Since the frenzied building of new golf courses in the 1990s, Michigan golfers have in large part been unable to contemplate new places to play. As the 2016 golf season opens, however, the Great Lakes state golfers can eagerly look forward to a pair of projects in the grow-in stages and planning debuts this summer.
Renaissance Golf Design of Traverse City has a hand in both, though Renaissance proprietor Tom Doak is involved in just one.
Doak found the perfect client in Lew Thompson, who was open to his idea of a reversible course that can be played one way one day, and another way the next, and the result is The Loop at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon. Four other architects who work for Doak’s firm, meanwhile, teamed up with the time-tested successful Scott family at Gull Lake View Golf Club and Resort in Augusta and created the new Stoatin Brae course. It promises to be a dramatic departure from the other five courses that are part of Gull Lake View.
Meanwhile, golfers can get excited for not only new courses, but the new ideas behind the courses as well. The reversible golf course idea that resulted in the design of The Loop was something Doak has contemplated for years. When Thompson showed him the property and asked for a course that would make people choose to stay and play again, Doak knew the contemplation could end.
Doak’s team, which included the lead associate for the project Brian Slawnik, as well as design associates Brian Schneider and Eric Iverson, completed the 18 holes last summer. The first reversible design in the U.S. is set to open June 27. He borrowed some ideas for the design from the links courses in the United Kingdom, including the Old Course at St. Andrews. It used to be played backwards for a few weeks each winter so that the areas where divots were concentrated would have time to heal. Garden City in New York, which he has long thought would work well in reverse, also gave him ideas.
Meanwhile in southwest Michigan, the Scott family has provided a golf destination for over 50 years, growing from one 18-hole golf course to 90 holes on five courses as well as overnight lodging, practice facilities and restaurants. Make it 108 holes with a soft opening by the end of July planned. Stoatin Brae, which means Grand Hill in Scottish Gaelic, is only the second course of the six that is not designed by the talented family and cut through the trees and hills on the area’s natural rolling land.
Iverson, Don Placek, Schneider and Slawnik, senior associates for Renaissance, collaborated, and the new course sits atop an open grassland bluff overlooking the Kalamazoo River valley. Iverson said they knew instantly it had all the elements for a great golf course. Jon Scott, a third generation of the family to own and operate Gull Lake View, said the family sees an opportunity to grow the business with customers who seek out new golf. It will play to par 71 over 6,800 yards.
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