Forest Dunes’ Short Course Is Named “Bootlegger”

Forest Dunes' Short Course Is Named "Bootlegger" The name pays homage to the property's bootlegger past This is the eighth hole.
Eight at Forest Dunes Short Course comes in at 140 yards.

Forest Dunes’ Short Course Is Named “Bootlegger”
The name pays homage to the property’s bootlegger past.

Forest Dunes’ original course long has been my choice for the best (public) course in Michigan. The Tom Weiskopf design is clever and challenging and yet somehow accessible. It is ranked in the top 25 nationally by all the major golf publications. You can read GolfBlogger’s Forest Dunes Review at the link.

In 2016, Forest Dunes added a brilliant reversible course designed by Tom Doak, which they called “The Loop.” This links style course in the heart of north central Michigan is ranked #45 and #47 in Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and #36 in GolfWeek’s Best Courses you can play.

Last year (2020), Forest Dunes opened a new 10-hole short course designed by two up-and-coming designers: Keigh Rhebb and Riley Johns. The 1, 135 yard course was a great addition to the growing resort, offering golfers a fun place to relax after dinner while engaging in creative play.

That course now is known as “Bootlegger.”

Bootlegger is a curious name until you hear the back story of the land on which Forest Dunes sits.

The property originally was owned by William Durant, founder of General Motors. In the 1930s, the land was sold to members of Detroit’s organized crime syndicates. The gangs made their fortune in smuggling booze in from Canada during prohibition (Michigan had banned the sale of liquor in 1917, three years before the 18th Amendment went into effect).

In its heyday, the property was one of the largest ranches in Michigan, with a private runway, dozens of buildings, an Olympic sized pool, an indoor horse riding area, dance parlor, servants quarters, tunnels and hidden rooms.

It is one of the many rumored final resting places of Jimmy Hoffa.

A view of the crossing of the first and tenth holes.

Ultimately, the property was seized for tax evasion and the ranch demolished.

Forest Dunes now occupies part of that vast acreage.

The name also is appropriate because the course begins and ends near the Forest Dunes’ Clubhouse’s bar, which will no doubt be given an appropriate accompanying name.

The press release follows:

Forest Dunes Announces New 10-Hole Short Course Will be Named Bootlegger

The Bootlegger is aptly named for the early 20th Century mafiosos activities on the property

Roscommon, MI  Northern Michigan’s Forest Dunes, one of the country’s most acclaimed golf destinations, announces that its new short course will be named Bootlegger. The resort’s latest golf attraction opened for limited preview play last fall and will open full time May 6. The 10-hole, 1,135-yard short course was designed by rising stars Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns.

Situated on a peaceful, rolling bulge of land positioned perfectly between The Loop and Forest Dunes courses and near the spacious clubhouse, pavilion, practice area and massive HillTop Putting Course, the Bootlegger, with fun, strategic holes measuring between 65 and 150 yards, is the new focal point and energetic hot spot for golfers of all ages and skill levels.

The Bootlegger was named in homage to the land where Forest Dunes’ award-winning courses now sit. The property was originally owned by automotive magnate William Durant, founder of General Motors and an iconic figure in early 20th century America. As legend has it, a significant parcel of the land was sold to a group of mafiosos (The Purple Gang) in the 1930s.

Known as the Detroit Partnership (if this sounds familiar, they are a central component in Martin Scorsese’s film The Irishman), these mobsters made their fortunes smuggling alcohol from Windsor, Ontario into Michigan—among other less innocuous practices. The Detroit Partnership flaunted their wealth, and perhaps no more ostentatiously than with the construction of the South Branch Ranch, a temple of intemperance that stood on their recently purchased acreage and was regarded as one of the largest ranches in Michigan’s history. 

Rhebb and Johns, who helmed the renovation at Orlando’s Winter Park 9 course, built the course in just 81 days. The two collaborating young architects created a course with entertaining shot values and an unintimidating sense of fun.

“We essentially had carte blanche, which was awesome, and really the only way we could get the project completed in time,” says Rhebb. One of the few requests was to make the course playful––a theme that permeated throughout the design process.

“You don’t often get the chance to get super creative when designing courses, but with Bootlegger we really had the opportunity to have some fun with it. Forest Dunes wanted it to be fun and always engaging, and we were able to express that in the design,” Rhebb adds.

The Bootlegger’s creatively designed greens are constructed to funnel balls toward pin locations, improving the likelihood of ever-elusive holes-in-one, while a few tee shots tempt you to make use of strategic slopes and banks instead of flying it in the air. The greens showcase a variety of subtle shapes, many being bowl-shaped and some resembling catcher’s mitts or tabletops. In addition, music will also be incorporated into the fun with 16 speakers strategically placed throughout the course.

A unique feature on the course will be that holes 1 and 10 are crossover holes. “The land gave us such a great canvas to create something fun that offers a ‘welcoming handshake’ to entry-level players and says ‘this is what golf can be.’ Here you can go out in your flip flops and hit flop shots with a few buddies, try to make an ace on every hole, or use a putter off the tee to try and run one on the green,” says Johns.

Not only does the design lend itself to great on-course fun, its routing also incorporates Forest Dunes’ bustling social scene, with the entire first hole and 10th viewable from the pavilion. “The pavilion is the social hub, it’s where music is playing and people are having drinks, so we wanted to take some of that liveliness and put it into play somehow,” Johns adds.

The prime location of Bootlegger will easily entice guests to play it before or after a round on The Loop or Forest Dunes or any time they’re staying on the resort grounds. Music, bare feet and eightsomes are all fair game on Bootlegger. Rhebb and Johns created an experience that will drive new incredible energy and lasting memories for locals and guests.

Home to the celebrated Tom Weiskopf-designed Forest Dunes course and the innovative reversible Tom Doak layout, The Loop, and the 18-hole two-acre Hilltop Putting Course, Forest Dunes offers one of the most complete and unique golfing destinations for golf aficionados and buddy trips.

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