Michigan Golf at Forest Dunes
Great Michigan Golf at Forest Dunes
By Jim Grosjean, Golf Talk America Senior Staff Writer & Travel Editor
Gaylord, Michigan is rightly known as America’s Summer Golf Mecca. There are almost too many excellent courses to choose from; certainly too many to play on any one trip. You don’t have to travel far from the friendly town of Gaylord to get your fill of fine golf, but you should definitely consider taking the 40 mile trip south to Roscommon, Michigan, home of the Tom Weiskopf designed Forest Dunes Golf Club.
Touted as a “bucket list” type of course, Forest Dunes has been racking up the awards since its opening in 2002. It has been on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses list, top 20 Golf Digest’s America’s Greatest Public Courses, Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses, and Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play list, just to name a few. Those accolades establish Forest Dunes as a “must play” destination. Its name, while seemingly contradictory, is actually quite descriptive of the nature of the topography at Forest Dunes. While some of the course winds through tall pine and aspen groves, a good portion of the course traverses alongside some serious sand dunes. The first hole gives you a taste of both; you play your tee shot over the dune, but you must stop the ball before it rolls through the fairway into the trees. Since the hole doglegs to the right, choose your landing spot wisely; you can probably aim farther right than you think. The next few holes continue into the forest until you emerge at your second shot on the par four eighth hole, one that will take your breath away. You will need all your focus to play a shot onto the narrow green guarded by bunkers and water on three sides. Chances are good, though, that you’ll be mesmerized by the view of the lake, the beautiful ninth hole, and the stunning clubhouse in the background. This is one of the coolest shots in golf.
The par three ninth brings that view into clear focus. Your shot must carry the lake and stop on a pretty shallow green surrounded by bunkers, and the green itself has lots of undulations. You’ll want to stop at the turn and see if the grillmeister is cooking up brats or dogs or burgers on the patio to get you through the back nine.
The inward nine is where you’ll really get to enjoy the dunes, hopefully from a distance. The tenth hole has a dune running right up the middle of the hole, giving you a choice to go left (longer, but safer), or right (shorter, better access to the green, but more dangerous). I always choose the right and I always regret it; I guess I’m stubborn. This side of the course is shorter than the front, but mistakes tend to accumulate here, so I can’t say it’s easier. You may want to gather yourself before you play the 14th hole, and it just so happens there is a rest stop that doubles as a storm shelter just off the tee. This particular shelter is plush by any standards, including its own fireplace if the inclement weather is chilly. Don’t get too comfortable, you still have plenty of golf left to play. The par 4 14th is all you want from a golf hole. The longer you carry your tee shot, the narrower the landing area. If you play safe, you’ll likely have a 200 yarder to a green sitting next to a lake with bunkers on three sides. That’s a stout test. The 17th hole is remarkable for being so short. It’s drivable for the long hitters but a slightly misplaced layup could spell double bogey. You will finish your round with a very fair par 5 taking you back to another great view of the clubhouse over the lake. If you still have a bet to settle, the 117 yard 19th hole provides your last chance to make money, just stay out of the sand trap in the middle of the green!
Forest Dunes was conceived as a private course, but unfortunately the economy didn’t cooperate, so public golfers get to reap the rewards of playing this great golf course. Up until recently, lodging opportunities were limited to a few furnished homes on the property. While perfect for families or golf groups, they were a bit much for a twosome. The recently opened AuSable Lodge fills that need. There are 12 comfortable rooms on the first floor and two, two-bedroom suites on the second floor. The lodge is only 35 yards from the first tee and just a wedge shot to the clubhouse. The dining room in the clubhouse provides excellent service, very fine food, and a terrific view of the course until almost 10pm in the summer months. Two northern Michigan staples, whitefish and planked salmon are well presented here and the mushroom soup was the best I’ve ever had. It’s great to have such a good restaurant on the premises, especially considering the remote location of Forest Dunes.
Besides golf, much of the activity at Forest Dunes revolves around the 27 acre Lake AuSable. Seasonal swimming, year-round fishing, and canoeing provide great outdoor fun in a serene atmosphere where the air is crisp and clean. The nearby AuSable River is known as one of the greatest canoeing rivers in the Midwest. On July 27th-28th, the 66th annual AuSable River Canoe Marathon will take place, covering 120 miles from Grayling to the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, Michigan. The race begins at 9pm, making it tough for competitors and spectators alike!
There are plenty of reasons to visit this part of Michigan; it’s a true sportsman’s paradise, but at Forest Dunes, golf is king, and it’s truly a worth-while destination. Get all the information you need at www.forestdunesgolf.com.