Tom Doak and Brian Slawnik to design reversible course in northern Michigan


Tom Doak and Brian Slawnik to design reversible course in northern Michigan
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design team is to design and build a new reversible golf course close to Doak’s hometown of Traverse City, Michigan.

The firm has been signed up to develop a new reversible course at Forest Dunes Golf Club, which will incorporate two distinct layouts using the same greens, but one playing clockwise and the other anticlockwise.

“This is a concept I have thought about for 30 years,” Doak said. “You need the right site and the right client to understand the appeal of it. At Forest Dunes we finally have both.”

Forest Dunes is already home to a celebrated Tom Weiskopf course. Doak was given the task of developing a new course that would encourage golfers to stay on the property for an extra night or two by the club’s owner, Lew Thompson.

“I told Tom when I first met him that if it’s just another golf course, it’s not going to do me or Forest Dunes any good,” said Thompson. “If you can wow me then we can build it. He wowed me.”

“The appeal of a reversible course is people would want to play it both ways. You are getting two golf courses in one,” Doak said. “It is not a super dramatic site, but that’s better for this concept. If you were playing over ravines in one direction, you’d probably have to play blindly out of them the other way around. You can’t have woods behind the green, or you’d have to play over the trees from the other direction.”

One major challenge when developing a reversible course is the greens, something Doak has paid particular attention to.

“They have to work from both directions,” he said. “You can’t have severe greens. You just have to think about all of it at the same time.”

Doak has worked closely with Brian Slawnik, one of his senior associates, on the design. Slawnik concentrated on the design for one direction, with Doak working on the other.

Reversible holes are not a new concept, with many Scottish links courses played in reverse during the winter to spread out the wear and tear of divots. Tom Simpson and Alister MacKenzie are among the list of architects who have experimented with the concept before, designing private estate courses that feature a number of reversible holes.

Doak believes, however, that there is no 18-hole course in the world today that is played in reverse on a regular basis.

Shaping of the holes is set to begin in late September, with the whole project somewhat of a homecoming for Doak, who last work in northern Michigan was the Black Forest course at the Wilderness Valley Golf Club in Gaylord and the Lost Dunes course in Bridgman.

“We are just tickled to have the chance to work close to home and to do something special,” Doak added.