Lew Thompson, who bought The Bridges in Montrose, Colo. two years ago and turned it around, plans to do the same with his second course — Forest Dunes in Roscommon, Mich., which he acquired in October.
The highly-ranked Forest Dunes, a Tom Weiskopf Signature Course design, was developed in 1999 for an estimated $40 million, but was abandoned before it ever opened. The Michigan Carpenters Pension Trust Fund, one of the original lenders, took over the project and reopened it in 2002. But despite several accolades, the course struggled financially, and the trust fund was forced to invest heavily into the courses infrastructure.
Thompson expects to change the fortunes for the club.
“I am hoping to bring some stability to the place and attract more members,” Thompson said. “We have a great product here and we will give the kind of service that people will want to be a member for.”
Thompson plans to make Forest Dunes more attractive to current members, to attract new members, and to sell home sites.
Thompson is in the process of building a 22-room luxury lodge that will help bring additional play. He said a lot of current members do not live in the local area and did not have a place to stay. The lodge will be connected to the 23,000-square-foot clubhouse.
He hopes to break ground in March and has set an ambitious schedule to have it completed by July. He closed on the sale in October for around $2 million plus earn out for any lots sold.
Chris Charnas, who represented the seller, said there are seven homes are for sale in the development with an average price of $2.9 million and 105 lots are finished and ready for sale with an aggregate price of $13.9 million. Phase 2 of the project allows for the development of at least 200 additional lots.
“Forest Dunes is an incredible property with a remarkable golf course,” said Charnas, President of Links Capital Advisors. “The new owner’s aggressive approach to marketing will surely lead to a quick turn-around for Forest Dunes. The golf course is too good and the land too scenic for the deal not to be a success in the long run.”
Thompson previously acquired The Bridges for $3 million in April 2010. It was struggling with only 40 members and had a checkered history. The courses’ developer had committed suicide and the bank had repossessed the course, only to be taken over by the FDIC.
Thompson has since increased membership to more than 140, tripled wedding bookings, and started selling home sites around the course.
Until recently, Troon Golf managed the Forest Dunes, and had opened it for public play. But, Thompson ended that relationship and is in the process of hiring a new general manager.
Thompson, who lives in Huntsville, Ark., built his fortune in trucking, and recently turned over operations of that business to his son. He is a long-time golfer, but was not in the golf business until he bought The Bridges.
Golf Magazine ranked Forest Dunes 45th in the USA, and Golf Digest ranked it 99th. It is located within the 40,000-acre Huron National Forest, and near the Au Sable River, one of the nation’s finest fly fishing venues. Forest Dunes’ earned a Gold Signature Certification from Audubon International for its efforts to protect the river.