Michigan is blessed with a number of great golf courses. Few can offer views that match the breathtaking bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan and the elegance of an Arnold Palmer Designed Championship course. Located minutes from the Sleeping Bear Dunes and a short drive from Traverse City, our course is situated in the heart of one of Michigan’s most popular vacation destinations.
No other course, in our view, can match the combination of golf and amenities offered by Manitou Passage in conjunction with our sister property, The Homestead Resort. Pairing a round with a spa treatment, a gourmet meal, or just a swim in Lake Michigan is a surefire way to make everyone happy.
Manitou Passage Golf Club
4600 Club Drive
Cedar, MI 49621
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By Jim Barnes
It may seem unthinkable, even sacrilegious, to make any changes to a course designed by the great Arnold Palmer. Originally opened in 1998 as King’s Challenge, the course languished a bit when Sugar Loaf Mountain Ski Resort closed (the course is built alongside the ski hill), so it needed some rejuvenating and updating. The new owners, headed up by Robert Kuras of The Homestead Resort, have done an excellent job.
From the first turn in the drive and glimpse of the renovated clubhouse, the place feels welcoming. Once you’re on the 1st tee, nestled among trees, natural landscaping, and that big looming “mountain,” you know you’re in for a classic “up north” golf adventure.
Palmer said during the course construction that it was one of the most dramatic sites he’s ever worked with, and he made full use of the extreme terrain. After a few fairly flat holes, he takes the track up the side of the mountain, perches a few holes up on the plateau, and then plunges back down to dramatic effect. The redesign has increased playability by enlarging many of the tee boxes, taking some severity out of a few doglegs, and widening some landing areas. The excellent bunkering throughout the course has been cleaned up and re-cut, giving it the crisp look such a monumental design deserves.
One of the most noticeable and dramatic changes is the No. 8 tee box, where some earth was moved to raise the surface and give golfers a better view. Now, a glimpse of Lake Michigan between Pyramid Point and South Manitou Island is visible, the namesake Manitou Passage. Those who know the historical significance of the Passage and its nickname “the Graveyard of the Great Lakes” can treat this as a sign to “batten down the hatches” and not let their round get shipwrecked.
It’s a beautiful view to begin the course’s signature and probably most challenging hole. The downhill par 5 drops like a black-diamond ski slope, and when it finally flattens out, the dogleg reveals a water-guarded green — with your approach shot dead into the prevailing wind coming onshore from the aforementioned Passage. The pond is teeming with plants and wildlife, you can see the “mountain” in the background, and landing your approach shot dry is a major accomplishment and a great finish to one of northern Michigan’s most exciting golf holes.
Maybe the most striking thing about this course is the variety — of terrain, of fairway slope, of green shape — there is always a surprise and always an interesting feature. On No. 4, you break out of the woods with a sweeping dogleg right that ends at a huge amphitheater green — not a tree in sight. The next two links-style holes are high and dry, a brief respite before you duck back into the forest.
If you’re looking for a golf adventure in one of the most unique settings in northern Michigan, this is the course for you. Be prepared to cast off, trim your sails, and have a rollicking good time navigating this great Arnold Palmer creation at Manitou Passage.
Manitou Passage Golf Club Photos (Click on photos for slideshow view)
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Dunes Golf Club – Hole #18 – A great finishing hole with a dramatic approach shot over the water.
By Jim Barnes
The Dunes Golf Club is one of the hidden gems of northern Michigan golf. Lying just a few miles east of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore visitor center in Empire, the course is carved out of the deep woods and rolling hills that helped earn the Sleeping Bear park its title of “Most Beautiful Place in America.”
Although conveniently located on highway M-72, all but a few holes are isolated in the forest, and once you tee off you’re left with only the sounds of birds and wind in the trees.
The fairway grass is lush, the rough is fair, and the greens roll smoothly and hold approach shots well. It’s a wonderful place to get away from it all and find that relaxing “zen” zone of golf.
“Here at the Dunes we’re all about bringing accessible, reasonably priced golf to the area,” says Chris Wall, the course owner/operator. “We encourage families, kids, and players of all levels to come out and play and have a great time. We’ve always tried to keep it affordable, enjoyable and playable.”
Chris’s father Dean Wall designed and built the course, opening the first nine in 1983 and the back nine in 1991. His mother Joy ran the clubhouse until retiring in 2013. The whole operation has a welcoming, friendly feel that is perfect for a vacation outing or an after-work twilight round.
