New excitement around every corner at classic Canthooke Valley.
Get ready to play fabulous traditional-style golf on our Canthooke Valley Course. The rolling fairways here are planted in Kentucky bluegrass that sets your ball up high for easy contact. The layout, done by Michigan architect Gary Pulsipher in 1993, meanders through hardwoods and a white pine forest. The course then opened in 1994. “I tend to think it’s the finest course that Gary ever designed,” said Douglas Bell, general manager and director of golf at Manistee National Golf & Resort.
This was the first course built at Manistee National and is beloved by everyone from high handicappers to scratch golfers. It will test the best and yet be playable for golfers of all abilities. You’ll face generous fairways and only a few forced carries at Canthooke Valley. However, the moderate-sized, bentgrass greens are well-bunkered, and some ponds, marshes and trees threaten your path to the greens. Every hole has a lot of individual character and personality so that your round will offer new excitement whenever you turn a corner. According to Bell, “People tell me that they have fun every time they play the course. They say, ‘I play it and it doesn’t wear me out or beat me up.’” The par-4 No. 1 (439 yards from the back and 374 from the front) is a great opener and a strong test. It’s one of the longer par-4s on the course. “It’s lined with heather grass on either side, and there’s also a lone white pine to watch out for,” said Bell. “But you’re very much out in the open on this hole. It almost seems as if you’re on a links course. It’s a stout first hole. Length is the key here; it’s long and open.” When you reach the dogleg left par-5 No. 3 (519 yards from the back tees and 399 from the front), you’ll find that your length off the tee is not the key to success. The fairway here makes a quick turn to the left, and you have to be careful that you don’t hit through the fairway into the woods with a drive that’s too long. “You either need to hit a draw or use a 3-wood or a 5-wood,” Bell said. The fairway drops down into a gully as you approach the green; so many players lay up in front of the gully and then make a short wedge shot. “Longer hitters will go for it, but the bunkering is aggressive around the green,” Bell said. “The bunkers can penalize you for trying.” Those bunkers include a large, deep trap front right as well as others left and short of the green by 20 to 30 yards. The No. 1 handicap hole is the par-4 No. 5 that measures 447 yards from the back and 300 from the front. The tee shot is what this dogleg right is all about. “You need a carry over a marsh to a very tight landing area. If you hit to the right, you’re in the wetlands,” Bell said. “This is one of the holes that good players always mention after their round.”
After this fairly robust start, the course softens up a bit. Everyone especially enjoys the par-3 No. 9. This hole, recently renovated and improved, was previously a par-4 that was almost too easy. This new, intriguing par-3 measures 198 yards from the back and 125 from the front. “All the tees are elevated,” Bell said, “and you’re hitting southwest into the prevailing wind. You make your shot here downhill to a large green almost entirely surrounded by water. A weak par-4 was made into a good tough par-3.” The back nine leads off with a dogleg right par-5 that requires precision off the tee. This hole (520 yards from the front and 439 from the back) is bordered by oaks and pines on each side. Then the fairway drops down a 20-foot slope to a lower level. The downhill grade makes the green reachable in two if you can get your tee shot down to the lower section of the fairway. But watch out for the irrigation pond on the left side of the fairway, Bell said. “A hook or a draw will find water.” No. 14 is a unique par-4 that plays at 340 yards from the tips, 238 yards from the front. “This is a very aggressive dogleg left,” Bell said. “But you only take the route along the fairway if you’re a shorter hitter. If you can hit the ball 240 yards off the tee then you can challenge the green.” The only problem with taking the high-risk route and cutting the dogleg is that between tee and green lies a 200-yard-long by 20-foot-deep waste bunker. “It’s all-carry if you go straight,” Bell said. “Long hitters can drive across the bunker and then have a short chip or a putt to finish. Then the player choosing the fairway will have a tough shot to the green because a very formidable white pine tree guards the green in the front right corner.” The 14th is clearly one of Bell’s favorites. “I don’t think I’ve seen another hole like it in Northern Michigan. It’s more like something you’d see in California,” he said. “When we have outings, all the golfers in the event try to go for it.” Another fun challenge on the back is No. 16, a big sweeping dogleg left par-4, heavily protected by oak trees on both sides. This fairly long hole plays at 428 yards from the tips and 307 from the forward tees. “As you make your tee shot, the fairway goes downhill,” said Bell. “Then at about 180 yards out, it rises toward the green. The key here is to be long off the tee and take the right three-quarters of the fairway around the dogleg.” You’ll finish your round at Canthooke with a great par-4 (324 yards from the tips and 167 from the front) that requires you to make your tee shot partly over a pond that’s off to the left but circles around in back of the green. Long hitters will bite off more of the pond that stands in front of the green. High handicappers go more to the right. “It’s a fairly short hole, but it’s somewhat deceptive,” said Bell. “Better players tend to think too much about how to get there. If I get too aggressive, I’m in the water.” Thinking about aiming directly at the flag can be dangerous since you’re aiming for a small, two-tiered green that slopes from right to left. “If the pin is back left, you have to hit to the right or you could end up in the water behind the green,” said Bell. Distances, ratings and slopes at Canthooke Valley:
- Blue 6,517 (72.1/131)
- White 6,127 (69.2/128)
- Gold 5,288 (65.6/121)
- Red 4,778 (67.5/116)