When the Golfblogger reviews a course, it’s always with an eye to the bargain: a fun design, with playable conditions at a reasonable price. The course I play most frequently is a mere $15 a round. For that, I get greens in great condition, fairways of well-mowed clover and something resembling grass—but no dirt spots—and the necessity of using most of the clubs in my bag. Most importantly, it’s fun.
A golf course that does all that gets a good grade on my scale.
There are, however, golf courses that fall so far outside those parameters that no review can be offered—only an appreciation.
Forest Dunes is one of those. There’s a reason it’s in G0lf Digest’s list of the top 20 public courses.
Located in Roscommon, Michigan—the middle of nowhere, really—Forest Dunes is an other worldly experience. Cut through sandy pine barrens, I think that it must offer the general public a glimpse of America’s most celebrated of courses, Pine Valley.
There’s not a single bad hole on this Tom Weiskopf design. Every one offers options for angles and club choices. Studying the yardage book is a must.
That’s not to say that Forest Dunes is difficult. There’s no doubt that it can be, but the judicious placement of tee boxes makes it accessible for all skill levels—so long as you play to your actual handicap. As Dirty Harry Callahan once said “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
There are four sets of tees, ranging from 7,141 to 5,032 yards. The course rating is 74.8, with a slope of 142 from the longest tees, and 72.3/137 from the “blues.” (They’re actually labeled as I through IV). At it’s shortest, the course is a 69.8/128. There also apparently is a set of “junior” tees, where the course measures just 3,000 yards.
I played the blues, and thought it challenging, without being overwhelming. I shot a 95, which I think is not bad—maybe even excellent—for a first playing. There are just so many things to think about on this course.
Forest Dunes’ scenery is wonderful. Whether running through a pine forest, through sandy dunes or along a marsh, each hole was both different and memorable. And yet, as carefully crafted as the layout is, there’s still a raw, wild feeling to it. The front nine is cut through a pine forest, while the back nine opens up, with more dunes, marshes and waste areas.
I’d like to describe my favorite hole, but I can’t. Each is worth playing over and again.
And here’s a first for a new “destination” course: it’s eminently walkable—so much so that I wonder why anyone without a mobility handicap would ever consider a cart. I played in long pants, and never broke a sweat.
Course conditions were absolutely immaculate. The fairways are like carpets (another reason to walk—your feet will never light upon such soft grass), the greens perfect, the sand fluffy. Even the waste areas seem to have been weeded and groomed.
The only downside is the price: at $150 a round, I really can’t justify ever playing it again.
But maybe I will. It’s that good.