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Tom Doak to design reversible course at Michigan’s Forest Dunes

Forest Dunes Golf Course
Forest Dunes Golf Club
Forest Dunes Golf Course

Tom Doak does so much globe-trotting for his architecture career, it’s probably tough for him at times to figure out whether he’s coming or going. His new reversible golf course at Michigan’s Forest Dunes will offer the same challenge.

Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design associates will create a reversible course for the Forest Dunes Golf Club, in Roscommon, Michigan, some three hours north of Detroit. An announcement from the club states that they will expect to break ground this September.

Reversible golf has an ancient tradition, dating to a pre-1850s version of the Old Course at St. Andrews. It has been little used since.

“The appeal of a reversible course is people would want to play it both ways,” says Doak. “You are getting two golf courses in one.”

That said, Doak is fully aware of both the enticements, and of the difficulties of designing such a course. In 2011, he stated in a post on Golf Atlas, “I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a reversible course, but I say that understanding that it would be EXTREMELY hard to pull off. The real trick is that all of the golfers (and especially everyone on GCA) would try to determine whether the course was better clockwise, or counter-clockwise…and if either one is clearly better, then the reversible aspect is compromised. So, it’s almost like you would have to deliberately make some holes better in each configuration. And it would only have a chance to work on certain kinds of topography…if the site is very undulating, there would be a lot of blind shots.”

Apparently, Doak is fully satisfied with the piece of ground he was given at Forest Dunes, stating that the land is perfect because it has small undulations and is not hilly. Doak asserted that as far as he knew, there were no other 18-hole courses in the world today that are played in reverse on a regular basis. Oregon’s Silvies Valley Ranch, a Dan Hixson design, is expected to be another. It broke ground in 2010, and continues to be under construction, with no definitive opening date. A Hale Irwin design in Idaho, Teton Reserve, touts its reversible status in the very first paragraph of its web site, but it isn’t actually set up for reversible play at this time, according to a club representative.

As far as other reversible course go, the upper Midwest of the U.S. is a hotbed of 9-hole and par-3 action. Former PGA Tour professional-turned-architect Joel Goldstrand established several nine holers in Minnesota, notably the par-36 Prairie Ridge. Robert Trent Jones Jr. created a reversible par-3 layout for Cragun’s Resort in the Brainerd, Minnesota area.

Doak had big shoes to fill, considering the huge success of Forest Dunes’ existing Tom Weiskopf course (and the size of Tom’s feet), which climbed into the GOLF Magazine U.S. Top 100 in 2013, and which jumped to Number 21 in our 2014 Top 100 Courses You Can Play list. Doak had to wow Forest Dunes’ owner, Lew Thompson, to get the job. He did. With this being a “home game” for the Michigan-based Doak, look for a stellar effort to make its two-sided debut in two years.

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