As I stated back in my comments about Arcadia Bluffs, northern Michigan can be very rural in some places. Once you get outside of Traverse City there isn’t much development. This point was driven home when I was texting one night with my college roommate who now lives in Michigan. I mentioned that we were in Grayling having dinner and he said “Oh you’re probably eating at Spike’s Keg O Nails.” When I asked him how he knew that the response was “It’s the only place to eat in Grayling!!!”
The next morning we were loaded into the car and on the road early in order to make our 7:30am tee time. Fortunately, we only had about a 15 minute drive to get to Forest Dunes from our hotel. Once again the rustic nature of northern Michigan was driven home by our GPS navigation system. As we were cruising down the road we were instructed to take a right turn in 300 yards. When we came to the “intersection” where we were being instructed to turn there was no road. Well, nothing that I would consider a road. There were two tire tracks disappearing into the woods. According to the GPS we would be traveling on this road for four and a half miles. We stopped and had a short discussion amongst ourselves as to whether we really wanted to drive down this “road” or not. We quickly decided in favor of adventure and away we went. Below is a photo of what the road actually looked like. I literally cannot believe this even showed up on a GPS.
Four and half miles later we came back to a paved road and all was back to normal. After returning to civilization we drove for another 5 minutes and then arrived at Forest Dunes.
Forest Dunes is currently a semi private club that has membership options available but is also open for public play on the Tom Weiskopf designed golf course. For players who wish to stay on the property there are currently a number of furnished homes available for rent as well as plans for a 22 room Inn that will be coming soon.
Upon arrival we checked in with the pro shop and headed to the practice tee to wait for our 7:30 tee time. The early tee times are reserved for members and we were slotted into the first tee time that is available to the public. Once we got the signal from the starter we went to the 1st tee and got things underway. We decided to play the 6,579 yard tees so the yardages below are for those tees. A scorecard with all yardages is at the very bottom.
Hole 1 – 371 yards – par 4
The course starts out with a fairly soft opening hole. Players can choose how much of the bunker they would like to cut off on their tee shot. The further right the line is the shorter the approach to the green.
Below is a look at the approach into the green.
Hole 2 – 422 yards – par 4
Here we have a long par 4 with a dogleg to the left. Hitting a draw off the tee is the ideal shot for this hole.
The front of this green is open and accessible with a low running shot.
Hole 3 – 178 yards – par 3
I really liked this one shot hole. I find there to be something very satisfying about hitting the green with a 5 iron. Note that hole locations on the left side of the green will bring the front bunkers into play which makes the hole play much more difficult.
Here is a zoomed in look at the hole.
Hole 4 – 375 yards – par 4
Here we have a mid length par 4 that doglegs to the right. A tee ball up the left side of the fairway makes for the best angle on the approach shot. Tee balls too far right may be trouble on the second shot.
Below is a view of the green. I wish I had taken a better up close photo of the green. The front part of the putting surface that is visible in the photo below is only about half of the green. The back half is a lower tier. I have not seen many two tiered greens where the back is lower than the front. I liked it.
Hole 5 – 567 yards – par 5
The first par 5 on the course is a fairly stout one at 567 yards. The hole bends to the left and a draw off the tee is the ideal shot here.
Below is a photo of the green which shows some of the contours of the putting surface.
Hole 6 – 344 yards – par 4
This short par 4 is not driveable, but players who elect to hit driver will likely find themselves with 100 yards or less into the green. The photo below was taken from the tee and the bunkers in the distance are only a 200 yard carry. I don’t really see any reason to not hit a shot that would carry the cross bunkers. There is an additional bunker on the right side of the hole that is not visible from the tee and will likely become a problem for anyone that hits a 220-230 yard slice.
Here is a look at the green.
Hole 7 – 497 yards – par 5
The 7th hole is another par 5 and this one is reachable with a good tee shot. A draw off the tee is the ideal shot here.
This green is open at the front which makes it very receptive to players who are trying to reach the green in two. I was in the go zone and hit my 3 wood, but came up a little short. With no penalty for missing short I didn’t seen any reason to not go for it.
