Lost Dunes Golf Club,
MI, USA

Green Keeper: Steve Jotzat

From behind the unique 2nd green complex.

Lost Dunes is a course that elicits strong feelings from people. It enjoys a dramatic location, being in a former sand quarry with 60 foot sand dunes surrounding it on three sides. Throw in three large pit lakes and abundant vegetation, and you have a visually striking environment in which to play golf.

So enamoured with the property, people fail to realize that it was far from ideal. The shape of the property is awkward and Interstate 94 separates the first seven holes from the clubhouse and the remaining holes. The sand quarry, though it sounds great, essentially had a flat bottom.

No doubt about it – the selected architect was going to have to work hard to get it right. Given the penal nature of the scrubby environs and the fact that water is on play on nine holes, this course could easily have become one of those hyper-difficult 150 slope courses that you play once or twice and never again. But this is where Tom Doak excelled. He routinely built wide fairways of 60 plus yards. In one round, one of the authors hit all thirteen without putting on a shotmaking clinic.

Of course, where there are wide fairways on a Doak course, there are Doak greens at the end to greet you. Unlike most courses built today (in fact the very ones that receive the ‘best of’ awards from a certain publication), the greens here really and truly dictate the strategy back on the tee. This course isn’t just some ruggedly handsome poster boy with no brains. Far from it. The course harkens back to the days of alternate paths toward greens that keep the game just that – a game.

The character of Lost Dunes is revealed from the top tee at the 12th: the tee is on a sand dune that falls sixty feet to a relatively flat bottom, the fairy width and bunkering is on a large scale providing strategic options, and the green is full of interior contour.

The green complexes leave players shaking their heads – in admiration, confusion, dislike or a combination thereof. No one today makes wilder greens on a small scale than Doak, and these are his wildest. They take quite a bit of getting to know, but importantly, this is a private club and the members aregranted just such an opportunity.

As an example of the strategy on display, take the par five 10th. Reachable for some in two, the majority of us will lay up. A stream fronts the green some twenty yards short and wraps around its left side. The lay up appears straightforward on this straight hole: lay it up directly in line with the hole from the fairway. Wrong! The green’s several levels are angled well left to reward a lay-up down the far left side, a full thirty yards left of where the golfer would have originally thought. From over here, the golfer enjoys a simple pitch with the option of using one of the ridges as a backstop. Perhaps the 7th at Hollywood Golf Club served as the inspiration for this green.

Note how the angle of the ridges dictate where to lay up on the 10th hole. The strong two shot 11th hole is in the background.

Competing for the golfer’s attention with the greens and the surrounds is the extravagant bunkering. Doak and Tom Mead tied these ragged bunkers beautifully into their surrounds, and thus they complement and highlight the general natural beauty. The vegetation in and around the fairway bunker on the very first hole is a perfect example.

To find a course with such dramatic bunkering and greens that is not over-the-top and that is blessed with sound strategic requirements is very encouraging. Also, too, taking a page from many of the great architects from golf’s Golden Age,Doak providesgive and take during the round. The difficult stretch from holes 5 through 11 is followedby the downhill 12th, the little par three 13th hole, the medium length 14thand the reachable 15th where good scoring can be had if thegolfer finds the right portion of the greens. Too many modern courses mercilessly beat the player up with one result being little desire to ever return. The opposite is the case at Lost Dunes where the golfer continually learns something that he can apply to better his next round.

The stretch of holes from the 12th through the 15th provides hope for the thinking golfer. Pictured above is the one shot 13th.

Visually, Lost Dunes is a handsome course with great texture. Pictured is the view from the 14th tee.

Visually, Lost Dunes is a handsome course with great texture. Pictured is the view from the 14th tee.

Unlike most architects who seek a dramatic look, Doak moved little earth, especially on the course’sfinest sustained stretch of holes 1-7. In fact, Doak believes that the bunkering and greens may off-set each other – that many players will like the bunkering so much as not to become too concerned with the severe greens.

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