It is an idea that is far ahead of its time because its roots reach so far back in time.
If the past is prologue – and don’t we all know that golf needs something new even if it’s old – then leave it to iconoclastic golf course architect Tom Doak to come up with a revolutionary concept that has been around since the Revolutionary War.
Global Golf Post has obtained an advance copy of a plan that will be released to the world Tuesday.
Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design team are going to design a course in rural Roscommon, Mich., that will be reversible.
That’s right – forward one day and backward the next. That’s two distinct layouts using the same greens but playing clockwise one way and counter clockwise the other way.
“This is a concept I have thought about for 30 years,” Doak said. “You need the right site and the right client to understand the appeal of it. At Forest Dunes (in Roscommon) we finally have both.”
According to Doak’s people, when he first met Forest Dunes’ owner, Lew Thompson, an Arkansas-based trucking magnate, Thompson said he wanted a new course but it had to “wow” him.
Thompson, the story goes, wanted a second course that would keep golfers staying on the property an extra night or two after they had played the club’s Tom Weiskopf course, already ranked by national magazines in the top 100 best courses in America.
“The appeal of a reversible course is people would want to play it both ways. You are getting two golf courses in one,” Doak said.
“I told Tom when I first met him that if it’s just another golf course, it’s not going to do me or Forest Dunes any good,” Thompson said. “If you can wow me then we can build it. He wowed me.”
Doak said the Forest Dunes site is perfect for the double-dip course because the land has small undulations and is not hilly.
“It is not a superdramatic site, but that’s better for this concept,” Doak said. “If you were playing over ravines in one direction, you’d probably have to play blindly out of them the other way around. You can’t have woods behind the green, or you’d have to play over the trees from the other direction.”
Doak said the most difficult part of designing the reversible course is thinking about the greens.
“They have to work from both directions,” he said. “You can’t have severe greens.”
Crowned greens or ones that fall away can work, as can tiered greens that go side to side, he said.
Doak, a keen student and published author on golf course design history, has known for a long time that the Old Course at St. Andrews used to be played in reverse in winter to spread out the wear and tear of divots. But, as far as Doak is aware, there is no 18-hole course in the world today that is played in reverse on a regular basis.
If the course turns out to turn heads, as most of Doak’s work usually does, reversible golf could be a significant trendsetter in sustainable, affordable golf that helps grow the game.