The day’s forecast is perfect. I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed it stays that way, as our day date is one I’ve been looking forward to. My husband, Josh, and I are heading to one of the most tucked away, tranquil settings in Leelanau County: Manitou Passage Golf Club at The Homestead.
First things first: coffee. We meet Tony Farragh, senior manager and director of sales at The Homestead (and our morning tour guide), at Cavanaugh’s Deli & General Store in the resort’s Mountain Village. I have only been to The Homestead once before for my cousin’s wedding and Josh has never been. So, with a delicious cup of joe in hand, Tony takes us around the property to see it from a new perspective: as golfers.
Before we leave for Manitou Passage Golf Club located a short distance off-property, Tony insists that we check out The Homestead’s par-3 course, Mountain Flowers located on property at the top of Bay Mountain—a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Bay that becomes a ski hill in the winter. Josh and I share a side glance. We’ve heard about the views from up there. We’re absolutely in for this side trip.
On our ride up the mountain, we pass vacation homes and hotels and our anticipation for the view grows with the rise in elevation. At the 7th hole, Tony shares that outdoor wedding ceremonies are often performed here—and the bride gets to arrive via chairlift!
And oh the view! Lake Michigan stretches out as far as the eye can see, dotted with the two Manitou Islands.
Course image courtesy of The Homestead
We arrive to see the signature red umbrellas and lounge chairs of The Homestead’s Beach Club set out along the wharf between the mouth of the Crystal River and Lake Michigan. It is all picture-perfect: the pool, lounge chairs, the cafe and even the tennis courts have a view of Lake Michigan!
A glance at our watches says it’s time to hit the road. We thank Tony and take the short drive to Manitou Passage Golf Club. We’re ready to take on the stunningly scenic 18 holes designed and later renovated by golf-great Arnold Palmer.
We arrive with just enough time for lunch at the on-site Arnie’s Grill. We drop our bags off and head in. Photos of Arnold Palmer adorn the walls and cozy coves are tucked throughout the building for guests to chat, read a book or play a game of chess.
Dine inside or out? It’s an easy choice once we spot a perfect table for two under an umbrella set alongside the course. The atmosphere is elegant yet casual, and we’re joined by others who had just finished up their morning rounds.
We dine on barbacoa street tacos (corn tortillas with beef barbacoa, radishes, cilantro, roasted tomato salsa and lime) and a wild coho BLT (that’s coho salmon topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and cilantro mayo on a brioche bun). Plus, a side of truffle fries. We can’t ever say no to fries with lemon aioli and Parmesan.
With full bellies, we start our short walk back to our bags—but a glimpse at the display in the pro shop makes me stop for a quick detour. I duck in and change into a new polo and matching pink Manitou Passage hat—then finally we’re back to the bag drop where our golf cart awaits.
Monarchs flutter near milkweed swaying in the breeze; “protected habitat” signs line the greens. The care that goes into preserving this beautiful natural setting of green meadows and coastal forests is apparent. The course is in prime condition, too. “I’m really impressed by the course conditions,” my husband, an avid golfer, comments as we finish the second hole.
As much as we are enjoying our scenic surroundings, we are also enjoying the challenge of the course. After so many technical shots required in the first four holes, my husband lets one fly on the long and wide fifth hole. And as forgiving as the fifth fairway is, the sixth is as demanding as they come!
Then there’s the eighth: Manitou Passage’s signature hole. It’s a three-shot par 5 for most. The elevation leads to gorgeous views, and it lends a risk/reward challenge that golf purists appreciate.
As we start to drive toward the back nine, a staff member calls to us, “Enjoy the back!” Josh and I loosen up a bit for our last holes. It’s how we do our golf dates. We hit bright orange balls. Enjoy our cocktails. And take in our surroundings, imagining this day the different types of winds that come off the water here, and how they can impact your golf game. This course is definitely living up to its hype.
As we wrap up our round, we reminisce about the course. “Seventeen was my favorite hole,” Josh says. “I almost ended the day with a hole-in-one on that one. It’s a strategic course that you’ll feel like you could play better a second time after you’ve fallen into a few of its traps, don’t you think?” he asks me.
Will we be back? Absolutely. Learn more about The Homestead’s Stay & Play packages.