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Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED
« on: November 05, 2022, 01:22:25 PM »
The Loop was virtually a life-long ambition of Tom Doak. Since reading about Tom Simpsonís idea for a short reversable course some 40 years ago in The Architectural Side of Golf, Doak waited for the right land and the right owner. Due to its flat, open site, there was an opportunity to create such a course for Texas Tech University. However, there was concern about the visual aspect of the design so the idea wasnít pursued. Jump ten years into the future and at the other end of the country, another opportunity arose. The owner of Forest Dunes, Lew Thompson, approached Doak to design a second course for the resort which he had recently acquired. The new course had to achieve the two goals of encouraging golfers to stay on site and wow them. While the land is sandy and perfect for golf, it isnít a site that will captivate golfers. The wow factor would have to come from the design rather than the location.

The property is sandy which makes construction relatively simple. There were large areas of land cleared of trees. There were virtually no beautiful specimen trees which needed protection. There were no dramatic elevation changes which would create blind shots. Lew Thompson may have been the perfect owner to green-light such an idea because he wasnít a golfer with the baggage of preconceived notions which needed to be placated. The elements were in place for Doak to fulfil a lifelong dream. Doak also understood that a reversable course must deliver two loops of approximately equal quality for the idea to survive. With that in mind he worked on the Black Course second to fit with the Red Course. A large disparity in quality would surely see the ruthless business end of the decision-making process put an end to the experiment. Surprisingly, to me anyway, it only took about a month for Doak to devise a routingÖ.yes, a month.

When meeting with L Thompson Doak showed the plans for the Red Course which would play counter-clockwise. After allowing for some comments, Doak then revealed the plan for the other course, a clockwise course? It wasnít a separate 18 design, but an 18 green and fairway reversable 18-hole course. Two courses in one which when combined with Tom Weiskopfís Forest Dunes would give golfers reason to possibly spend two nights on site. The added amount of acreage and short grass would jack the maintenance costs up somewhat, Thompson immediately grasped the concept and must have thought the idea would provide the wow factor and put bodies in beds. Work began the following year and The Loop was opened in 2016.

Before playing I was concerned about the courses melding together as one. A few issues perplexed me. For instance, there canít be too many bunkers on a reversable course before things start to unravel. How then to create added drama on a subtle property? Well, that isnít a problem because Doak made a career of creating interest from the green back to the tee and use of short grass. I didnít see it happen, but itís quite possible to go many 10s of yards long on some approaches. That isnít something one sees every day. Somewhat similar to Pinehurst 2, many of the greens are pushed up/crowned which emphasizes good approach angles and missing in recoverable spots. The bottom line is the bunkering is important, but not in a way which dominates the design.

A second apprehensiveness I had was how would the unused teeing areas blend into the design? The answer is rather simpleÖonce I saw it in action. The teeing areas are kind of half built and more often more rounded. When using the tees, they are obviously tees. When not in play they blend into the surrounding area. Without the creative single flags indicating the tee positions one has to pay attention as to where the opposite course tees are. Itís a slick solution that on some level took some thinking outside the box. Related to tees are the mounding etc for the greens. The integrated shaping to make these features part of the hole from any angle must have been an unusual assignment. The flow of this work with the overall aesthetic is marvelous. The shaping to conceal some of the more aggressive crowned nature of the greens is a bit of razzle dazzle.

A final worry of mine was carts. Renaissance was lucky in that the course was designed not to use carts. However, carts are most certainly and regretfully on display far too much. A counter-measure is the carts are programmed to restrict their use. At least there arenít dreadful cart paths cutting through the course which would diminish The Loop aesthetic moreso than the ďcart tracksĒ easily seen on short grass. Letís hope cart paths are never built, although I wonder if open hard sandy areas in pinch points etc may help disguise the minor damage.   

After spending the night in one of the excellent lodges we made tracks to the Red Course (counter-clockwise). The opener is less welcoming than on the Black. The drive is semi-blind over a native area to a low lying section of the fairway shy of a few bunkers. After playing the hole I wondered if it may not be better to lay back off the tee for a better view of the tricky, sloping left green. The photo below is about 175 yards out after a lay-up.


An excellent par 5, the second features a much talked about green with the the large dip in the middle. On this hole the dip faces the fairway and isn't a bad line of approach for a long running second shot. However, a small mound is on this line and can shove a shot either left or right. The drive too is interesting for guys who can't hit the ball very far. There is a small bunker pinching the left side online with the green which is about 400 yards to carry in two. Below is the view of a typical second shot.


The fiesty mound and green.


Another shot with native encroaching the line of play. #3 tee shot is fairly narrow.


The open front green is a beauty.


