New 10-hole par-three course taking shape at Forest Dunes

  • Forest Dunes

    Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb have designed a new 10-hole par-three course at Forest Dunes Golf Club

  • Forest Dunes

    Construction is under way with shaping being done by Joe Hancock

  • Forest Dunes

    Concept of the eighth, the longest hole on the course at 155 yards

  • Forest Dunes

    Shaping of all holes has been completed (pictured, the first hole)

  • Forest Dunes

    Grassing is scheduled for August with the course expected to open in summer 2020

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Construction is under way on a new 10-hole par-three course at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Michigan, designed by golf course architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb.

The short layout is being built on rolling land between The Loop – the 18-hole reversible Tom Doak layout – and Forest Dunes – the club’s original Tom Weiskopf-designed course. The site for the par-three course is located near the clubhouse, pavilion, practice area and HillTop putting course.

Johns and Rhebb first met while working for Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia. They have subsequently partnered for the highly-acclaimed renovation of the nine-hole Winter Park course in Orlando, Florida, and the restoration of the William Flynn golf course at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

“We were thrilled at how quickly this project came together this year and with the huge amount of trust Lew [Thompson, owner of Forest Dunes] has given us,” said Johns, who assisted Doak in the initial design and construction of The Loop. “He wants a course that will be fun and playable for his grandkids and any golfer of any skill level, so that’s the main goal we’re keeping in mind as we build holes where you can play a variety of shots and trajectories and take different angles to get to the hole.”

The course will play amongst the oaks and pines as it ascends to the highest point of the Forest Dunes property – known as the hilltop.

The 957-yard layout has holes measuring between 50 and 155 yards. To enable a firm, fast ground game, the course will feature fescues from tees to the edge of the bentgrass greens. There will be bowl-shaped greens as well as some resembling ‘catcher’s mitts’ or ‘table tops’.

“Due to the particular site constraints around the clubhouse area, and in order to get the final hole to return to the outdoor pavilion bar, we had to lean towards two cross-over holes; the first and tenth,” said Johns. “This will be an interesting architectural feature that one typically only sees on older designs and overseas. We are both really excited to try our hand at making something like this work.

“You’ll see some nice shadows, some gently rumpled ground on this course, but playability is our main focus versus trying to make any bold design statement. Because the course is in the middle of property and so visible, it’s really going to raise the level of enjoyment at Forest Dunes. There will always be a gallery of some sort nearby to cheer you on, especially from the pavilion.”

Earthworks began in early June with Joe Hancock playing a major role in shaping. Irrigation work will take place this month and grassing is scheduled for August, with irrigation work taking place this month and grassing of the course scheduled for August.

“When you come to Forest Dunes, we want you to have a good time,” said Thompson, who says he’ll allow music, bare feet and eightsomes on the new course. “What Keith and Riley are building is going to bring a new life and energy to the property. It’s going to bring people together and make their time more enjoyable.”

Talking to GCA about short layouts, Riley said: “Designing a short course frees us up to create golf holes that may otherwise be considered ‘over-the-top’ or ‘too quirky’ for a standard golf course. It gives us creative license to think outside the box and build entertaining golf holes that people don't have to take too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s not about the scorecard, it's all about the fun factor with friends.”

The course is scheduled to open in summer 2020.