Manitou Passage: Improving nicely in year two

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 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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