Hole 8 – 419 yards – par 4
This hole is a fairly stout par 4 with a dogleg to the right. The bunker on the right takes a 260+ yard drive to carry so it is definitely in play and tee shots need to be carefully considered.
Here is a look at the approach into the green. The best angle to minimize the hazard is from the left side of the fairway.
Hole 9 – 166 yards – par 3
Here we have a fun little par 3 over water. Tee shots that come up short are likely going to find water or one of the front bunkers. It is essential that the tee shot find the green on this hole.
Hole 10 – 402 yards – par 4
The second nine holes start out with a distinctively different feel. Where the first nine hole were in the woods, we start out here in the sand dunes. From the tee players have the option here to play to the left or right fairway. There is a large bunker between the two fairways. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Below is a photo of the boomerang shaped green which is one of the more interesting greens on the course.
Hole 11 – 162 yards – par 3
This par 3 is a fairly straight forward mid iron shot. There are numerous bunkers around the green waiting to catch errant tee shots.
Hole 12 – 372 yards – par 4
This mid-length, dogleg left hole takes us back into the forest. A drive straight down the middle needs to be about 240 yards long in order to have a clear shot at the green with the second shot. Shorter hitters can favor the right side of the fairway to open the hole up a bit more.
Below is a look at the approach into the green. Hole locations on the right will bring the hazard into lay much more than holes cut on the left side of the green.
Hole 13 – 342 yards – par 4
Here we have a fairly short par 4 that is also fairly straight forward. A tee shot down the middle is a tremendous value here as there are trees on both sides of the hole that can block out approach shots into the green.
The photo below is of the approach shot into the green.
Here is a look at some of the contours of the green. I thought this green was an interesting one although the photo does not do it any justice.
Hole 14 – 430 yards – par 4
This long par 4 is rated as the second hardest hole on the course. I got distracted on the tee and forgot to snap a photo, but the shot below is a look into the green. Most players will be hitting a long shot into the green and the bunkers mean that there is not much room for error.
Here is a look from behind the green back up the hole.
Hole 15 – 522 yards – par 5
Here we have a cool par 5 that requires a straight tee shot. Balls that go to the left will be forever lost and balls that go to the right will require a good recovery shot from the woods if they can be found.
An interesting feature of this green site is how the putting surface sits down in a depression below the fairway. The photo below illustrates this but it is more pronounced in person.
Hole 16 – 195 yards – par 3
At the 16th hole we are back out to the dunes portion of the property and are presented with a very lengthy one shot hole. This hole is named “Hell’s Acre” in a nod to the infamous scrub bunker at Pine Valley called “Hell’s 1/2 Acre”. The tee shot here is not for the faint of heart. It is roughly a 170 yard carry to clear the hazard and balls that end up in the bunker are likely to never be found.
Here is a little more zoomed in look.
Hole 17 – 278 yards – par 4
Here we have a very short par 4. The options on the tee are to hit a 200-220 yard shot and have a short pitch to the green or to blast a driver right at the green to try and drive the hole. A player can always opt to hit a 150 yard shot from the tee as well and still have a short iron to the green. I hit driver into one of the greenside bunkers. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Here is a little closer look.
Hole 18 – 496 yards – par 5
The closing hole is a reachable par 5. The best advice here is to hit it as far as possible and find the fairway.
Players who try to reach the green in two will need to hit a good shot as there are bunkers, waste area and water to contend with around the green. The safe and smart second shot here is a layup.
After we finished on the 18th hole I put my camera away and didn’t realize that we had one more hole left to play. I’m afraid I forgot to get it out and missed taking photos of the 19th hole. This short par 3 hole with a bunker in the middle of the green plays from either 117 yards or 97 yards and is an opportunity to resolve any unsettled bets. It’s a fun little shot over water.
I had a great time playing Forest Dunes and really enjoyed the course. I thought a number of greens were very interesting and unlike anything I had personally seen before. I also liked the way the course transitioned between the forest and the dunes which contributed to the variety of holes and kept things interesting. In an area that has a wealth of public golf golf options, Forest Dunes is a standout and clearly should not be missed by anyone coming to Northern Michigan for a golf trip.