Northern Michigan’s Forest Dunes, one of the country’s more acclaimed golf destinations, has a name for its new short course – Bootlegger. The resort’s latest golf attraction opened for limited preview play this past Fall and will open full time May 6. The 10-hole, 1,135-yard short course was designed by rising stars Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns.
Located on a peaceful, rolling bulge of land between The Loop and Forest Dunes courses and near the clubhouse, pavilion, practice area and massive HillTop Putting Course, the Bootlegger has holes measuring between 65 and 150 yards.
The Bootlegger’s name pays homage to the land where Forest Dunes’ courses now sit. The property was originally owned by automotive magnate William Durant, founder of General Motors and an iconic figure in early 20th century America. As legend has it, a significant parcel of the land was sold to a group of mafiosos (The Purple Gang) in the 1930s.
Known as the Detroit Partnership (if this sounds familiar, it is a central component in Martin Scorsese’s film The Irishman), these mobsters made their fortunes smuggling alcohol from Windsor, Ontario into Michigan. The Detroit Partnership flaunted its wealth – perhaps no more ostentatiously than with the construction of the South Branch Ranch – a temple of intemperance that stood on its recently purchased acreage and regarded as one of the largest ranches in Michigan’s history.
Rhebb and Johns, who led the renovation at Orlando’s Winter Park 9 course, built the Bootlegger course in only 81 days.
“We essentially had carte blanche, which was awesome, and really the only way we could get the project completed in time,” Rhebb said.
“You don’t often get the chance to get super creative when designing courses, but with Bootlegger, we really had the opportunity to have some fun with it. Forest Dunes wanted it to be fun and always engaging, and we were able to express that in the design.’’
The Bootlegger’s greens are constructed to funnel balls toward pin locations, improving the likelihood of holes-in-one, while a few tee shots tempt you to make use of strategic slopes and banks instead of flying it in the air. The greens showcase a variety of subtle shapes, many being bowl-shaped and some resembling catcher’s mitts or tabletops. In addition, music is incorporated into the layout, with 16 speakers strategically placed throughout the course.
A unique feature on the course will be that holes 1 and 10 are crossover holes.
“The land gave us such a great canvas to create something fun that offers a ‘welcoming handshake’ to entry-level players and says ‘this is what golf can be.’ Here you can go out in your flip flops and hit flop shots with a few buddies, try to make an ace on every hole, or use a putter off the tee to try and run one on the green,” Johns said.
The Bootlegger’s routing also incorporates Forest Dunes’ bustling social scene, with the entire first hole and 10th viewable from the pavilion.
“The pavilion is the social hub, it’s where music is playing and people are having drinks, so we wanted to take some of that liveliness and put it into play somehow,” Johns said.
Photo Credit: Forest Dunes