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Monday, October 17, 2005

Forest Dunes G.C. - More great golf in the Traverse City region

6376 Forest Dunes Drive
Roscommon, MI

Architect - Tom Weiskopf
Par - 72 (75 if you add in the 117 yard par-3 19th hole!)
Price - $125, $100 twilight
Conditioning - Five and 1/2 stars (all ratings out of 7)
Design and strategy Four and 1/2 stars (Front nine Three stars, Back nine six stars)
Natural Setting: Five stars
Overall - Five stars
Value - Four stars. ($125 is too much for daily fee golf period.)

Well conditioned daily fee courses are a dime a dozen nowadays (See Atunyote at Turning Stone Casino for overpriced and under designed), but Tom Weiskopf did his best work since Troon North in Northern Michigan. Trouble is the two nines are schizophrenic.

Most everyone agrees that the back is utterly superlative. Its not merely eye popping although it qualifies on that score. It's almost as wild as a Mike Strantz design with bold lines and excellent use of rugged scrubby waste bunkers. The real hook to connessoirs who play the course repeatedly is the stunning strategic options posed by the waste areas and undulating greens.

Unfortunately people also agree that the front is merely good, but nothing unique; nothing we haven't seen before. The round starts promising at the first with a dog-leg right calling for a fade over a perpendicularly set diagonal waste bunker, a solid start reminiscent of the first at Brian Silva's Red Tail in Boston. But from 2-5 the course cuts through the forest for an ordinary feeling four hole warm up.

Weiskopf ratchets up hopes again at 6, with a short uphill par-4 with a fairway bisected by rough and waste bunker and with the second tier guarded by a tall, broad, leafy specimen tree...again its got many play options and even though short can deal out anything from 3-7.

However 7-9 tacks back the the clubhouse for a predictable and needlessly watery finish which has more beauty than brains.

It's all bets off on 10 tee though. Every hole is strong and memorable, particularly the backbone of the course, the long par-4 14th, the equally long par-5 15th and the great contoured green and chipping areas of the 205 yd par 3 16th. 17 is a driveable par-4, a staple he includes on every one of his courses and a design trick he brought back from the UK. 18 summarizes all that came before, daring the player to risk the same pond guarding 8 and 9, but this time since it's a par-5, options abound and make for an interesting end to the match.

If you are still tied, Weiskopf offers a 19th hole modeled loosely on 6 at Riviera as there is a bunker smack dab in the middle of the green. For those purists out there yelling "gimmick" and you pro posers and narrow mined golfers yelling "too tricked up," Weiskopf knew EXACTLY what he was doing and it works just fine. The green is not only severely canted back to front, but also has subtle shaping which funnels the ball mildy AROUND the bunker. If you snooker yourself (read: You DID IT TO YOURSELF), a smart player can recover and sink a 7 footer for par.

Yeah, that's right. I said I liked a 19th hole...that copied from Riviera. Deal with it. Next I wanna see a short par-4 19th hole that has strategic options that pushes the envelope of acceptable parameters. 19 holes? Hey, look at it as free golf.

In many regards, Forest Dunes is like Mackenzie's Pasatiempo in California...a mundane front nine, but a spectacular back nine. While Big Mack's Pasa back nine is nothing short of legendary and it is hyperbole to hope thatWeiskopf's work here will have the same lasting memory as Pasa, the course is still a "should play" on the "must play-should play-play if your in the area" scale and definitely contains the most interesting continuous nine of Weiskopf's career. Sadly, also like Pasa...it's overpriced. Not because it doesn't deliver the goods (it does), but because the price asked by the course is so large. (Note...it is a good deal by comparison to the Traverse City region resort courses which ask almost 2x as much, but High Pointe offer a great test at a third the price.)

For Midwesterners, this course is light years better than Tom Ws work at Quail Hollow in nearby Ohio, so don't be scared off.

One last note on Weiskopf...get out to Troon North and play the Pinnacle Course next.

Pix soon.