Lost Dunes

On the surface, Lost Dunes has all the makings for a world class golf course: a respected and accomplished architect, an expansive sand-based property just over a dune from one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and an owner set on building a first-class facility. The challenges to reach that goal make for an interesting story. One challenge was the highway. The property was once a sand quarry which luckily left a bridge connecting the two tracts of land on each side of I-94. Fortunately, constructing two bridges under one of the busiest highways in the US would have been cost prohibitive but also a major highway splitting the golf course isn’t ideal. The compromise is a slender tract of land east of I-94 of about 80 acres and a larger tract on the west side of about 130 acres. Another challenge was environmental issues to protect an endangered flower on the property and multiple environmental easements dictated by the state agency. Permitting required time before a final routing could be constructed. With all the challenges, the golf course is superb. Tom Doak has reportedly called the greens at Lost Dunes “the wildest greens I’ve designed.” How often are golfers asked to be creative with putting? Walking the course is challenging due to the separation of the practice range and holes 1-7 on the east side of I-94 and the clubhouse and remaining course on the west side of I-94. As a private course, Lost Dunes provides variety due to wide fairways and dramatically different pin locations. Add the ever present, yet varying breeze, off Lake Michigan and rounds never become repetitive. Lost Dunes typically plays firm and fast allowing creativity with approach shots and recoveries around the greens. The gentle opening hole sets the stage with a dramatic tee shot followed by an approach to a naturally falling away green site set low to the ground. Hole 2 provides a potential blind approach over a small dune remaining from the mining operation. Typically, the most talked about green can be found on hole four. A short par five, the green has multiple tiers, a shaved left side drop off and no bunkers. It makes the golfer question the prudence to go for the green in two. Much of the back nine is routed around one of the large lakes left from the mining operations. There are many choices for great views and challenging shots but the tee shots on hole 12 and 14 are my favorites. The golfer is continuously challenged to plot a pathway to the hole hitting shots to certain points to then run out to the final destination. Each shot begins at point A, lands at point B to then run out to point C. So why didn’t Lost Dunes score higher? First, there’s some fine, competitive golf in Michigan and Lost Dunes is still one of the state’s best. The routing feels disjointed due to the long distance to the practice range and 1st tee, 7th green to 8th tee and 9th green to 10th tee. For me, the 18th hole is a bit of a let down given the dramatic golf that proceeds it. Overall, Lost Dunes is still one of Michigan’s best courses and an excellent experience to play.