On a recent holiday weekend visit the course was filled with players of all ages, and when I asked some of the golfers for their impressions, the most prominent comments were “fun” and “beautiful.”
At 5,730 yards, there are some pretty short par 4’s and 5’s that can be real ego-boosters — but only if you keep it “down the middle.” The moderate length combined with tight fairways and dogleg angles make it a balanced and challenging experience.
Bottom line: this is really fun golf course to play.
Hole #8 – Longish par 3 with a receptive green.
Hole #13 – Short par 4. Batman shaped bunker. A classic.
Hole #15 – Final par 5 and it’s the shortest.
Dunes Golf Club Photo Album
For a hole-by-hole tour of the Dunes Golf Club, visit the Dunes Golf Club Photo Album and click on the photos for a slide-show view of each hole.
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Arnold Palmer’s “Signature Course” King’s Challenge is reborn in Leelanau County as Manitou Passage Golf Club
Over the past two decades some of the most distinguished new golf courses in America have opened in northern Michigan. Perhaps that’s because the nationally acclaimed golf course architects who designed those courses were inspired by the beauty of region’s hills, forests and waters. Nowhere is that beauty more pronounced than to the northwest of Traverse City in Leelanau County.
This sparsely populated decidedly rural county is made up of 348 square miles of land and 2,184 square miles of water. It is the home of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is considered by many to be the State’s number one attraction. Its unmatched beauty with a climate tempered by the water made it a perfect setting for an Arnold Palmer Signature Course – the course that King’s Challenge was meant to be.
When a group lead by Bob Kuras, president of The Homestead, purchased King’s Challenge last year they knew it had not been what it was meant to be. They also knew it could be a signature course and, with dedication, could become a destination course featuring exceptional playing conditions and unmatched service. When the group adopted a goal of becoming a destination course they decided that the course needed a new name that would tie it to Leelanau County and portray the unique high-end experience it would offer.
“While working on the new tee boxes for No. 8 we discovered a view of Lake Michigan’s Manitou Passage. Immediately, we realized that name was the tie to Leelanau County. We also realized that the grandeur of the passage would portray what we are doing here: creating a world-class golf experience on a course designed by one of the greatest golfers to play the game”, said Kuras.
To create that experience the new ownership group reestablished a relationship with Palmer and brought in other experts. One was Wadsworth Golf Construction, the most respected golf course contractor in the country with over 800 projects to its credit. The other was Peridian International, a leader in land planning and landscape architecture for resort destinations throughout the world. Together, Palmer, Wadsworth and Peridian envisioned scores of changes, some minor, some major, that would be made to bring the course and facility up to the championship level experience that an Arnold Palmer “Signature Design” is noted for.
Wadsworth worked from early spring until early winter to make the majority of the recommended changes. Renovations included the repositioning, adding and squaring off of tee-boxes, widening of fairways in key landing areas, renovating bunkers, lengthening some holes, restoring areas with native grasses and clearing of trees and brush to open vistas to the area’s natural beauty.
Complimenting the golf course work was a complete renovation of the entry drive, parking area, cart storage, starter’s plaza and clubhouse. The new clubhouse features a tastefully detailed stone and cedar shake exterior. Inside, the newly created library and trophy alcoves, club room, grill and golf shop feature stone fireplaces, luxurious furnishings, oriental rugs, warm rich woods and original art. New patio doors lead to a multi-level patio that affords stunning views of the 18th hole and offers guests’ outdoor food and beverage services.
The completely-redesigned Clubhouse features an outdoor dining terrace with sweeping views of no. 18 and full table service from the Grill Room.
“We adopted a very high goal and are delighted with the contributions that Palmer, Wadsworth and Peridian made toward our achieving our goal of becoming a destination course. We are looking forward to completing the work and providing the playing conditions and service discerning golfers desire and deserve,” said Kuras.
For more information visit: www.manitoupassagegolfclub.com (under construction), www.thehomesteadresort.com, www.sleepingbeardunes.com and www.nps.gov/slbe.
Location: Cedar, MI 20 minutes northwest of Traverse City
Address: 4600 Club Drive
Yardage: 6,734 from back tees
Architect: Arnold Palmer Design Company
Year Opened: 1998, Reopened 2010
Phone: 231.228.6000; 888.656.7572
For More: Jamie Jewell, Senior Manager, The Homestead, 231.334.5524>
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