New owner plans to open a hotel at the celebrated Forest Dunes Golf Club in Michigan
No higher-ranked course has more skeletons in the closet than Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Michigan.
Forest Dunes has had more owners and operators than I can count (or recall) in just over a decade of opening, but none of them have made the place successful.
Maybe that will change under the direction of new owner Lew Thompson, a trucking company magnate from Huntsville, Ark. Thompson, who owns the Bridges Golf & Country Club in Colorado, recently purchased the 7,147-yard course and the seven model homes on the property, as well as the 27-acre Lake AuSable for fishing, canoeing, and beach activities.
Thompson appears to be wasting little time in giving Forest Dunes the financial backing and attention it deserves. An architect has already designed a 22-room hotel with four luxury suites, all attached to the spectacular 23,000-square-foot clubhouse that resembles an Adirondack-style lodge. Building plans will be submitted this month to township and county authorities for approval. A press release claims the project will be finished by July.
“A lot of our members live out of state so when they come in they will have a nicer place to stay than a hotel room,” Thompson said in a statement. “From the research I’ve done, a lot of our golfers play there on their way north or on their way south to play somewhere else because we had no place to house them. We decided to build the hotel so they now will have a place to stay.”
I just praised Forest Dunes, ranked 18th among the best public courses in the country by Golf Digest, as the best public track I teed it up on last year (read here). Tom Weiskopf did a terrific job routing it strategically through a mix of forest and sandy dunes.
Unfortunately, this magical setting inside the Huron National Forest near the Au Sable River has been the course’s biggest curse. Forest Dunes has never gained traction as a golf destination because of the lodging issue. There’s also too little in the way of recreation, dining or no other courses nearby to keep people entertained for longer than a couple of days. At times, it was marketed as a private club, which caused even more confusion among public players. And the greens fee has always been too high for most.
Thompson has already made his first wise move, retaining head professional Donny Fisher and superintendent Jim Bluck, one of the best in the entire state. Let’s see if Forest Dunes can continue this positive momentum once the snow melts. Count me among those rooting for Thompson. This place is special.
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