Northern Michigan’s Forest Dunes announced its new short course will be named Bootlegger. The resort’s latest golf attraction opened for limited preview play last fall and will open for full-time play May 6. The 10-hole, 1,135-yard short course was designed by Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns.
Situated on a peaceful, rolling bulge of land positioned between The Loop and Forest Dunes courses and near the clubhouse, pavilion, practice area and HillTop Putting Course, the Bootlegger, with fun, strategic holes measuring between 65 and 150 yards, is the new focal point and energetic hot spot for golfers of all ages and skill levels.
The Bootlegger was named in homage to the land where Forest Dunes’ courses now sit. The property was originally owned by automotive magnate William Durant, founder of General Motors and an iconic figure in early 20th century America. As legend has it, a significant parcel of the land was sold to a group of mafiosos (The Purple Gang) in the 1930s.
Known as the Detroit Partnership, these mobsters made their fortunes smuggling alcohol from Windsor, Ontario, into Michigan – among other less innocuous practices. The Detroit Partnership flaunted their wealth, and perhaps no more ostentatiously than with the construction of the South Branch Ranch, a temple of intemperance that stood on their recently purchased acreage and was regarded as one of the largest ranches in Michigan’s history.
Rhebb and Johns, who led the renovation at Orlando’s Winter Park 9 course, built the course in just 81 days. The two collaborating young architects created a course with entertaining shot values and an unintimidating sense of fun.
“We essentially had carte blanche, which was awesome, and really the only way we could get the project completed in time,” Rhebb says. One of the few requests was to make the course playful – a theme that permeated throughout the design process.
“You don’t often get the chance to get super creative when designing courses, but with Bootlegger we really had the opportunity to have some fun with it. Forest Dunes wanted it to be fun and always engaging, and we were able to express that in the design,” Rhebb adds.
The Bootlegger’s creatively designed greens are constructed to funnel balls toward pin locations, improving the likelihood of ever-elusive holes-in-one, while a few tee shots tempt you to make use of strategic slopes and banks instead of flying it in the air. The greens showcase a variety of subtle shapes, many being bowl-shaped and some resembling catcher’s mitts or tabletops. In addition, music will also be incorporated into the fun with 16 speakers strategically placed throughout the course.
A unique feature on the course will be that holes 1 and 10 are crossover holes. “The land gave us such a great canvas to create something fun that offers a ‘welcoming handshake’ to entry-level players and says ‘this is what golf can be,’” Johns says. “Here you can go out in your flip flops and hit flop shots with a few buddies, try to make an ace on every hole, or use a putter off the tee to try and run one on the green.”
Not only does the design lend itself to great on-course fun, its routing also incorporates Forest Dunes’ bustling social scene, with the entire first hole and 10th viewable from the pavilion. “The pavilion is the social hub, it’s where music is playing and people are having drinks, so we wanted to take some of that liveliness and put it into play somehow,” Johns adds.