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Fresh Coast Golf - Ludington and Manistee
by Art McCafferty and Dean Holzwarth


Ludington is enjoyable, year after year. The Ludington Lakestride Half Marathon is one of the best in the state and our sister publication, the Michigan Runner has covered the race many times.

If you have never taken the four-hour tour from Ludington to Wisconsin aboard the S.S. Badger, you need to schedule it. The trip is fun, beats driving in Chicago traffic, and the extra time you pick up tends to heighten the excitement you might have for those great Wisconsin tracts. Depending from whence you leave, consider a round of golf at either Double JJ or one of the Golf Manistee courses.

Hemlock Golf Club

Now, thanks to brothers Dr. Michael and John Kennedy, we will be able to get in a round of golf in Ludington, before we get on the boat in the morning. The new Hemlock GC, which Tom Cleary previewed in our June issue, is all he said it was.

Ray Hearn has done another great job with this course. His past successes with The Strategic Fox, Moose Ridge, The Grande GC, Quail Ridge, Twin Lakes and the spectacular Island Hills GC have been a precursor to his amazing work at Hemlock.

Sand. Hemlock has lots of sand and Hearn has really brought this great natural resource front and center. This is just a beautiful course.

John Kennedy has been a golf course superintendent for a couple of decades, working at Tecumseh CC for 12 years and then moving on to the prestigious Highland Meadows, home of the Jamie Farr Classic. When his brother, a physician in Ludington, put together the land and the money, John joined him to bring this course and their collective dream to fruition.

Ludington, like many other fresh coast harbors, is sprucing up its harbors and downtown. The marina is first class and the beaches and overall townscape showed new pavement and paint.

There are a number of fine places to stay in Ludington, but the one most actively partnering with the Hemlock is the Four Season Motel. It has a good location, terrific breakfasts and the service is wonderful.

Ludington, the gateway for Wisconsin on the S.S. Badger, home of the great Lakestride Half Marathon is now the home of The Hemlock Golf Club.


Manistee isn't your father's golf community. A lot has changed in Manistee over the past four years as it has made a conscience effort to compete with the other golf destinations that the state has to offer. A new partnership between the golf courses and the lodging properties has Manistee poised to bring a new following to the small northern Michigan community.

"I think that there's been a lot of different communities in Michigan that have focused on golf and have done a nice job of packaging lodging with golf - being more golf-destination oriented," said Doug Bell, the general manager of Manistee National Golf Club and Resort. "Manistee has never been placed in that category before, but I think in the past four years we've developed into just that."

Manistee offers six 18-hole golf courses that give golfers a variety of options. From the old Manistee Country Club, which was built in 1901 and is shorter and easier to play, all the way to the other end of the spectrum with scenic and challenging Arcadia Bluffs.

"We can take a group from beginners to world travelers and give them a product that they're going to be happy playing," Bell said. "We have nine different lodging facilities that work with those golf courses and we couldn't do that in this community four years ago.

"We're starting to become more successful than five years ago with the tourism industry. You couldn't say that golf had a big impact on the community, but the whole community has been metamorphosed by golf and you can tell that by just driving down the main road in Manistee."

Manistee is also trying to become more affordable than its rivals when it comes to its golf packages.

"Manistee is a lot different than it used to be and our golf packages are a lot easier on the pocket book than others," Bell said. "We'll never be a dominant player, but if we can get people to try us then maybe we can get them to come back instead of going somewhere else."

Manistee's lodging facilities range from the larger hotels, which accommodate 40 to 800 people, to the smaller bed and breakfasts where couples can mix golf and dinner and watch the sun set on Lake Michigan.

Historic Portage Point Inn offers golf packages for Manistee area courses, including Manistee National, the Heartlands, County Highlands and Manistee Golf and Country Club. Listed in the National Historic Register, Portage Point Inn is now a year-round, full-service resort.(http://www.portagepointinn.com)

Manistee doesn't have the elevation changes that Garland or Gaylord has, but it does have Lake Michigan. All of the courses in Manistee are within one mile of the big lake.

Manistee National Golf Club and Resort is now under new ownership. Mike Biber, CEO of Osprey, bought the resort less than two months ago.

"They're blowing us away with the plans that they have. People will hear more about our resort than they have in the past," Bell said. "They think Manistee is a great little town and they're excited to be a part of the growth that is going to happen in the community."

Here is a quick look at Manistee's top six golf courses:

Canthooke Valley
Located at Manistee Golf Club and Resort, this 18-hole gem is traditional in design. It looks like it's been around for a long time and not one person who plays the course has the same experience twice. You could play every day and not get tired of it.

Cutters' Ridge
Also located at Manistee Golf Club and Resort, Cutters' Ridge opened in 2000 and is the exact opposite of its parent course. It has a modern Jerry Matthews design with plenty of wetlands and bridges. It's a shot maker's golf course and is tied with Tullymore for the highest slope rating in the state at 148. There are only three par-3s and three par-5s on the course with several tee locations to change the feel of the course.

Waist-high deep heather grass will detour golfers from hitting errant tee shots at this modern course. Located on a bluff, the Heathlands overlooks Portage Lake and is very playable for all caliber of golfers. There are not a lot of hazards.

Manistee Country Club
A traditional small town country club, Manistee CC is a shorter course that cozies next to Lake Michigan. The course possesses small greens and it's usually much colder than the others with a gusty wind coming off Lake Michigan. Here's a quick hint: Always club down. A beautiful historic clubhouse is a welcome sight when coming off the 18th green.

County Highlands
Located on a high bluff above Bear Lake, County Highlands was built as a member-owned course and all of the money that is made goes back into the golf course. The course is always in immaculate condition and is a gem of a course for everyone.

Arcadia Bluffs
This Rick Smith-designed course is unlike any other golf course in the state. It boasts picturesque views of Lake Michigan with challenging holes and has become the signature course in the Manistee area. MG

July 2002 Issue Table of Content
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Golf Travel | Lodging | Golf Guides | Michigan Golf History | Tournaments | Michigan Golf Real Estate
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