97||336||2197||462||368||265||170||382||130||344||403||261||2785||4982|
First Time Golfing in Michigan
I live in Florida and had the pleasure of walking 18 holes on my last trip to Michigan where we visiting Forest Dunes and walked The Loop- Red. I'm not a great golfer, but found the course to be really enjoyable to play, fairly easy to walk and all around a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. We played the Red course, but would love to go back and play it in reverse on Black to see how different it is. Beautiful setting, unique course, especially for the area. Will definitely be back and would recommend to friends in Michigan.
It's billed as a throwback to courses in Scotland and they supposedly maintain it as such. Problem is the climate in Michigan is completely different. The course was completely burnt out. Not a problem except for the greens. They have a lot of small greens with wild undulations that, when burnt out, can't hold a shot. It was not fun. Add in that there is no drinking water on the course, you must walk (fine), there are giant gnats swarming you at all times, and it was 90+ degrees and it's not worth playing. Water the greens, find a bug spray that works, and add drinking water and MAYBE you might have a course. Don't waste your money until they do.
Lets get a Little Loopy
So first-thing first, you have to walk this course . . . and that is where this review ends . . .
Just kidding, located right across the street from the main Forest Dunes course, this course is wide-open. Walking it was definitely enjoyable, albeit a little tiring. Definitely recommend getting the pull-cart. We had about half the group get caddies, which ranged from great caddying to poop caddying (guy did not know the course, not sure he had ever played golf before, was asking other caddies to read putts, etc. etc.). Anyways, if you don't mind a little exercise, definitely play this course. It is get-able and you can go low, just be wary of some hidden traps going in the opposite direction and play it a little shorter because the ball tends to run out on everything. If you're up by the Dunes, I'd advise to play the original course prior to trying out the loop, but to each their own.
Red beats Black at The (reversible) Loop
The most remarkable thing about playing The Loop both ways (it's reversible) is that they really do seem like two entirely different golf courses. Sure, I recognized some of the features from playing it the other direction the day before, but if I didn't know any better and someone drove me around after playing the Black Course, then placed me on the first tee of the Red, I would think I was on an entirely different golf course. And that's remarkable. Perhaps it's just the genius of the forward thinking of Tom Doak, who certainly doesn't do any cookie cutter courses. In this case, the Red Course, though, seems like the more natural of the two layouts on The Loop. It seemed like there were fewer hidden bunkers and the shots seemed a little more out in front of you. By no means, though, is this course straightforward. A caddie the first time around on this walking only course is a must, not only to help you find the lines off the tee but advise where you want to land it on or in front of the greens. It's not for everyone, I suppose, but I like it.
Can't wait to go back again
Prior to even stepping foot on The Loop, I was warned by multiple resort employees that it would play completely different than the Forest Dunes course. Having played several links style course in the Chicago suburbs, and knowing that only a driveway and a parking lot separated the two courses, I was a skeptic. While on the Forest Dunes course, the resort owner, Lew Thompson, stopped by to chat for a minute. He asked if I had played The Loop yet and I told him that I’d be playing it early the next morning. He chuckled and said, “DO NOT play it like you’re playing here. Aim 15 yards short of every green and let the ball run up. I’ve seen balls hit those greens and they end up 20-30 yards past the hole.” Even with those words of advice from the owner of the place, I was still a skeptic.
3 holes into playing the course, I was no longer a skeptic. I knew very quickly that this was a style of golf that I was very unfamiliar with. Links style here, on this course, is real. Other self-purported links style courses that I’ve played are phonies compared to this course. Balls that I flew onto the green would hit, make a hollow thump, and then roll off the back or sides into collection areas. There were no ball marks to be seen on any of the greens. If you don’t land your chips in the perfect spot, be ready to see the ball roll off the green. I putted more balls from 5-10 yards off the greens than I would have ever thought is possible in a round. After hitting driver off the tee on the first and third holes and seeing the ball roll through the fairways into the rough, I learned that I was going to have to be selective off the tee as well. This is not a bomb and gouge course.
