Top Golf Travel Destinations: Michigan's Outstanding Forest Dunes Golf Club
By Chris Lewis
Forest Dunes Golf Course.(Photo by Evan Schiller)
When guests arrive at Roscommon, Michigan's Forest Dunes Golf Club for the first time, they’ll likely notice that it doesn’t have a pool, spa or tennis court. Not to mention, there aren’t any nightlife options either. It’s truly a golf-centric club. Period.
“Forest Dunes offers guests an escape — to a place where high-quality golf, as well as spending time with their friends, are the sole focuses,” says Don Helinski, PGA of America Director of Operations.
As a result of its sole focus on golf, Forest Dunes provides guests a laidback vibe, too. Located in the middle of the Huron National Forest (about 90 minutes from Traverse City and 30 minutes from Gaylord), Forest Dunes has a very friendly staff that fosters a relaxed atmosphere, along with small town charm and hospitality. Consequently, everyone will feel comfortable, whether they’ve visited several times in the past or they’ve never been to Northern Michigan, prior to their visit.
The club’s golf-centric escapism is apparent immediately. Located directly behind its Adirondack style clubhouse, the club’s Forest Dunes Golf Course, a Tom Weiskopf design, has been challenging golfers since 2002, the year in which the club opened. Its front “Forest Nine” holes meander through woods, whereas its back “Dunes Nine” features native, glacial deposit sand dunes, wasteland and underbrush.
“It’s a great match play course with a closing set of four holes that have great risk/reward opportunities,” Helinski stresses. “If a match is still tied after 18 holes, we have a bonus ‘bye hole’ to settle the score: a 100-yarder over water to a green with a large bunker in the center.”
In addition to Forest Dunes Golf Course, the club also offers guests an 18-hole reversible course, the first of its kind in North America. Known as The Loop, it enables golfers to play two completely different courses on the same property. Designed by Tom Doak, the course’s Red routing is available for play on even numbered days, while its Black routing is available on odd numbered days.
As authentic as an Ireland- or Scotland-based course, aside from not being located on water, the English Heathland course features fast, firm fescue fairways that allow golfers to implement a bump and run approach.
“The variety of shot making options enable golfers to have a lot of fun and creativity,” Helinski says.
Aside from the club’s challenging 18-hole courses, it has a 10-hole, par-3 course as well. Since its opening in 2020, The Bootlegger has allowed golfers to relax and work on their short games, while also spending time with loved ones who may be uninterested in playing Forest Dunes Golf Course or The Loop.
Sixteen speakers play throughout the entire course, as groups of up to 12 can golf together, whether they choose to play various team games or compete against one another in individual stroke play. Prior to playing, golfers can visit the Bootlegger Bar, too, which has a front row gallery seat for the first hole and the 10th hole’s green.
“The fun doesn’t stop after the round either,” Helinski emphasizes. “Due to its daily greens fee, golfers can play The Bootlegger, as often as availability allows, for the rest of the day, so it’s common for groups to head out for an additional round or two.”
In order to sharpen their short games even further, golfers can also compete on the club’s 18-hole Hilltop putting course, which Helinski believes “checks the final box for what resorts need for great trip venues.”
“Forest Dunes offers something for everyone, from its par-3 and putting courses, to the immaculately conditioned Forest Dunes Golf Course, to The Loop, a minimalistic, unique course that provides a links-style option without requiring a passport."
Don Helinski, PGA
“And, to ensure friends and family members can spend time with each other away from the courses without any distractions," Helinski says, "they can relax in the club’s cottages, lodge rooms or villas.”
He adds, “In addition, they can simply unwind around a fire, while gazing at the stars and enjoying Northern Michigan’s fresh air.”
Other Fun Courses Near Forest Dunes Golf Club:
Grayling Country Club: Nestled along the AuSable River, this club is opened to guests, offering them 18 holes and several dining options to choose from.
Redwood Golf Course: Located in Roscommon, as well, this 18-hole, par-72 course has a 70.1 course rating and a 121 slope.
Ye Olde Country Club: Opened in 1925, this 9-hole course is roughly 3,000 yards long and less than 20 minutes away from Forest Dunes Golf Club.