The tree-lined layout at Manakiki Golf Course has been in operation as a public golf facility since 1961. Originally set out by Donald Ross, the course was extensively upgraded during the early 1990s, restoring much of its design intent.
The two gems of Cleveland Municipal golf—Manakiki and Sleepy Hollow—were essentially won for the general public during the late ‘50s when a lawsuit from two non-golfing, concerned taxpayers questioned whether the city’s park system could rent land to private enterprises. I take my hat off to these observant watchdogs...not because of any threat to my tax dollars (I live in Columbus) but rather because now I can drive north on occasion and publicly enjoy a Donald Ross that remains so true to the Scot’s tenets.
Chief among those tenets are the greens, whose signature features remain intact. Two immediately come to mind, although each putting surface here comes with a touch of Ross charm. No. 7 is a splendid short Par 3, where a vertical spine extends from the back, to enforce the importance of finding the correct half of the putting surface upon approach, and deep bunkers enforce the importance of finding EITHER half of the putting surface (as a side note, the depth of these bunkers simply would not be possible in Columbus, where municipal sand bakes to the point of waste...wrecking the life of the hapless high-handicapper who falls in. If Cleveland’s care of Manakiki’s hazards were to be so lackluster, they would quickly convert from strategic sandpits to unrealistic hellholes). No. 3 also deserves some attention; at just 471 yards, it is a very reachable Par 5. Therefore the placement of a flag in the front thumbprint makes the foremost pin the stickiest proposition; anything above the flag in the green’s bowl makes eagle putts quickly (both temporally and in terms of green speed) become pars. But who lays up in a situation like this, really?
Although none of the putting surfaces are truly crowned in the Pinehurst sense, many still offer opportunity to find the fairway (again) with an over-strong putt. Many of the fairways behave in a similar manner; although the course’s signature holes (nos. 10 and 18) play down through valleys between rolling hills, the majority of these fairways run atop them. This displays Ross’s knack for routing, and also creates a great opportunity to win a skin off of a first-timer; many drives that look like gold from the tee prove otherwise when they feed left or right into the second-cut.
The biggest complaint against both Manakiki and Sleepy Hollow will be the length of a round. No one expects a municipal 18 to fly as quickly as a private club, but sme lack in variety compounds the problem here. Three of the four Par 5s are less than 500 yards from the tips. Unto itself, it’s a concerning bit of sameness, but it also means a 280-yard drive (quite frequent on these fast fairways) results in waiting for the group ahead to move off the green. The trickle-down schedule wreckenomics flows backward from there.
Nonetheless, I would hardly encourage Cleveland to raise prices ($38 to walk during the weekend), or even cut back tee times. The people of Cleveland fought for access to this course (or at least one litigious couple did), and they should continue to exercise that right. Manakiki remains a bright light for municipal operations, in Ohio and otherwise.