Black Forest Founder Returns to Wilderness Valley
Wilderness Valley Golf Club and its nationally recognized Black Forest Golf Course on Gaylord’s west side is going back to the future.
Founder, David Smith, who hired a young Tom Doak to design and build the Black Forest course is now back running the club. In 2004, Smith partnered with Osprey Recreational Properties to manage and operate the facilities all the while Smith remained the majority shareholder in the partnership.
Last year, when Osprey put their five golf and resort properties, including Wilderness Valley, up for sale, it was only natural for Smith to return. Smith said he and his wife Shelly will operate the club with Smith serving as the general manager. He is a founding member of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, which includes the 17 area courses that promote themselves as “America’s Summer Golf Mecca.”
“It’s been nice having a few years off and I’m ready to get back into it,” Smith said. “My wife and I are looking forward to moving up there and running the place full-time. You can’t beat having an owner on site.”
Smith returns to a much improved facility including a renovated clubhouse, a large deck area, brick patio, and fire pit overlooking the 18th green of the Valley course.
In the near future he intends to bring Tom Doak back to Black Forest to tweak his signature course. The Black Forest layout was Doak’s third solo design early in his career before he went on to build an international reputation as one of the finest golf course architects in the world.
Smith said he and Doak, who lives in Traverse City, have talked in the past about redoing the greens on the third and 18th holes. A large White birch tree that protected the third green was lost several years ago, while the 18th with a severe top shelf is a difficult challenge for pin placements.
“Depending on Tom’s schedule, we will try to get it done this year and hopefully not be disruptive to play,” Smith said.
Ever since it opened in 1990 Black Forest has won numerous national and state awards as one of the best courses in the country. The greens with their swales and mounds present unending variety for players who appreciate making challenging putts. The deep white sand bunkers with their shaggy grass collars are reminiscent of bunkers in Great Britain.