This Reversible Golf Course Blew Our Minds | Adventures In Golf Season 4


Hi, I’m Erik, and this
is Adventures in Golf. For this episode, we came to
the only truly reversible golf course in America. Case in point, I’m currently
standing on the 13th green. Or am I standing
on the fifth green? Well, it’s actually both. It just depends on
which day you play it. [MUSIC PLAYING] For this episode, I’ve
traveled to Roscommon, Michigan to check out two golf courses
at the same time, literally. Open in 2016, The
Loop at Forest Dunes is an 18-hole
reversible golf course. OK, what does that mean? It means that there
are two courses in one. Here’s how it works. On even days, the course play
runs on the black routing, which is clockwise. And on odd days,
course play runs on the red routing, which is the
reverse, or counterclockwise. This unique feature was the
first of its kind in America, and was designed by
renowned golf course architect, Tom Doak as a second
Forest Dunes golf course. The main piece of feedback
I’ve got on the golf course that I didn’t expect
was how different it is playing backwards. It doesn’t even feel like
the same golf course. It doesn’t even feel like
the same piece of ground. I wouldn’t have believed
that I was on the same thing, except I know I was. I have to admit, the concept
feels a little gimmicky to me, and I’m a bit skeptical. But my curiosity and love
for Tom Doak’s course designs have brought me
here to learn more. And to do that, I’m
at the course early, and I mean really early, to meet
with Loop superintendent, Rob Falconer. He and his crew are here
daily before sunrise to get the course ready to play. Morning, everybody. Morning. Should be a good day. Temperature should
cool down today. It’s only supposed
to be like 75. It is a red day,
red routing today. So other than that,
we’ll get going. We got about 30 rounds today. [MUSIC PLAYING] From a greenskeeping
perspective, does the reversible layout pose
any specific complications? Yeah, it does a
little bit, especially for new crew members. Starting to remember
where you’re at? I think I’m going
that way, right? When you come to a golf course,
new guys especially, always spend a week or more
trying to figure out where they’re at
on the golf course, and how to get
from here to there. Well, on The Loop,
every day it changes. So I only refer
to the golf course by the red routing just to
eliminate the confusion. So that way, it
doesn’t matter if it’s a black day or a red
day, if I tell them I wanted them to
go to hole four, they know what hole four is. We base all of our mowing
patterns off the red direction. Because what would
be a side to side cut on a red day, the next day,
if you did a front to back, that might be the
side to side again. Because you’re coming
from the other way. So if we base them all
of the red direction, we don’t have repeat cuts. From a maintenance perspective,
I think it’s beautiful. We can mow the back nine
each day, and the next day, it’s still the back nine. We don’t have to
race golfers to mow fairways and things like that. It’s really nice to work
on, and it’s really special. It’s one of a kind. Is it one of a kind
or two of a kind? Since both black and red
are two different courses, The Loop is actually
ranked twice. What’s ranked higher? I believe black is ranked like
one or two spots higher, right. So one course has two ratings? Right. But is it one course? No. It’s two courses? It is two courses. It’s one piece of property. It’s 18 greens. It’s 18 fairways. But it’s two courses. Is this always the first tee? For the red routing. Where is the first tee
for the black route? On the other side of
18 green over there. Whoa, my mind is already blown. And that’s the
tee marker, there? Correct. I’ve never seen
anything like that. Yeah, I thought it fit. It was simple. Selfishly, it made it
easier for us to adjust. Because we have
to move every tee marker the length
of a hole every day. Instead of picking
up two tee markers and worrying about getting
placement right, and– You just drop one. It’s just one. All right, I’m going to tee off. Let’s do this. I’m thoroughly excited. So the yardage
book is reversible. And word on the street is that
Tom Doak designed this himself. There’s a bit of preamble here. “Welcome to The Loop
at Forest Dunes. The Loop is two courses in one
and two yardage books in one.” This is the first
hole on red, 375. Wait until you see the
previous group going up. But tomorrow, this will
be the last hole on 18. This is a mind trip. I’m literally freaking
out right now. To keep me on track, Rob,
along with his trusty dog, Duchess, have agreed to walk
the course with me for a while. All right, so it’s
hard to tell where the green ends and
the rough begins, other than the white dots. Are the white dots
technical, or merely just to let you know
where the green ends? No, it’s for my
guys mowing greens. It helps them identify
the cleanup paths to keep that nice and tight, so
