New ownership brings new life to Forest Dunes Golf Club in Northern Michigan

By Jason DeeganJuly 11, 2013, 9:07 pm

ROSCOMMON, Mich. - Lew Thompson spent the better part of a recent sunny summer Sunday at his Forest Dunes Golf Club in a golf cart.

Thompson, a trucking company magnate from Huntsville, Ark., wasn’t just playing golf at the magnificent Tom Weiskopf design he bought in 2011. He drove up to almost every customer, asking how their day was going, where they were from and what they wanted done better next time they visited.

Thompson’s hands-on approach aims to protect his investment. He’s spent more than $2 million on the property, including the addition of the $1.5 million luxury Lake AuSable Lodge this spring.

Forest Dunes has always been northern Michigan’s enigma. No other course in the state has been more lauded by critics creating those coveted “best of” lists. Yet the 7,116-yard layout has chewed through course owners and operators like rabbits run amok in a garden. 

Thompson seems to have the club headed in the right direction for the first time since it opened in 2002.  General Manager Todd Campbell said Forest Dunes sold 15 real estate transactions last year, compared with none the previous seven years combined.

“The lodge has had a positive impact. Rounds have almost doubled from last year,” said new head golf professional Chad Maveus.

View tee times at Forest Dunes and more golf courses in Northern Michigan

Maveus, a former assistant golf professional hired away from Pebble Beach Golf Links, is another key piece in the evolution of Forest Dunes. Some would argue that leaving the iconic ocean cliffs of the Monterey Peninsula for the backwoods of northern Michigan wouldn’t be a wise career move, but that’s not entirely true. Pebble Beach sits atop Golf Digest’s rankings of America’s “Top 100 Public Golf Courses”, but Forest Dunes isn’t far behind at no. 23. Golfers love how many risk-reward scenarios Weiskopf built into the round, especially the drivable par-4 at no. 17 that plays a mere 278 yards from the blues. The sandy waste areas of the back nine looks like the Sandhills of North Carolina or Nebraska.

“It is such a special property with a phenomenal golf course with so much potential,” said Maveus, 38, who has roots in the Midwest.

The 14-room lodge features standard rooms on the first floor (some are adjoining) and two spacious second-floor suites with kitchens and a fireplace. Its décor reflects the same Adirondack architecture of the spectacular golf clubhouse, using hardwoods, cedar shake siding and a stone exterior.

Forest Dunes Lodge

The new lodge at Forest Dunes. 

Forest Dunes has gotten into the wedding business as well. The first wedding of the summer sold out the lodge, forcing Thompson to stay somewhere else on Saturday night. “I built the lodge too small,” he said with a laugh.

There’s plenty of room for development, either more lodging or homes. The 1,500-acre property currently has 152 deeded lots inside the scenic Huron National Forest.

Thompson’s best move to date has been retaining Superintendent Jim Bluck, who keeps the course in immaculate shape year-round.

“These are the purest public course greens you’ll ever play,” said Ryan Alsup of Birmingham, Mich., after a recent round. 

Alsup and friend Ken Bortnick of Bloomfield Hills said they almost flew to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon before deciding instead on Forest Dunes closer to home. Playing Forest Dunes over Bandon Dunes? Working at Forest Dunes over Pebble Beach? There were times during this club’s checkered past when none of this seemed possible. It’s reality now.

“I’m appreciative that we have this in our backyard. It’s overlooked. It is such a treasure,” Bortnick said. 

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.