Player's club: Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon is a feast for the skilled
ROSCOMMON, Mich. -- The golf course is one part forest, one part dunes and a sum far greater than its parts.
Now enjoying 10 years since it reopened under new ownership, Forest Dunes Golf Club remains one of northern Michigan's top plays.
Set within a 1,200-acre development within the Huron National Forest, the course was designed by Tom Weiskopf amongst one of the state's most isolated settings, located about 30 minutes south of Gaylord in north central Michigan. It's well worth the journey for not only this unique setting but a tour-caliber layout, facilities and conditions.
Forest Dunes Golf Club: The course
General Manager Rocky Papacheck came to Troon Golf-managed Forest Dunes for the 2011 season from Dismal River in the Sandhills of Nebraska, another Troon property. Upon arrival at Forest Dunes, he was blown away by Superintendent Jim Bluck's attention to detail.
"It's the best-conditioned property I've ever had the chance to work at," said Papachek. "You'll probably see Jim out there on the course, hand-watering the greens."
The clubhouse and practice area is set amongst the more open dunes, but this environment changes quickly. The first tee starts out from the dunes and heads towards the green that sits at the edge of the tree line.
From the green until the ninth tee box, you're encircled in forest, hitting doglegs both left and right off the tee. Trees even come into play on the approach shots. One separates two fairways that lead up to the short, par-4 sixth hole. And on the seventh, a long par 5, the green is narrowly tucked behind two tall trees on either side.
With a couple exceptions, the back nine is almost entirely played on wide-open, sandy dunes. The 10th hole is a harsh introduction to a new environment: a sandy waste area splitting alternate left and right fairways.
After the 16th, a mighty, 231-yard par 3 entirely over waste area called "Hell's Acre," the closing holes are ripe for scoring. The 17th is a wonderful, drivable par 4, while the 18th is a reachable par 5 with a big tee shot but has a small green with waste area right and water left.
And if you couldn't birdie either of these two green light specials, the is a bonus, par-3 19th hole; a chip shot a little more than 100 yards played over water to a sloping, Riviera-esque green with a bunker smack dab in the center.
Forest Dunes Golf Club: The verdict
For golfers who want a break from the busier, multi-course resorts of northern Michigan, Forest Dunes' isolated, one-off setting is ideal.
With a large, beautiful clubhouse with high ceilings inside, exceptional practice facilities and a quiet, peaceful golf course kept in top condition, this makes for one of the area's better splurges.
Daily conditions yield tour-ready tight lies and fast greens that usually Stimp 11 to 12. So for low-handicappers players, it may very well be the best of the bunch.