Our favorite public course we played in 2021: A day at Forest Dunes – The Loop

Emily Haas

At GOLF.com, our hobby is also our job. That means, just like you, we spend much of the year teeing it up high, swinging hard and trying to avoid double bogeys as much as possible. But some courses we stumble upon are simply more memorable than others. Here, in a breakdown of our favorite public courses our staff played over the last 12 months, are those spots.

The Loop at Forest Dunes, Roscommon, Michigan

When my friends and I received a wedding invite to take place in Northern Michigan, we immediately thought one thing: golf trip. We figured a road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan with a few rounds of golf, a few baseball games and lots of Enya would be more memorable than an indirect flight out of JFK (yuck). 

And, we were right. We played three rounds of golf and crossed Progressive Field and Comerica Park off our stadium bucket-lists (in truth, I didn’t even have one of those until this trip). The most memorable stop though, was to Forest Dunes

A few of my colleagues had made the trip to the remote golf destination earlier in the year, so I asked what course we should play since we only had time for one round. The answer? The Loop by a million. Here’s what it was like:

First Impressions: For a while, we were driving into what seemed like the absolute middle of nowhere. When we finally arrived, that’s when we realized we were in the middle of nowhere — the property is so massive it takes what feels like forever to even see a glimpse of the golf course through the forest from the windy driveway.

The staff was absolutely fantastic — immediately attentive, friendly and welcoming. I knew it was going to be a great day before I even stepped foot on the first tee.

Difficulty: The course is extremely firm and fast. Maybe I just caught it on a great day — I played in early September — but the rock-hard forest floor makes for firm greens, lots of roll and overall tough conditions. I remember thinking the opening few holes were pretty narrow — lined by thick forest — but the course opens up a bit as you play. 

Fun facts: So the reason it’s called ‘The Loop’ is because the entire golf course is reversible, and let me tell you — Tom Doak is an absolute genius. It is by far the most unique golf course I’ve ever played. I’ll paraphrase the starter here, who told us to imagine a giant circle — one day you go clockwise, and the next day you go counter clockwise. The course isn’t actually a perfect circle, but that’s the best way to understand the concept. The greens can be approached from 360 degrees, so what may be the green of a long, uphill par-3 one day, is actually the green of a short, uphill par-5 the next. I often found myself standing in the middle of the fairway, looking backwards to imagine what the hole would be like the next day.

What I loved: I don’t say this lightly… I loved… everything. In fact, after the round I proclaimed to the Twitter universe that it was my new favorite golf course of all time. Aside from the reversibility aspect, one of the coolest things about the course — and the property in general — is the sound. And by sound, I mean the absence of sound — it was so quiet I felt like I was on Mars. You could hit a 200-yard approach shot and hear the ball land on the green from that far away as if you were standing right up there. It was truly one of the most enjoyable, relaxing walks I’ve ever taken. I’m all for music on the course, but put your speakers away for this one and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

What I didn’t love: Since I had a wedding to attend, I was on a tight deadline. Unfortunately my visit was only a few hours, so I didn’t have a chance to loop it back the other way the next day. Even for just one round, it was a worthy trip, but I’ll definitely be heading to remote Michigan again (something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying before this trip) to give the Black Course and Forest Dunes a go.

Favorite hole: The 12th hole stands out in my mind — it’s a short par-4 that tempts you to go for the green. In my opinion, the smart play is to lay up and make an easy par. It’s one of those little holes that just gets trickier the closer you get to the green. 

Final verdict: Between the two courses at The Loop, Forest Dunes, the Bootlegger short course and the HillTop putting course there’s plenty of golf to play for a long weekend trip. The outdoor area behind the clubhouse has tables, fire pits, corn hole and a stellar golf course view — it’s an absolute vibe. This should 100% be a top contender for your next buddies trip.


Emily Haas

Golf.com Contributor