So with all of that being said, here’s my advice on how to enjoy your round on The Loop and then I’ll get into my pros and cons of the course.
The Loop is a walking only course. While there aren’t drastic changes in elevation, there are gradual slopes both downhill and uphill throughout the course. Should you typically play rounds riding around in a cart, it might be worth hiring a caddy in order to conserve some energy. That brings me to my second point. I don’t know if I would recommend just going into this course and playing it blind. I suppose it’s doable but you’ll lose some of the fun factor of this course. Should you decide to not hire a caddy to give you tips on how to get around, spend the $6 to purchase a yardage book from the pro shop. Trust me, it’s worth every single penny. In addition to a simple image of the layout of the hole, it gives advice on how to ideally attack the holes and areas to avoid. The yardage book saved me a handful of strokes by helping me avoid deceptive collection areas and by identifying areas where there is a “safe” miss.
Heed all advice the starter gives you. They have a checklist that they run each golfer/group through. It’s all well thought out. Should you go out without a caddy, it can get real easy to get turned around very quickly. The starter gave some excellent tips on how to avoid confusion. And if you didn’t hear it from enough people yet, they will give you some quick tips on how to best play the links style.
Before heading out, make sure you have what you need with you. Since it is walking only, there are beverage carts on the course but they don’t come to you. They are parked off to the side of the course halfway through both the front 9 and the back 9. There is also a well stocked halfway house between holes 9 and 10.
Pros: Playability, playability, playability. This course has wide fairways, multiple tee box options, trees located only in waste areas, no water hazards, and no rough (there are bunkers and waste areas). There is no one “right” way to play a hole. There is no hole that requires a specific type of shot. You can let your creativity run wild when playing this course. You can be as aggressive or as conservative as you want off the tee. I hit driver less than a handful of times. Otherwise, it was 3 woods, hybrids, or long irons off the tee for me. Shots into the greens included high flying wedges, punch 4 irons to run it up, and everything else in between. For me, that is the genius behind Doak’s design and what will make every time playing this course completely unique (on top of the fact that the course is reversible).
Doak did an excellent job when designing this course of “hiding” the fairway bunkers that are in play when playing the course in the opposite direction. I have no doubt that one of the reasons for making this course walking only was to prevent people from crashing their carts into fairway bunkers. From the tee, you may see some mounding out in the fairway which adds some character to the hole. As you walk past that mounding, you realize there is a large fairway bunker on the other side of it. As I walked down the fairways, I loved turning around, looking back, and envisioning how the hole would be played in the opposite direction. They truly are two unique and individual courses.
In addition to the greens being rock hard and repelling approach shots like crazy, they are fast, smooth like glass, and really, really hard to read. The starter told me before the round that the greens are where the course “defends” itself. With the course not having too many other punishing aspects, it still has to protect par in some way. I was told the greens on Forest Dunes were running at a 12 on the stimp. If that’s the case, the greens on The Loop had to be a 12.5 or 13. Should the hole be cut only a couple of paces from the edge of the green or near a ridge, be careful on your lag putting. A handful of times I thought I had hit a great lag putt only to see it roll past the hole, off the green, and into a collection area 6 feet below the green. Even though at times they felt impossibly tough, I loved the challenge of them. I didn’t see the ball hop or bounce on any putt all day. If I missed a putt, I knew the miss was due to operator error.
When walking this course, take a second or two to appreciate the isolation. The silence was refreshing as well as energizing. It’s so different from many courses that are plopped down in the middle of housing additions or resorts,
Cons: I’m being very very picky here because there aren’t too many cons to this course. There are some sections in the fairway where the grass is a little thinner than other areas. With the course just opening last summer, it’s hard for me to question any of the conditioning. As time continues to go by and the course matures more and more, it’s only going to get better and better.
Bugs. Yes there are gnats present throughout the course. Yes they will like to fly around you. Bring bug spray and apply it before the round. If you forget bug spray, they stock it in the pro shop. Buy it. Use it. Nuff said.
