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Dunmaglas – Course Review

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Dunmaglas  Golf Course is a unique golf course that one just doesn’t mind driving eighty miles, one way, to play. Simply put, great golf trumps poor gas prices. Dunmaglas is located somewhat off the beaten path in Charlevoix, Michigan. I highly recommend that if you are within 100 miles of Charlevoix, you make the time to play Dunmaglas. You will not be disappointed, at least with holes number 1 through 17. I’ll touch on hole number 18 later. The course is situated on an ideal piece of property that really lends itself quite well to the routing that was settled upon by it’s architect. The Dunmaglas website bills the course as “Northern Michigan’s masterpiece”.

 

I am not sure about that distinction,  as Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbor and Blacklake can all stake a claim to that distinct title. For the money, Dunmaglas just may have them beat, dollar for dollar. In fact, for the $49 (after 2pm) they charge, you’ll be hard pressed for a nicer round of golf anywhere in the Midwest, or quite possibly the United States. However, one must not confuse Dunmaglas with a resort-styled golf course, it has it’s own distinct flavor without anything pretentious.

This will continue to be the case until they figure out a way to install home sites here at Dunmaglas. According to their website, they are in the process of selling home sites along the course. Most likely towards the end of the front nine where holes 7 and 8 drop downward and into a huge meadow of wildflowers and tall grasses painted across small, rolling hillsides.

My advice to you is, play Dunmaglas before any homes spring up and really enjoy the pristine golfing experience that it is, with the exception of hole number 18. Many of the holes are quite scenic, offer a variety of shot opportunities and fantastic vistas from both the tee and the fairway. This course has a few tight holes, the tree lined fairways on the wooded holes will surely swallow up errant tee shots. Fairway woods are the smart play off the tee for many of the tighter, tree lines holes at Dunmaglas.

On many of these holes the groundscape has been cleared well into the first fifteen to twenty feet of the woods, saving many a stroke or two. There are quite a few holes that offer excellent reward for a well struck, and well-placed tee shot. Avoid the fairway tree on number 4 and a purely struck and well-aimed fairway wood will leave you a sand wedge into an elevated and narrow green. The first hole is an excellent example of this. Hit driver here from this elevated tee box and you’ll be pulling a short iron out of your bag. You will not want to walk this course unless you have obtained sherpa status, many hills, and a few long distances between the greens and the tee boxes.

One nice touch here was that the only cart paths you’ll encounter are in between the greens and the tee boxes. It really looks much nicer without so much asphalt on the holes, especially beautiful holes such as these.  Take my advice and use a cart.  Although several miles away from the shores of Lake Michigan, on a clear day Lake Michigan can be seen from Dunmaglas in a few select, well elevated spots. The view from hole number 15 is excellent.

Many feet below the tee box is a gentle dog leg right that begs for you to bash a driver over the corner. Look over the tree line and you’ll see lake Charlevoix on the distant horizon. The tee box at fifteen provides simply a beautiful wooded and unrivaled view. Be sure and pack your snacks and drinks in your cart at Dunmaglas, you’ll make the turn with nary a clubhouse or snack shack in sight. The clubhouse staff should mention this to customers when they check in. They would surely sell more food and drink. In fact, I didn’t see a cart girl all day here either.

And finally number 18. Ah yes, the enigmatic finishing hole, number 18. From a design standpoint the hole is a longish par 4, straight away with a small rocky hillside to the left and woods to the right. It is nothing all that interesting compared to the rest of the holes here at Dunmaglas. The hole finishes with a long shot over a green guarded by a marshy, wetlands area right in front. You see, they built two structures of condos, uncompleted (they look as if they are falling apart as well) and vacant right up against the 18th green. I am perplexed as to what they were actually trying to accomplish here, surely not the majestic view one gets when playing Mid Pines Golf Course in North Carolina. I have played Mid Pines and I am not so sure that same view can be duplicated anywhere else. The stay and play condo units really detract from the course and make a poor golf hole, even poorer. They could have placed those condos anywhere in the woods along the 18th and it would have been a softer impacting alternative. Sometimes, just being a great golf course is enough, why try and be a hotel as well? In fact, I didn’t even take a picture of the 18th green or 18th hole because of the spoiled view.

For those curious types, you can see a picture of number 18 on their website. However, don’t allow this finishing hole to spoil your day here. I surely didn’t. Dunmaglas is almost as pure a golfing experience as you’re likely to find in Michigan, or anywhere else in the USA for that matter. It’s that good.

For more information about Dunmaglas, check out their website here.
 

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  1. Kevin Wood

    Jul 10, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Ahh Northern Michigan Golf. I remember the days before we moved the family to Tucson, Arizona a few years back. After viewing your photos it makes me jealous. That was one course I wanted to play but didn’t. Words sometimes don’t do things this beautiful justice. One of my favorites up that way is Black Forest. The city it’s in isn’t coming to mind where it’s located. But thank you for the trip down memory lane. Great post.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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