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Michigan Golf Course Review

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

REVIEW UPDATE - Wonderful upgrades to landscaping and conditioning have been put in place since our last visit. Additionally, hole number 9 on the Canthooke course is now a par three (converted from a par four) that plays to 198/166 and 125 yards. The complete distances from the three sets of tees now measure 6517, 6127 and 4778 yards.

Manistee National is a full service golf resort located on M-31, just south of the town of Manistee and a four hour's drive from Detroit. We had driven past the property on numerous trips up north - to Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes - and were unaware of the fine golfing opportunities in this area. Quite frankly, from the road the resort and golf courses appear ordinary. After spending a few days there, we discovered that Manistee National is truly a hidden gem, with amenities designed to satisfy the seasoned traveling golfer. The resort underwent significant renovations for the 2006 season, including improvements to both golf courses. Additionally, a beautiful outdoor pool area with hot tub has been added, and the clubhouse restaurant and resort lounge facilities have been expanded to better serve visiting guests.

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course
Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

The property includes a resort complex that features 42 comfortable hotel-style accommodations (some suites and hot tub rooms), a meeting area, lounge, and indoor and outdoor pools with Jacuzzis. A continental breakfast that includes cereal, bagels, muffins, coffee and juices is complimentary to guests. The resort offers cross-country skiing during the winter, with downhill slopes within a half hour's drive. Sand dunes and bluff lined beaches are a great attraction, located just 10 minutes from the resort. The main draw however, is golf. The Retreat and The Revenge courses begin slowly but ultimately provide 36 holes of high quality, exciting golf, comparable to other 4 star courses in the area. Also on property is a beautiful driving range (grass and mats), short game area with practice bunker, and putting greens.  A residential golf community with ridge line building sites overlooking fairways, greens and natural wetlands of The Revenge Course is in the works. For now, you will find complete seclusion amidst the natural Northern Michigan setting, with two distinctively challenging courses to choose from. For more information, visit the resort by clicking here.

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course
Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

Both courses are well marked with 150 yard stakes quite visible in the fairways on all of the par fours and fives. These markers make great targets off the tee, especially to first time visitors. Yardage plates are a nice feature on all the tee boxes, and small flags on all the flagsticks indicate the days pin placement. The greens are of medium size and speed, and are well conditioned. The Revenge Course is a traditional layout, wandering through hardwoods and pine forest, while The Retreat is a modern, Jerry Matthews design, with upscale conditioning set amidst rolling topography and abundant natural wetlands.  The Retreat is the easier of the two courses, with generous fairways greeting you on most tee boxes. The four sets of tees measure 6517, 6127, 5288 and 4778 yards, providing all golfers the opportunity to play to their skill level. This is a fine resort golf experience. There is enough trouble, in the form of doglegs, water, natural areas and forest lined fairways, to challenge the scratch golfer. The average player will enjoy the yardage from the whites, and seniors and ladies get a nice break from the front tees. The putting surfaces were soft and receptive during our August review.

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course
Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

The opening hole features a rolling fairway with a hidden pond 40 yards out on the right side. Along with the #15 handicapped par four second, these first two holes provide an opportunity to get off to a good start. Be careful not to be long when approaching the green on number two, as there is little room past the putting surface. The third also presents a generous fairway, but narrows considerably about 120 yards out. This is an easy 3-shot par five. The par three 4th demands a carry over marsh, with little room for error. Bunkers long and wetlands short mean trouble here. The number one handicap follows. The raised fairway is quite generous, but the uphill nature and prevailing wind make this a challenge off the tee. It is best to approach the green from the left side on this dogleg right 447 yard par four (427 from the whites). After a fairly easy par three over a marsh you are confronted with one of the tightest driving holes on the course. The fairway on this dogleg left par four is tree-lined and very narrow, making par a great score here. A "shoot like" tee area greets you on the eighth. There is room left, with out of bounds on the near right. Pay attention to the pin placement, as the green slopes back to front. Long hitters, with a helpful breeze, have a chance to reach the green off the tee on the short par four ninth. The tee shot is a blind one, so a sneak peak at the green is a prudent move. There is some room for error left - with water right and a dry creek bed running along the front about 40 yards out providing a challenge. A long iron/fairway wood off the tee should leave an easy approach for those wishing to play cautiously.

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course
Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

The back side opens with a rolling par five, that plays parallel to the first hole - with the hidden water hazard now to the left. Aim at the 150 yard stake on the dogleg right par four 11th - for the safest approach. Long hitters can hug the tree line right and cut off some distance here. The 12th is the number 4 handicap, and plays long and tight from the blue and white tees (444 and 427). The tee shot is to a raised fairway, with a hidden bunker green-side on the left. There is no room long on the mid-range par three 13th, which also features a trap short of the green. This precedes the very interesting par four 14th. Long hitters can carry the fairway bunker in front, which is nearly a hundred yards wide. Do it and you are on, or close to the putting surface. Another option is to lay up to the vast fairway on the right, which leaves a short iron or wedge approach to the green. There is no guarantee here however, as numerous, mature hardwoods dot the landscape about 50 yards out. A narrow tree lined fairway with a sharp bend o the left creates the challenge and makes the par five 15th play as a three shot hole. The 16th is the last of the long par fours. You must be on the right side of the fairway near the 150-yard stake, for a chance to see the green on this challenging dogleg left. Cutting it is not an option. Seventeen is a beauty. This is a short par three which is all carry over water. There is some bail out room short right of the small green. The finishing hole is gorgeous, and in my mind rivals the more popular closing hole on the Revenge course. Long hitters can bend it left over the fountain, and nearly reach the green off the tee. The safe play is to aim for the deep fairway bunker, and set up for a short iron/wedge approach. This hole often plays into a prevailing wind, which will help determine your shot selection.

Manistee National Resort - Canthooke Valley Course

This is a nice layout, and is extremely fun to play. I particularly enjoyed the back nine, and had the opportunity to replay it, as it was late in the day. Together with The Revenge, this pair provides some great resort golf experiences - making the Manistee " SLAM" (Sunday night stay and unlimited golf on both courses from Sunday 2 PM to sundown Monday) an ideal package for those who can't get enough golf. Looking for more variety? A 3 or 4 night stay at the Manistee National will afford the opportunity to play some of the other wonderful courses in the area. Located within 20 to 25 minutes (and also highly recommended) are the new Hemlock Golf Club, the Heathlands Golf Club - and the infamous Arcadia Bluffs. Manistee National Golf Resort is a highly recommended place to stay - and a great golf destination in an area that is a bit unfamiliar to golfers in the Metro Detroit area. Bring your family - they will have plenty to do in town at the quaint shops and restaurants, and on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Tell them we sent you! You will definitely appreciate this tip!

Check out the Two Guys Who Golf detailed information page on this course (which includes a link to the course's website if available) - click here.For the Manistee National Resort - click here.

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