Verdict: If I go back to the Forest Dunes resort for two days in the upcoming years, I don’t know if I’ll even play the Forest Dunes course again. I can’t believe I’m saying that about a top 100 course in the US, but I am. I would love to return to play The Loop again in both directions. I feel like I missed out by only playing it one direction this year. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. Lew will tell you he loves the course. Tom Doak will tell you he loves the course. Other well known reviewers will tell you they love the course. Go play it and enjoy this unique course and the unique challenges it presents you.
Friendly tip: I played The Loop the day it was the black course. The black course does not ease you into it. The first hole, a long par 4, is no joke and the second hole, a par 3, requires a very precise iron shot into the green. If not warmed up, it can be very easy to start off with back-to back double bogeys.
A unique experience, to be sure
You really can't call it links golf, and it's certainly not traditional golf. This is a whole new category: reversible golf. This is two courses in one, and my first experience here was on the Black Course, which is the routing when the course is played in one particular direction. It's enjoyable and certainly challenging and best played with a knowledgeable caddie to help you navigate through this maze. I would have given this five stars but felt like this routing was as defined as its flipside, the Red Course. There were times that the hidden bunkers (which flash the other direction) would come out and grab you by surprise with the potential to create a high number. Putting was also a challenge, to put it mildly. And finding the right place to land approaches (usually short of the hole) was paramount.
The Loop Black is fun course to play and easy to walk. The greens and fairways are hard and fast the ball sounds like it is bouncing off a slate pool table. Greens are much more undulated that I expected. Very difficult to gauge where to land the ball on approaches and chips. Fairways are generous but anything in the tall fescue will be a lost ball or punch out. Highly recommend using a fore caddie helps. The Black plays more uphill than Red Course and is a little harder walk. The hard ground can take a toll on your feet wear your most comfortable golf shoes. A must play course
Needs to mature
I was intrigued by the reversible course concept since its announcement. As I usually like Tom Doak courses, I couldn't wait to play The Loop. Unfortunately, I should have waited.
The concept was probably executed as well as it could have been - after you play it in both directions, you'll understand the challenges the design team faced. And someday, both loops may become 4 star (I don't see 5) courses, but not now.
The course needs at least two years to mature into the course it can be. The fairways are quite playable, but still growing in. The greens are very nice and play to about the same speed as Forest Dunes. The problem is the ground (including greens) is so firm, it's quite difficult for an average player to hold a shot on the green, even when taking the links golf approach to landing short. Too many times I hit the shot the caddy recommended, only to see it run off the green, sometimes as much as 40 yards (I've played probably 100 rounds on Scottish & Irish links courses, so I'm quite familiar with playing links-style golf). Everyone we talked to said the course needed 2-5 years to soften up to be more playable.
That said, I applaud the vision and innovation of the owner and designer. And the staff and facilities are top-notch. For those who play it, highly recommend taking a caddy for at least the first loop in each direction (though that contributes to the low rating for Value).
If you only have a chance to play it in one direction, the Red course seemed to flow more naturally and have better green angles than the Black.
Needs to mature
I was intrigued by the reversible course concept since its announcement. As I usually like Tom Doak courses, I couldn't wait to play The Loop. Unfortunately, I should have waited.
The concept was probably executed as well as it could have been - after you play it in both directions, you'll understand the challenges the design team faced. And someday, both loops may become 4 star (I don't see 5) courses, but not now. The course needs at least two years to mature into the course it can be.
The fairways are quite playable, but still growing in. The greens are very nice and play to about the same speed as Forest Dunes. The problem is the ground (including greens) is so firm, it's quite difficult for an average player to hold a shot on the green, even when taking the links golf approach to landing short. Too many times I hit the shot the caddy recommended, only to see it run off the green, sometimes as much as 40 yards (I've played probably 100 rounds on Scottish & Irish links courses, so I'm quite familiar to playing links-style golf). Everyone we talked to said the course needed 2-5 years to soften up to be more playable.
That said, I applaud the vision and innovation of the owner and designer. And the staff and facilities are top-notch.
