Forest Dunes Bootlegger Short Course Review

Forest Dunes Short Course Review
A view of the crossing of the first and tenth holes.

Forest Dunes Bootlegger Short Course Review

Forest Dunes Bootlegger Short Course
Roscommon, Michigan
Grade: A+
Teacher’s Comments: The spirit of the design is to try creative shots.

Forest Dunes’ new Bootleger “Short Course” is a nice addition to the resort’s already terrific lineup. At present, Forest Dunes boasts a Tom Weiskopf design — which I think is the best course in Michigan — as well as the nationally acclaimed Tom Doak design, “The Loop.”

The Bootlegger is currently scheduled to open for regular play toward the end of July. I had the chance to play a preview round this past week. The course was not yet fully grown in, and yet, I could instantly see the possibilities and appeal.

Forest Dunes Short Course Review
The fifth at Forest Dunes Short Course officially measures 115 yards.

Forest Dunes’ Bootlegger consists of ten holes designed to test your short and mid-game prowess. On paper, the holes range from 65 to 150 yards, but on a daily basis could vary significantly, as there are teeing “grounds” rather than tee “boxes.” The yardage for the day will be displayed on small chalkboards that also will serve as the teeing grounds markers.

Forest Dunes Short Course Review
Forest Dunes’ Bootlegger’s third measures 75 yards.

The Bootlegger was designed by architects Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns. The duo perhaps most famously renovated the Winter Park municipal course in Florida, which Matt Ginella spends a lot of time talking about. Rhebb has worked with Coore and Crenshaw on the Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs and Streamsong Red, among others. Riley Johns had previously worked with Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf associates, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and their associates, Jim Urbina, and Rod Whitman. 

Routed up, across and back down a small hill behind the main clubhouse, the short course presents players with a variety of interesting opportunities. While it would be easy enough to simply try to lob a high iron into every green, I think that the spirit of the design is to imagine creative shots.

On the 75 yard third, for example, I eschewed the wedge and tried to putt the distance with a hybrid, banking off the high right side and back down to the green. I came up a yard short. Given another chance, I’d get there.

Six at Forest Dunes’ Short Course is a 130 yard downhill shot.

The sixth is a downhill shot that — when the grass is fully grown in — will be very tempting to try with a putter. Several of us in the group tried exactly that, but at this point the ground wasn’t quite smooth enough.

Four at Forest Dunes’ Short Course measures 65 yards (53 on this day).

A few holes, such as the fourth and seventh, absolutely require a high lob to hold the elevated green. Most, however, should be approached with the proper mindset: channeling your inner Seve. Try that 3/4 shot with a seven iron. Deliberately aim for a mound (and there are plenty) to see if you can bounce a shot off into the green. Hit a low shot short and let it skip.

When the course is completely grown in, it should play firm like the adjacent Loop course. That’ll open up even more shot possibilities.

In a somewhat unusual turn, The Bootlegger has ten holes, with the first and tenth fairways crossing each other (see the photo at top). What that does, however, is allow players to start and finish adjacent to the clubhouse’s outdoor bar.

An aerial view of the short course. Photo courtesy of Forest Dunes.

When fully in operation, I can envision The Bootlegger as a sort of party central for Forest Dunes. There will absolutely be cheers and jeers for players as they tee off and hole out. Players will be able to finish up rounds on the Weiskopf or The Loop, have something to eat along with a couple of drinks and then head out for a friendly go at The Bootlegger.

The celebratory nature of the course will be amplified by the fact that up to eight players will be allowed in a group. That means that large groups will be able to do what they can’t on the regulation courses: play a round together.

An aerial view of the intersection of the first and tenth holes. Photo courtesy of Forest Dunes

In a way, The Bootlegger reminds me of the Punch Bowl at Bandon Dunes. It’s going to be a place for golfers to relax after a day of serious golf.

Now … about that rumored fourth course for Forest Dunes …

The Forest Dunes Bootlegger Short Course Review was first published June 24, 2020, from a round played June 19, 2020. A photo tour of the Bootlegger Short Course At Forest Dunes follows:

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