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We have a very interesting history — and we're not even talking golf!

Since opening in 2002, Forest Dunes Golf Club has hosted numerous golf events and outings but it's not the golf that makes our history interesting. Far from it!

Gangsters, bootleggers and one crazy pilot!

This was once property owned by William Durant, the founder of General Motors. Durant sold a parcel of land in the 1930's to "The Detroit Partnership." (The Detroit Mafia families of Tocco-Licavoil-Zerilli). It was known as South Branch Ranch, the recreational center for Detroit mobsters.

A mix of prohibition and an economic boom from the automotive industry in Detroit in the 1920's caused the uprising of the notorious Purple Gang.

In Detroit the 1920s were a time of excess. Although prohibition was in effect, Detroit's gangsters imported alcohol from nearby Windsor. Proceeds from this industry went to various developments, but none were more impressive than the building of the South Branch Ranch.

Not far from the south branch of AuSable river in northern Michigan, the gang built one of the largest ranches in Michigan history. The various barns surrounding the primary residence resembled modern day airplane hangars. They included an indoor horse riding area, dance parlor, interlinking tunnels and hidden rooms.

The property spanned acres and included a private runway, hunting area, servant quarters, junkyard, and an Olympic-sized pool.

The house itself was involved in gang related activities for years. It was even searched upon the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and it was rumored to be the site of dozens of mafia-style executions.

After being seized for tax evasion, the ranch laid dormant for years. Lying near Pere Cheney cemetery, the corroding mansion was also linked to numerous ghost sightings.

Plane Crash

Herbert "Hub" Fahy was a test pilot for Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank. His wife, Claire, was also a pilot and air racer. He had a well-intentioned, but tarnished experience in the military. He was a lieutenant in the reserve when, in 1922, he made a low pass over a crowd in Washington, D.C., and was summarily dismissed from the service.

He flew low over the solemn memorial ceremonies held during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial by President Harding. Harding was not amused and used his Executive powers to see that Fahy was summarily stripped of his commission and dismissed from the military.

The example of Fahy's flight was taken to lawmakers who developed early rules governing aircraft flying over crowds or populated areas.

In late April 1930, he and Claire flew a new Sirius (NC12W, a Model 8, not a Register airplane) to a small grass strip in Roscommon, where they were to demonstrate the plane to a potential buyer, Cliff Durant, son of William Durant, founder of General Motors. Cliff was a wealthy aviation enthusiast who had owned a number of airplanes since 1919 when he started a flying service and built Durant Field in Oakland, Calif.

The Fahys acted as sales agents for Lockheed and the deal was Durant agreed to buy the plane if Fahy could prove that the Sirius could land and takeoff safely from Durant's personal strip. Herb and Claire got the plane on the ground without incident, but as they took off, one of the wheels of the Sirius hit a partially hidden stump, which flipped the plane over.

According to reports in the Herald-Tribune for April 26 and 28, 1930, Fahy suffered a fractured skull and a severe concussion while Claire survived uninjured. Rescuers had to cut away part of the plane's structure to extricate the fliers. Fahy was rushed to a local hospital where he died early on Sunday morning, April 27, 1930, without regaining consciousness. The Washington Post of April 26 & 28, 1930 also reports the accident and Fahy's death there from. He was 33 years old.

The site of the crash is believed to be where the 18th fairway of Forest Dunes is located.

Forest Dunes Timeline

1997 – Initial investors purchase property
1998 – Construction on Forest Dunes course begins
2000 – Forest Dunes course is completed
2001 - Developers default on loans and course is dormant; Michigan Carpenter’s Union Pension Fund takes ownership
2002 – Forest Dunes Course officially opens
2003 – Construction on the clubhouse begins
2004 - Clubhouse opens in October
2011 – Lew Thompson purchases the property in October
2012 – Construction on the Lake AuSable Lodge begins in the fall
2013 – Lake AuSable Lodge opens
2014 – Construction begins on The Loop course
2015 – Two 4-bedroom villas open
2016 – Four 2-bedroom villas open; The Loop course opens for public play on June 27
2017 – Two additional 4-bedroom villas open; outdoor dining area added
2018 – The HillTop 18-hole putting course opens
2019 -  Construction begins on short course in May and final seeding is completed August 16
2020 -  Short course opens for public play on August 1; Falcon and Loon cottages open
2021 -  New ownership group, Destination Forest Dunes LLC, purchases the entity in early January