50 Words or Less
The Forest Dunes golf course at Forest Dunes resort in northern Michigan is very beautiful. A mix of elements that works at times but sometimes doesn’t. Fairly easy for strong drivers.
What’s in a name? At Forest Dunes, quite a lot. The name sounds like a contradiction, or at least two elements that don’t mix. And that’s fitting for a course that’s self-described as “a parkland-style classic with modern enhancements.” In this review, I’ll discuss whether or not this is a recipe for greatness.
The practice facilities at Forest Dunes are solid. There’s a good range with ample grass hitting area and several target greens. It is a short walk or cart ride to get from the range to the first tee.
On your way to the first tee, you’ll pass a large putting green. Take a few minutes to hit some lag putts as the greens at Forest Dunes are rather large.
Customer Service & Amenities
Forest Dunes offers guests free push carts, but this is not a walking course. The distances between green and tee are too large to keep a good pace. This isn’t the only reason to ride – the electric carts have excellent GPS systems which will help you plan your tee shots.
As you make the turn, you’ll drive past the main clubhouse. You can stop inside and grab some of their quick lunch items to go as you move to the back nine.
If you need more golf in your day but can’t handle a full 36, Forest Dunes offers the Bootlegger – a 10-hole short course – and the Hilltop Putting Course.
Forest Dunes does offer several types of overnight accommodations. We were not able to stay on property, so I can’t speak to their quality. The customer service throughout the resort was adequate.
Beauty & Scenery
Forest Dunes is a beautiful, varied course. Sprawling across 500 acres in the Huron National Forest, it has a little bit of everything. There are tight, tree-lined holes and others that are wide open. You’ll encounter sandy waste areas, fescue, and water hazards. On a blue sky day, it has a color palette that contains everything you could want in a golf course.
Forest Dunes is a tee shot golf course. If you can drive it straight with reasonable length, you’re going to score very well here.
This course is home to a multitude of doglegs, rarely allowing you to hit it as far as you want on a straight line. From the 6,550 yard tees, your drives are often capped at about 260 yards unless you have supreme accuracy or simply don’t care.
Whether tree-lined or open, the fairways at Forest Dunes are average in width. There is some variance form hole to hole, of course, but you generally need above average accuracy to find the short grass. Doing so is a priority because there are plenty of trees inside the tree line that compromise approaches from the rough.
Finally, if you drive it into the tree line, your ball will be lost. There’s tall, dense foliage under the trees that discourages searches for errant tee shots. If you’re driving it wildly at Forest Dunes, you’re going to pile up a massive score.
If you find the fairway with your drive, your approach shot should be hassle-free. There’s minimal movement in the fairways, so your stance should be flat and level. The grass is lush, offering premium, driving range lies. Outside of driving the ball into a divot, you have no excuse for a bad approach at Forest Dunes.
Should you find the rough, your second shot may be compromised. The rough itself is not a tremendous challenge – it’s short and not terribly thick. The problem comes from the trees. As I mentioned earlier, there are more than a few trees in the rough that can completely block out your approach. If the fairways were miles wide, I might find this more acceptable, but many of these trees will turn decent drives into scrambling bogeys, which I dislike.
Whether from the rough or fairway, the large greens make the approach shots very mild in terms of difficulty. The greens are quite receptive to approach shots. Additionally, their contours are gentle, so you don’t need to hit a particular segment of the green to have a good putt.
Greens & Surrounds
Around the green, the undulations are soft, mirroring the putting surfaces. They’re also uniformly covered in rough, which makes the short game aerial-only. With the greens being receptive and modest in their shaping, there’s no reason not to pitch the ball aggressively at the hole.
The main defense of the greens is the army of bunkers. There are traps everywhere, with most of the bunkers being large but not deep. The bunkers also reflect the course’s inconsistent personality. Most of the bunkers are perfectly shaped and neatly trimmed, but others have wild edges and tall native grass. Were this merely aesthetic, it would be easier to overlook, but several bunkers have waist-high grass only along the edge nearest the hole which is a harsh and random penalty.
Once you’re on the green, you can putt aggressively. There is substantial movement across the entire length of most greens, but it comes in small, modest slopes. The greens are smooth but substantially slower than those at The Loop [review HERE]. If you can control your distance on the long putts, you will pile up great putting stats at Forest Dunes.
The old cliche tells us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What one person regards as a brilliant mix of elements, another will find to be a seemingly random mishmash. When it comes to Forest Dunes, I am in the latter camp. While I can appreciate the aesthetics of the course and the mix of tree-lined and open holes, many of the things that affected play felt unintentional or thoughtless.
I’ll add that while the course has a lot of aesthetic variety, the play is quite uniform throughout. You’re required to hit accurate, long-enough drives to set up straightforward approach shots. Around the greens, there aren’t many opportunities to do anything other than hit pitches and bunker shots.
Forest Dunes closes with a bye or 19th hole (above). It’s a short par 3 over water with a bunker in the middle of the green. This is also one of the most aggressively sloped greens on the course. Whether you use it to settle bets or just for a little bonus golf, it’s a fun inclusion.
With The Loop and Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Michigan is home to two courses that are as different as can be. In our group, there was a sharp divide with two favoring the former and two the latter. While there’s no telling which you’ll prefer, both courses offer something outside the ordinary.