that the green doesn’t keep getting bigger or smaller. Right. They know to split the dots. Nice firm green. Don’t be afraid to hit it. You weren’t kidding
about hitting it. You know, I give a lot of
points to a course that– we’re in the middle
of some hills in the forest in the
middle of Michigan, and to create a place that’s
interesting, and also has that sense of natural
awe that golf gives you– that is sort of the
black diamond, I believe. It was Andy Johnson that said
golf course architects are the craft breweries, and
each of their courses is a small batch limited
release craft beer. And I think Tom Doak’s Loop
design is the perfect example. Most of the holes,
the tee is attached to the previous fairway. It kind of goes off to the side. Fortunately, Tom lives
close by, and has agreed to meet with me
to discuss the course. When was the first
time that you can remember that you conceived of
making your own reversible golf course? So this is Tom Simpson’s
book on golf course designs. Simpson was an English
architect in the ’20s and ’30s. So in the back of his book,
he does about six pages on a reversible golf course. I think I read this
book when I was 16 or 17 or something like
that, and I always had that in the back
of my mind ever since. You could really
do that somewhere. Thankfully, Lew Thompson, the
owner of Forest Dunes agreed. Although it did take
some persuasion. At first, Tom unveiled
a solo course design, which wasn’t as well-received. He said, well, that looks
like an interesting golf course, Tom, and a
really good golf course. But I want something
that will wow me. That doesn’t really do it. Then I lifted this
up, and I said, yeah, except for this is the same
golf course, except you play it all backwards the next day. And I swear to God,
the room was just pretty silent for about a
minute (LAUGHING) and a half as they tried to
process that idea. Because none of them had
ever thought about anything like that before. And then after about
a minute and a half, Lew goes, OK, you
really wowed me now. [LAUGHTER] And that was it. I’m surprised you
haven’t gotten caught up in what I see most
people do when they play The Loop the first time. They spend half their
time turning around and looking backwards, trying
to figure out the other routing. And I haven’t seen you do that. Whoa! It literally hasn’t
even occurred to me. I know that it’s a
reversible golf course. I’ve seen the map. We’ve talked about it. We spent all morning
talking about it. But once we’ve gotten to
the business of playing, I haven’t even considered. This is a crucial
part of the design. This is sort of
our farthest out? Yep. So that’s why it looks
very confusing right here, is I feel like I’m on a
driving range, almost. I’ve got a par 3 about 150. And then I’ve got
something over there that I’m going to guess
is a different tee box coming this way. Tomorrow’s tee is a
par 3 in that green. So if we’re on six? Yep. So that’ll be tomorrow’s–
don’t tell me– 13th tee? Yep. That was hard. I had to literally do math. Can people guess which
direction came first? I try not to tell people. Really? The only thing that
makes the concept fall apart is if one course
is clearly better than the other golf course. (LAUGHING) Right. Most people prefer the
second routing they play. No way! And we think it’s because
the first time they play it, they’re just trying
to figure it out. And then the second round,
they kind of understand how to play it. And so then they have
a little bit more– it seems to be a
little bit more fun. We’re only a third of
the way through this, and I’m totally jarred. I’m totally– well, we’re not
a third of the way through. We’re a sixth of
the way through. Right. This is a game of math. Bryson DeChambeau
would love this place. As Rob, Duchess, and I
finish up my first round, my skepticism has
already dissipated. In fact, if the black routing
is as good as the red, The Loop will be placing
very high on my list. I’ve got one day on
The Loop behind me, but today is the true
test to this course. Will playing the black
routing feel as different as everyone suggests? I said in the beginning, I
would rather build this and not tell anybody what we’re
doing until opening day. Because I don’t want to spend
two years trying to explain what we’re trying to do. There’ll be a ton of naysayers
telling me, oh, you’re compromising the
quality of the one golf course for the other
one, or it’s not going to work because this or that. What is your success
evaluation on The Loop? That people like it
just as much both ways so it stays a
reversible golf course. I mean, that’s success or
failure there, for sure. I can now say without a
doubt, these are definitely two different courses,
and I can see why they’ve been ranked so close together. I’ve enjoyed them both equally,
and I hope more designs like this become
available in the future. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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