A Strikingly Beautiful Setting, Spectacular Bunkers,
and Challenging Greens at Black Forest
If you appreciate classic design on land that was naturally destined to become a superb golf course layout, you'll want to play Black Forest again and again. It is one of those rare golf courses you can never tire of playing because it will present you with a different look and challenge every time out.
Doak's canvas was nearly 400 acres of native Michigan evergreen and hardwood forests to which he carefully added some of the most visually stunning bunkering and multi-contoured greens you will find anywhere in the world. The combination of trees, sand, grasses, and elevation changes are a veritable feast for the eyes. You'll have to force yourself to ignore the view for a moment to focus on hitting the ball.
“This is one of the courses that you hardly ever see another golf hole. The course is ripped through some of the finest golf course property I have ever seen. You feel like you are secluded in a forest of golf holes that will go on forever,” described Dan Rusnak on GolfChicago.com. You won't be hitting through tunnels of houses in a real estate development because there's not a single house on the golf course site.
Black Forest was Michigan resident Doak's first acclaimed design, and he has risen in esteem ever since to stand with the premier architects of the game today. His “minimalist” approach is appreciated for its respect for existing terrain, a preference for shotmaking skills rather than unbridled power, and economical construction which helps keep golfers' fees reasonable.
You'll Face More Than 100 Bunkers, Each With a Purpose
From the first tee shot, the bunkers will command your attention. Some are there to guide your strategy; others are positioned to punish a foolish or errant shot. It's inevitable that you'll find yourself in one or more during the round, so practice your fairway bunker nip and your greenside bunker explosion techniques before your Black Forest experience.
The Black Forest bunkers represent a “retro” approach that launched an industry trend. During his apprenticeship with Pete Dye, Doak built most bunkers with flat bottoms and grass banks. But prior to designing Black Forest he traveled the length of California for the sole purpose of analyzing bunkers on the great coast courses. “And then we came back to Black Forest and started to build bunkers in the same style,” Doak explains. “That doesn't seem too radical of an idea today because lots of architects are now building the same style of bunkers, but in 1990 they weren't and it got the course a fair amount of attention.”
The Key to Scoring is Around and On the Green
Slow, flat greens are boring. Fast, severely sloped greens can be a nightmare. But well-maintained greens with a variety of slopes, swales, and mounds, mowed for a speed appropriate to the contours, are a challenge that any golfer can appreciate.
Black Forest's greens are a marvelous equalizer. The bomber will quickly realize that position on the green with respect to the hole location is more important than brute force. And the player adept at chipping and approach putting will have numerous opportunities to win holes.
From the beginning of his career, Doak has believed that the most important part of a golf course is its greens. “The tilt and contour of our greens reward the player who is hitting his approach from a particular side of the fairway,” he says. “There are also good and bad spots to miss every approach shot, depending on the hole location, so the player who knows the course can hedge to one side of the hole for safety, and the player who aims right at the flag will sometimes take his lumps.”
Black Forest is Not Just for Low-Handicappers.
There's a Set of Tees for Any Skill Level.
The USGA men's Slope Rating from the 7044-yard tips at Black Forest is 147, one of the highest in Michigan (by comparison Oakland Hills / South is rated 140 under non-U.S. Open conditions).
For golfers who don't blast their drives 300 yards, there are four other sets of tees at Black Forest which present similar trials with shorter routes. On some of the holes, the difference is quite significant. For example, on the par-4 2nd hole, the championship tees are 443, the blues 421, the whites 415, and the reds 367, but the new forward green markers are only 184 – a drivable par-4 for most anyone!
Black Forest Tests Your Game From the Get-Go
Find a rhythm you can trust on the range because unlike many courses Black Forest does not go easy on you the first few holes. “The very difficult stretch of starting holes needs to be accepted for what it is,” designer Doak suggests. “Even a good player is likely to be a couple over par in the first five holes. But as long as he doesn't let it bother him, there are a lot of potential birdie holes to make up for it later on. None of the par-5 holes is long, but all of them are better played conservatively for birdies and pars instead of trying to attack them for eagles. There are also four short par-4 holes which give you a chance to hit a wedge shot close to the hole, and two of the par-3 holes are short as well.
Two of Doak's favorite holes at Black Forest are the 10th and the 13th. No. 10 is a slightly downhill 547-yard par-5 with relatively few bunkers but multiple strategic options. About 150 yards from the green are a pair of “goal post” trees, one or both of which must be contended with irrespective of where you place your tee shot. “I love the second shot on the 10th,” Doak describes, “where you have to play through the gap between maple trees on either side – the further down the fairway you're trying to go, the tougher the shot.”
Tom Doak's Black Forest masterpiece has been playing to rave golfer reviews and receiving national and regional accolades since it opened in 1992. Among the honors the layout has received are:
"Top New Public Courses in America"
– Golf Digest
"Top New Courses You Can Play in the United States"
– Golf Magazine
"Top Modern Courses in the United States"
"Best Public Course in Northern Michigan"
– Detroit News
"Best Public Course in Northern Michigan"
– Great Lakes Golf
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Black Forest Map & Score Card