Lusk: Some big ideas came in small packages for 2021 course designs

Want to have fun? Maybe the most you’ve had in a long time on a golf course? Try something completely different.

The whole point of golf travel is experiencing different things. New-to-you courses, fresh scenery, extreme challenges. As golf travel continued to reopen then boom throughout 2021, more and more people took to the roads and climbed into airplanes to see something different. Many top resort courses and other acclaimed destinations have been packed and will remain so throughout 2022, if industry bookings hold up.

Of course, traveling to play new courses, in itself, isn’t new. What’s even better these days are entirely new types of golf experiences. When I flashback to some of the best layouts I played in 2021 – and there were plenty, more than 85 courses – many of the standouts involve a very different game than 7,000 yards with a par of 70, 71, or 72.

Par-3 courses. Short courses. Crazy courses. Big ideas and new ways of tackling three of golf’s biggest challenges: time, expense, and natural resources.

The Bootlegger par-3 course at Forest Dunes in Michigan (Courtesy of Forest Dunes)

I loved sharing stories and photos of Gamble Sands’ new QuickSands course in Washington and the recently opened Bootlegger at Forest Dunes in Michigan, both of them par-3 courses that I laid eyes on for the first time in 2021. These types of layouts offer gobs of fun and tackle those three aforementioned golf problems head-on, presenting fast loops with less cost for both the players and resort operators without using anywhere near the land or water required for a traditional 18-hole course. Both layouts present a win-win-win situation.

Designers Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns built the Bootlegger on a small, undulating parcel adjacent to Forest Dunes’ clubhouse, offering the chance to grab a few drinks and stroll into the woods with a couple of wedges, a putter, and a grin on your face. There are bank shots, possible tees shots with a putter, extreme greens that wouldn’t work on a long par 4 but that elicit plenty of whoops from eightsomes on a par-3 course where total score doesn’t really matter. The resort offers two highly ranked 18-hole courses – the Loop by Tom Doak and the eponymous Forest Dunes by Tom Weiskopf – but it would be a mistake to miss the Bootlegger.

A sign leads the way past the range at Gamble Sands to the new QuickSands par-3 course. (Jason Lusk/Golfweek)

It’s a similar story at Gamble Sands, where David McLay Kidd took an almost unworkable dollop of sandy slopes and fashioned QuickSands, certainly among the most bouncy, erratic, and fascinating par-3 courses to be found anywhere. On many of the holes,

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By: Jason Lusk
Title: Lusk: Some big ideas came in small packages for 2021 course designs
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Published Date: Sat, 25 Dec 2021 16:00:11 +0000

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