Manitou Passage: Improving Nicely in Year Two


By Guest Blogger Terry Moore, A Network of Great Golf and Travel Writing by Actual Journalists. Reprinted with permission, July 18, 2011

After visiting Manitou Passage Golf Club in Cedar last week I’m happy report it continues to improve as an attractive golf option for visitors to northwest Michigan. As you may recall, Manitou Passage is the old King’s Challenge designed by Arnold Palmer which opened in 1997. It was a playable layout, a lasting trademark of Palmer design, but never given the proper marketing support by its then owners. Mirroring the troubles of nearby Sugarloaf Resort, the course went into a downward spiral for a number of years and its conditioning was sadly neglected.

Manitou Passage Golf Club

Manitou Passage is a User-Friendly Layout

Thankfully, a group of investors headed by The Homestead’s Bob Kuras bought the property two years ago and last summer it reopened as Manitou Passage. A host of improvements were made to the course in terms of tees and bunkers and course maintenance. The clubhouse was also handsomely redecorated and accented with many excellent Palmer photos. Attending the Media Day last summer, I was glad to see the course in capable hands. The tie-in to The Homestead, a first-class resort and residential community, always made sense to me.

Unfortunately on June 5 at Manitou Passage there was a fire in the pump house for the irrigation system. Starting as a mechanical fire, the pump house burned to the ground and left the course without water for five days until a temporary pump was installed. Without any significant rainfall, the course took it on the chin with some burn-out areas. But stuff happens and overall the conditioning is still fine. The new pump was being installed the day we played so everything is now back to normal.

With friends in Glen Arbor, I’m very pleased with the progress seen with Manitou Passage. It’s a solid, eye-pleasing golf course with accommodating open-approaches to the greens and no watery cross hazards. The par-five eighth hole with its elevated tee and a majestic view out to Manitou Island remains a delight. Suggestion: mount some naval or vintage coin-operated binoculars at this tee and let golfers enjoy the sights.

As shared by my playing partners it would be nice to see some of the dense fescue cut back and thinned out in the rough. Currently on many holes, particularly on holes no. 5-6, the rough is so thick, penal and gnarly it’s an automatic lost ball. Not only too penal it also slows play. ‘Player friendly’ should be the watchwords going forward. But maybe this is another work-in-progress item that will be addressed in the future. Again, there’s much to like and to enjoy at Manitou Passage. It doesn’t take binoculars to see it’s on the right course. Visit

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4 Responses to Manitou Passage: Improving Nicely in Year Two

  1. Jerry says:

    Played Manitou Passage today 7/27/11 the first time under new owners. Quite an improvement I must say. However, there are a few items to be addressed before it can be in the upper ranks of Northern Michigan’s
    top courses.
    1. Greens have a long way to go.
    2. Better on course direction (hole to hole).
    3. Tee boxes are rougher than I would have expected.
    4. Due to the many dog-legs and blind holes a permanet hole diagram at each tee box is recommended.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. manitou says:

    On behalf of all of us at Manitou Passage Golf Club, thank you for playing and for providing us feedback.

    Two years have passed since the course was purchased with the goal to become one of the nation’s top golf destinations. From the beginning, all those involved agreed it would be a long, tough process.

    Today, we are proud of what has been accomplished in 26 months, but we also understand that we have yet to experience the true benefits from all of the changes. For example, a soil sample of the putting surfaces from April 2009 showed that the unhealthy appearance and poor condition of the greens was the result of 5 to 5 ½ inches of thatch below the surface. L93 Bentgrass putting surfaces generally have a recommended amount of thatch between 1 and 1 ½ inches. An aggressive program to resuscitate the greens commenced immediately by implementing a weekly vertical cut and top dressing of the greens which helps to separate the grass blades so that water and nutrients can penetrate the root structure making the grass healthier and the putting surface more consistent and fast. We have yet to reach the goal of 1-1 ½ inches of thatch, but the surfaces have improved markedly.

    Detail items are the current focus at the course including directional signs and golf hole diagrams that will better aid the golfer to navigate the difficult dog-legs while making the elevation changes easier to play as well. These new additions will be environmentally sensitive and will most certainly benefit every golfer, regardless of their handicap.

    Since 2009, all 90 of the tee boxes have either been re-shaped or completely rebuilt. The irrigation problems endured as a result of the pump house fire this spring certainly impacted the appearance and playability of the young tee surfaces. Now that the irrigation system is operating properly the tee grounds are steadily improving.

    We are very proud to have been recognized by Golfweek Magazine as “Best New Course 2010”. At the same time, we acknowledge that there is still a journey ahead to achieve our goal of being one of the best destination courses in the country. Be assured, no corners will be cut or quick fixes implemented to cure the long-term problems. Rather, we are committed to making well-educated, precise and calculated decisions for long-term improvements and growth.

    Thank you again for your feedback. We hope to see you at Manitou Passage Golf Club again soon!

    Logan Price
    Director of Golf

  3. Patty Warner says:

    Next year I really want to play your course.

  4. manitou says:

    Patty, We would love you to play our course too. Can you come this year? Even in the fall it is so beautiful here. Actually, the fall is probably the best time to golf because the weather is so stable and its not hot.

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