For those who play it, highly recommend taking a caddy for at least the first loop in each direction (though that contributes to the low rating for Value). If you only have a chance to play it in one direction, the Red course seemed to flow more naturally and have better green angles than the Black.
Favorite hole: Par 3, 11th hole (longest par 3 on the Red at 222 yards). Slightly downhill to a narrow green. Bunkered and protected on the front right with a sharp ridge running into the middle of the putting surface to complicate your putt. In general the hole plays shorter than it's yardage, but given it's length that advantage is offset by a relatively small target. I hit the green with my tee shot, but three putted over the ridge for bogey.
Overall the experience was fun and fascinating. I think the mark of a great course makes you want to immediately play it again and I wanted to do that both counter-clockwise (Red) and clockwise (Black). The Red had a gentle start and a very hard four-hole finish.
Greens too extreme
Hilarious course.. maybe it was because it is brand new.. Even our caddies didn't know what was going on. Some cool designed holes but the severity of the greens will crush people. Not really that fun to play.
The high handicaps that I played with did not finish several holes.. Love the layout ..
I played the Red then the Black. Couldn't believe I was on the same course. The look of each hole changed completely from the new direction. Doak's creative genius is on display here at every turn. The fairways are wide (28 to 55 yards wide). There is no rough. Extreme rough (10 to 18 inch tall sparse heather) boarders every fairway. Balls in the extreme rough are generally findable and recovery with a pitch out is recommended. Bunkers are strategic. They are in all the right places and many would be classed as extreme. Approach shots should be hit with care. You must be very tidy when running up to these greens. In true links style, balls hit to land on the green will bounce and roll off the back into places that are intended to make recovery very challenging. For a North American course the greens are as fast and firm as you will find. General conditions allow for Stimpmeter readings of 10"8" and more.
Mr. Doak has incorporated two unique green complex features that play completely differently on the Red and the Black. There are two Biarritz green complexes and on Black number 15 you will find a PERFECT Redan par 3.
The staff is outstanding! Every member will make sure your visit to Forest Dunes is a fond memory.
Take the time to enjoy this Genius Course in both directions. You will be amazed!
Great Unique Design!!
I was fortunate to be one of the few people to play The Loop, Red and Black, during the preview play that is currently happening. The design is fantastic!! Even though there are only 18 greens, the Red and Black are 2 very different golf courses. The fairways are very forgiving, so you better bring your A game when it comes to short game and putting!! Loved it!! When it completely grows in, Red and Black will rival the best courses in Michigan. Including its neighbor, Forest Dunes. Can't wait to play them all next year!!
WHAT A CONCEPT!!
One of the most beautiful places I’ve EVER played golf. It’s worth the drive and you will NOT be disappointed. The LOOP is one of the coolest concepts in golf, and I would highly recommend a “Stay and Play” package where you can play the Black and Red courses on back-to-back days!!!
If you're looking for a "pure" golf experience in Northern Michigan, this is it!!!!
This was my first time playing here, but certainly not the last! I was fortunate enough to play it last summer during preview play. The course was very firm (the greens may have been some of the firmest I've ever putted on), and sometimes the bounces were a bit unfair, but hey, that's golf! The one thing I would improve is the native area off the fairway. Although the fairways were very wide, they were very firm. One of us would hit a drive, and we would think it was perfect, but it would go bounding into the native area, where we spent a lot of time looking for lost golf balls. Overall, I think the course was a little rough around the edges, but it certainly lived up to all the hype!
Over hyped; don't go.
The hype about this course is just that. I heard another golfer talking about it on the phone and called it "gimmicky." An apt description.
They opened this course for play too soon. It is NOT ready for play. The fairways basically are cross corn rows of grass in many areas that have not grown in. Beneath the grass everywhere are small pebbles in the dirt. The fairways are very hard. You can take a shallow divot, and the ball will roll out a good distance if you keep the ball on line. Of course, that also means if you are not on line, they tend to roll in to the "hazard" areas lining the fairway as there is no rough. To imagine the immaturity of the course conditions, just imagine a course you have played that is in decline and no longer maintained and you have a pretty good idea of this course's condition.
