The highly-anticipated Northern Michigan golf course, The Loop at Forest Dunes, opens to the public June 27. The Loop is “the only one of its kind in the world, with it’s 18 greens that can be played in two different directions,” says Forest Dunes Director of Operations, Don Helinski.
Challenging conventional golf course architecture, the reversible course is an idea that Tom Doak—Traverse City’s famous golf course architect well-known for his iconic designs—has been kicking around for almost 20 years. With inspiration from The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland (known as the birthplace of golf) and challenges from those saying it can’t be done, Doak created a unique reversible design that’s drawing the attention of golfers from around the world.
“The key thing was in order to put this into motion and create a course that way, [Tom Doak] has said that he needed the right piece of land and owner or developer who was willing to take a risk on this. Because it could be—I don’t want to say revolutionarily because it was created hundreds of years ago at St. Andrews—but it could be the wave of the future with golf courses,” says Helinski.
Helinski continues, “Was it a big risk? Definitely. But Tom Doak is one of the top-three living architects in the world. He has several of the top-100 courses in the world that he’s designed. So you knew with the name recognition with him and his body of work, that it was going to be a great course.”
With 18-hole Forest Dunes being consistently ranked by leading golf publications—including Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine, and Golfweek—amongst their top courses, The Loop is a great addition to the property. And it’s already been on the radar of several raters for the last few months. But the team wants to stress that The Loop is a much different course than Forest Dunes. Here’s why.
What exactly is a reversible golf course?
It’s a course that can be golfed two ways. The same 18 greens are expertly routed to be played from either direction; each green is used in two completely different fashions. And the course rotates directions each day. Monday the course may model the “Red” course direction, while Tuesday golfers can play the “Black.”
Take for example Hole 6 Red/Hole 12 Black. Helinski explains, “One way it’s a par-3, wide and shallow. The next day, the same green is being used for a different hole that’s a par-4, that’s a long skinny green.”
What else makes this course unique
The Loop is seeded with fescue grass, a cost-saving botanic with high sustainability. But this grass doesn’t take cart traffic well, as it easily shows wear patterns. Pair that with not a lot of room to hide a cart path since the course is reversible—The Loop is walking only. A caddy program is in place, or golfers are welcome to carry their clubs.
How you can play
The reversible golf course will be open to the public starting June 27. In order to play The Loop this year, it is a requirement that golfers are guests at the Resort. While Forest Dunes is continuing to add lodging to support the demand of playing at The Loop, currently there are over 95 beds available at their accommodations, from golf villas to cottages.
Why require an overnight stay? “To appreciate the true genius of the whole concept,” says Helinski, and experience the two different layouts of The Loop, getting to golf one each day. “You won’t even recognize the holes the next day!”
As the season continues, the amount of rounds available on The Loop at Forest Dunes each day will increase, allowing time for the turf to mature. In June and July, only 24 rounds a day are permitted. In August that increases to 36 rounds a day, and by September and October, 48 rounds a day will be available. Needless to say, advanced tee times are recommended.