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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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.

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Watch: Dufner makes six (!) fist pumps after birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 4:53 am

Jason Dufner makes Ben Stein seem like Jonathan Winters. Dufner often looks mighty miserable for someone who plays golf for a living.

But not on Friday at the CJ Cup!

Dufner made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and “celebrated” with one-two-three-(pause)-four-five-six fist pumps. There could have been more, but the camera cut away.

That was Dufner’s third birdie on the back nine, which offset a triple bogey at the par-3 seventh, en route to an even-par 72. Good times.

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Watch: Paul C-ace-y makes hole-in-one at CJ Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 2:35 am

Par-par-par-par-par-par. It was a boring second round over the first six holes for Paul Casey at the CJ Cup.

And then he aced the par-3 seventh.

Casey's tee shot from 176 tracked straight towards the hole and rolled in near the final revolution. That got him to 2 under par for the tournament. He was five off the lead, held by Chez Reavie, but bogeyed the ninth and 10th holes to give back those two strokes.

Hey, it's a no-cut event and a guaranteed paycheck. Drinks on Casey!