Greens are rock hard. I saw approach shots bounce 8 to 10 feet into the air and barely make a dent in the green. That doesn't mean they are super fast. They are reasonably fast, but not as fast as the greens on the Forest Dunes original course. And they roll true for the most part even though they are sometimes difficult to read accurately.
The course is walking only, and I understand it will always be walking only due to the nature of its reversibility. They are concerned with players driving carts into unseen bunkers facing the opposite direction from the direction the players are playing. The caddie fee is fairly typical of other courses. Of course you can play without a caddie and carry your clubs or use a pull cart, but the knowledge of the more experienced caddies is helpful to more experienced players in navigating the course especially with where to approach the greens given their non-receptiveness to your wedge shot. If you decide to use a caddy, request an experienced caddy. They have experienced caddies and high school or college kids with little or no experience. We had both. There is a difference. If you want a good caddy, ask for Jeremy if you insist on playing this course.
There are NO facilities on the course currently other than a porta potty after the 9th hole. I don't know what the future plans are for this. Also there was no drinking water on the course except an Igloo jug of water after #9 which was TOTALLY USELESS as there were no cups to drink it. It was a fairly warm day when we played, and we would have appreciated having the water. There was a beverage cart stationed after one of the holes to catch golfers who pass by, but it wasn't on the course until we reached it around hole #12 on only one of the two days we played. HOW HARD WOULD IT BE TO PLACE ICE CHESTS WITH BOTTLED WATER STRATEGICALLY AROUND THE COURSE? FOR A FEW DOLLARS, THEY COULD PUT BOTTLED WATER AT EACH LOCATION. OR THEY COULD AT LEAST LET YOU KNOW IN ADVANCE THAT YOU NEED TO CARRY YOUR OWN--WHICH WE DID ON OUR SECOND ROUND PLAYING THE COURSE IN REVERSE..
The course has wide rolling fairways. It looked like it was carved out of a corn field. It reminded me of several courses I have played that also lack any character or aesthetic appeal. There are a few interesting holes such as #18 on the black course which plays uphill from the tee box with a dogleg to the right. It is hard to pick out holes to describe as they are monotonously similar. The best way to distinguish them are the greens. Some of them also are gimmicky like #6 or #11--which was it-- that had a valley running through it. I asked my playing partner which hole it was on and he couldn't remember it either. His response was: "It's hard to remember as there was nothing memorable or remarkable to distinguish the holes. There are no water hazards on the course, and while there are many bunkers on the course, I never landed in one, my partner landed in only one, and I can't remember the other players being in more than one or two. This suggests to me that they weren't that strategically placed to add the difficulty of the course. I kind of feel sorry for Lew Thompson having invested so much in a course that I think ultimately will not add to the draw of Forest Dunes which I have raved about to anyone who would listen over the last 5 years.
The concept of a reversible course was intriguing which is why we played it. Neither of us would play it again or recommend it to anyone else, and this course is definitely NOT bucket list golf. There are many more memorable courses in the area such as at the Tree Tops Resort and Shanty Creek Resort. I suggest you not waste your time or money. I look at as 7 hours I will never get back.
Have you ever played True Links golf..ex: Scotland, Ireland, Aracadia? You don't need divot tools on those courses and you barely can take a divot in the fairway. That is links. Hit a great drive and it keeps rolling into a hazard. That is links. I am playing this next week and played the Old Course 3 weeks ago, so that will be a good comparison.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I couldn't disagree more! I love Doak's design.
Another Gem with a non-Identical Twin!
Have been looking forward to my first trip around the Loop ever since the first shovel hit the ground. It definitely exceeds my expectations. This is the first course I have played in Michigan with no rough. The fairways are accommodating but the greens and the junk are the courses defense. The greens are quick and undulating, no two are alike. The junk is thick and sturdy. You may find your ball in it, but you may not be able to hit it. Keep it in the fairway and get your approach close and you will score well. Thanks to the crew at FD for opening this up for preview play this summer. No question this will be one of the best new courses in America!