The next tee is a fair walk to an area which feels like the middle of a fairway. Well it is, the fairway for another short hole, 15 Black. The plateau green feeds left to trouble over the rear. This is an excellent example of an understated hole of high quality.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 22, 2022, 10:23:31 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-4)
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2022, 10:15:55 PM »
Sean:


If you happen to find my original plan of the course online, you might notice that 4 Red and 15 Black were laid out (and therefore cleared) as short par-4 holes.  But once cleared I was not happy that from that far back, you couldnít see the swales short of each green that would have been prominently in play.  So, after some mental gymnastics, I decided the best solution was to shorten them both by putting the tees on what was to be the fairway in between.  I donít like the green to tee walk, but both holes are way better than they would have been at 300 yards.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-4)
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2022, 03:15:14 AM »
Sean:

If you happen to find my original plan of the course online, you might notice that 4 Red and 15 Black were laid out (and therefore cleared) as short par-4 holes.  But once cleared I was not happy that from that far back, you couldnít see the swales short of each green that would have been prominently in play.  So, after some mental gymnastics, I decided the best solution was to shorten them both by putting the tees on what was to be the fairway in between.  I donít like the green to tee walk, but both holes are way better than they would have been at 300 yards.

Tom

The longer walk prompted me to look for an old map and I did notice tees further back and right on 4 Red. I think I agree, this isn't the hole to make reachable from the tee as a 4.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

Ally Mcintosh

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-4)
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2022, 05:43:07 AM »
I mentioned that walk as the only awkward bit of the routing in this thread:


https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71300.0.html


This is the first I heard of the original map showing these holes as potential par-4ís even though thatís how it felt.


What I did speculate on an outside email was that Tom probably considered playing these as par-4ís OR moving one or both of the green sites before deciding that the current option was the best of the three solutionsÖ so I guess I might as well ask Tom:


Did you ever consider relocating one of the green-sites? Black 14 / Red 4 looks like a no-brainer, being on the crown of a hill. But Black 15 / Red 3 might have had more scope? Even so, from my two plays, I remember that green-site detailing as one of my favourites so have no doubt the best solution was reached.







Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +0/-1
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-4)
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2022, 08:25:32 AM »
Ally:


#4 green was set early on - a natural Redan for the red course and a long hole into the back of the Redan for the black.  That was a concept I had in my notes for years about a potential reversible course.


The original green site for #3 was a bit shorter for that hole to make it long enough to be a short par-4.  One reason for abandoning that was that I could move the green closer to #4 at its present location, which was a better green site.  (I had ignored it originally because of a logging road that crossed the hole right there.)  The new site produced one of my favorite greens on the course, itís really fun from both directions.

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-4)
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2022, 12:45:13 PM »
The Loop Red Cont

The 5th is a long par 4 which effectively plays shorter due to a valley that is blind from the tee.  If unsure about the approach, I reckon short is easier to cope with than the other positions. Its a fairly harsh slope trying to recover from past the hole.


A short hole protected with a scattering of bunkers, the 6th is one of my favourites on the front nine. For me it seems like a natural tendency to aim right at an area I can see, but its a tough two putt over the ridge to the hole location.




The 7th takes us to the loop of 7-13; a more open aspect of the course with more direction changes before the run home. The course within a course concept hit home for me here because I was forced to do more looking around and consequently see more of what was happening for both courses at once. The hole sort of button-hooks right to an open area...lovely.


The green as seen from near the 8th tee.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 13, 2022, 07:47:48 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Mike Bodo

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-7)
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2022, 01:07:19 PM »
Sean,


How were the greens running when you were out there? If there was one gripe I had with my round on the Black several years ago was that the greens were slightly on the shaggy and slow side, which has nothing to do with the design and everything to do with maintenance preferences. Thanks!




Mike
"90% of all putts left short are missed." - Yogi Berra

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-7)
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2022, 01:28:52 PM »
Sean,

How were the greens running when you were out there? If there was one gripe I had with my round on the Black several years ago was that the greens were slightly on the shaggy and slow side, which has nothing to do with the design and everything to do with maintenance preferences. Thanks!

Mike

The greens were running at a good speed, true with good firmness and in tune with fairway speed. Couldn't ask for much better.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

Kevin Pallier

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-7)
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2022, 05:36:27 PM »
Thanks for the tour Sean - I'm keen to try to get to that part of the World in the next few years so are interested as to your thoughts

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED (1-7) New
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2022, 09:58:34 AM »
Yer welcome Kevin.

The Loop Red Tour Cont

A tough hole, the 8th is long, but aided by a downhill drive for those long enough to take advantage. The fairway is split by rough filled broken ground which can be an issue to carry if one hits a poor drive or if playing into the wind. A beast of a hole, the 9th is about 570 yards. Beyond the length of the hole, there is a staggered string of five bunkers guarding the fairway which will take about 425 aerial yards to cover in two. To do this a modest hitter such as myself will have to take on the huge drive bunker on the right. Thankfully, the green isn't one of the Loop's most intricate.


