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By Don Vanderveen / Photography by Kevin Frisch

Long before they were yelling “Fore!” in Manistee County, they were yelling “Timber!”

Nowadays, the crack of a golf ball off the tee echoes through the woods instead of falling timbers. In conjunction with the region’s logging heritage, Manistee National Golf & Resort LLC is striving to stay a cut above the rest.

Located in the Manistee National Forest, Manistee National has turned into a golfer’s destination stop with two 18-hole golf courses and a 42-room hotel.

The golf courses — named after logging terms from the industry indigenous to the area at the turn-of-the-century (the previous one, of course!) — include Canthooke Valley, formerly known as Cobi Pines, and the newest addition, Cutter’s Ridge.

“ The ownership group took the 18-hole course and hotel that was there to a resort level with service and experience,” Manistee National director of golf Doug Bell said. “We’re pure golf with a bed to sleep on. The name has elevated us potentially, and now it’s up to us to take it to the next level.”

The addition of Cutter’s Ridge will greatly enhance that effort.

Not an overly long course, Cutter’s Ridge runs through woods and wetlands. It was purchased as a work in progress and packaged together with Canthooke Valley and the hotel to create a resort destination in the middle of the Manistee National Forest.

Bell said that the six-year-old Canthooke Valley is one of the best-kept secrets in Northern Michigan.

“ Everybody’s who has played it thoroughly enjoyed it,” Bell said. “Now we add the Jerry Matthews’ course (Cutter’s Ridge), which is a little bit different course and we have two outstanding golf experiences with lodging.”

Cutter’s Ridge features just three par-3s and three par-5s. Some shots from the tee require carry over wetlands, while others require carry to the green. The landing areas are generous.

While Canthooke Valley is cut through timbers, consists of bluegrass fairways and is set on dry ground, Cutter’s Ridge cuts through some valleys and wetlands and features bent grass tees, fairways and greens.

The elevation changes at Cutter’s Ridge are more subtle than at Canthooke Valley, but it does present an up-and-down feel to it without spectacular drops.

“ The two courses are going to be quite a bit different,” Bell said. “You never know how people will interpret it as far as difficultly or playability, but I believe Cutter’s Ridge will be more of a shot maker’s golf course with the bent grass conditions and well bunkered fairways and greens. It does traverse more wetlands than the original course and there are a variety of pines and hardwoods.”

An outstanding practice facility also is part of the new course, and Manistee National plans to eventually offer golf schools and clinics. With weekend price points of $50 for Canthooke Valley and $60 for Cutter’s Ridge, Manistee National offers great golf at affordable prices.

“ People will have to drive quite a ways to find two better golf courses on a 36 hole property,” Bell said. “Some 36-hole complexes have some courses that are head-and-shoulders above the other, but we have two that people will like equally as well. When they play both courses, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

The Jerry Matthews’ design at Cutter’s Ridge features greens that are slightly contoured with smart bunkering around them.

“ They are very fair and visible without one blind shot,” Bell said. “As a player, it’s not a lot of fun to hit into a green where you see only a flag stick. We’ve got some uphill shots and some downhills straight on. In all cases the design is real fair with visibility and I appreciate that in design.”

Length at Cutter’s Ridge is not going to be an issue with four sets of tees. It plays 6,707 yards from the tips. A series of par-4 holes on the back nine go back-to-back in distance with lengths of 318, 322 and 344. Cutter’s Ridge dismisses they myth that a golf course has to be 7,000 yards long to provide 18 outstanding holes.

“ Some of us enjoy hitting a 4-wood or long irons off the tee and then have wedge shots to the green,” Bell said. “It’s not a real long golf course, but if I had to characterize what (Matthews) did is that he made some very interesting shorter holes. Jerry made some very good, short golf holes. Length won’t be a factor. It will come down to shot placement. A four-hour round of golf — as opposed to a five- to six-hour round — leaves you with more time to do other things.”

Playing another round of golf may be one of those options.

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