As one of the most acclaimed globetrotting golf course designers of his generation, Tom Doak has enjoyed his share of great sites, great projects and great clients. From Britain to France, Australia to New Zealand and all through the United States, Doak and his team have a number of modern icons in their portfolio. One suspects that despite all of their success on glorious coastal sites, few projects were as enjoyable as building the second, and third as it turns out, course at the inland Forest Dunes Golf Club in Michigan.
For Doak, who based himself in the state many years ago, working close to home was an obvious attraction. More than proximity, however, was the ability to scratch an almighty design itch that even he must have feared would never come to fruition. That itch was the concept of a fully reversible golf course, with eighteen greens but 36 holes. Opening in 2016, The Loop transformed Forest Dunes, from an 18-hole facility to one that now offers visitors three contrasting, and high quality, loops of eighteen.
Just like the Old Course at St Andrews, whose holes were played in the opposite direction for many decades, at Forest Dunes Doak was gifted a sandy site with only softly undulating ground. More dramatic undulations would have made the reversible concept difficult, because what works from one direction might not from the other. While most of the holes change 180 degrees from day to day, a number through the middle section cut back on each other and feel like completely new entities when switched around. From some greens, it can be hard to remember how the reversible hole actually plays.
The Loop at Forest Dunes is tough to review and difficult to describe, given the complexities of its routing, and the fact that the holes are so different depending on not only the direction of play, but also wind and pin position. It would have been interesting to see how good a single loop course might have been on the same parcel of land, but regardless of set-up, or concerns with the severity of some of the smaller target areas, Doak’s creation is great fun and the sort of course that appeals to walking golfers in particular.