The lone trees scattered about the property is a feature I can get behind. In the case of the 10th, the aesthetic is spoiled a bit by the right bunker.


For a fairly long hole the green is a bit small...again, not a complicated green, but it does move right.


At over 200 yards the 11th is comfortably the longest par three on the course. The hole plays downhill, but there is a rear bank which can be used to kill aggressive tee shots. The hard part of any long downhill shot is  guessing the landing zone. Trying to bounce a shot up the slope to the green may lead to being short. While making the long walk to 12 tee, I recall wondering how in the hell the 11th green is so well disguised as 8 Black. The two holes are the only ones on the property which don't share a fairway corridor.


One of the short par 4s, #12 is a fine deceptive hole. If going for the green a 270ish carry or an exceptionally well placed fade will be required. The further left the long drive the more of a stranglehold the approach has on the golfer.


The green is fairly narrow.


There isn't much to the drive on 13 if not trying to reach this par 5. Its the second shot which is of importance. At about 125 yards short of the green a right section of the fairway is blocked by trees. The hairy rough left of the green is no bueno.  It leaves a hack out up to the green then downhill.


This is a more hospitable way to play the approach.


We make the run for home starting with the odd looking short 14th.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 27, 2022, 04:25:15 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED New
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2022, 10:23:20 AM »
The Loop Red Tour Cont

The 14-18 run home continues on the 15th. Another centreline bunker awaits in the drive zone. I often suggest that doglegs are best served when the flag can be seen from the tee and that is the case here. The right side of the fairway seems the obvious place to be, but the green leans left. On the other hand, coming in from the left must cope with a bunker. Perhaps one's shot shape is best used as the guide. Below is the approach from the the right half of the fairway.


Dead straight and with a bunker dead in the middle of the fairway, the 16th feels a bit like the centreline bunker concept was pushed a bit too far. Despite this feeling, Doc was caught out.


As discussed earlier, this hole does use short grass exceedingly well. I pushed my approach right and wound up miles from the green because there is nothing to stop the run of the ball. My recovery shot from near the 17th tee.


I did it again...pushed a tee shot right on the straight forward short 17th. Another lovely green draped over the landscape.


A fine driving hole, the 18th completes the Red stylishly. The tees are set off to the right, but they can be placed just about anywhere beyond the 17th green.


Playing uphill for the approach, the green is a difficult target. The green from the right side showcases the low front right. 


Either direction of The Loop demonstrates how effective subtle land can be used when aligned with short grass and formidable greens. If approached with an open mind, The Loop is most certainly playable for all as I am sure was intended by Tom Doak.  There is no doubt that a good player can shoot lights out on their day mainly because there shouldn't be many problems with lost or unplayable balls, but is that any great design crime? Some thirteen weeks after my visit, my thoughts are first, I would like to return and second, why aren't there more reversible courses? Despite The Loop providing a blueprint, I have a suspicion the answer to the question is there aren't many architects who could build an 18 hole reversible course anywhere near to the degree of success Doak has. If the reader has any interest in architecture, The Loop is a course which should be on your bucket list. 2* 2022

Other courses on the 2022 Lake Michigan Tour

The Loop Black
https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71448.0.html

Crystal Downs
https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71406.0.html

Arcadia Bluffs South
https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71374.0.html

Eagle Springs & Dunes Club
https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71344.0.html

Lawsonia Links
https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,71343.0.html

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 27, 2022, 04:29:18 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2022, 11:05:53 AM »
Canít get a much better endorsement than when Sean says above -
ďSome thirteen weeks after my visit, my thoughts are first, I would like to return and second, why aren't there more reversible courses?Ē
Atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: 2022 Lake Michigan Tour - 6 THE LOOP RED
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2022, 12:01:31 PM »
Canít get a much better endorsement than when Sean says above -
ďSome thirteen weeks after my visit, my thoughts are first, I would like to return and second, why aren't there more reversible courses?Ē
Atb

Welsh Wizard

I can't understand why The Loop isn't ranked much higher based on being reversible. Honestly, if The Loop was near London or in Fife/East Lothian instead of northen Michigan I think its merits would be more widely praised and appreciated. Both courses are great on their own, when combined its unique. I guess a spectacular view is worth something to raters, but one would have thought a brilliantly executed reversible course could make Golf's top 100 US. The only things holding me back from a 3* are the price and the resort. I don't think the house and lodging was done nearly as well as it could have been done. But that has nothing to do with the quality of the course, which is what rankings should be focused upon.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

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