Host venue for the 1944 edition of the PGA Championship (won by Bob Hamilton over favorite Byron Nelson in the match play final), Manito Golf & Country Club boasts an A.V. Macan-designed 18-hole layout which features a large double island green in front of the clubhouse for the 9th and 18th holes.
John Harbottle produced a Master Plan for Manito Golf & Country Club in 2009 but sadly passed away in 2012, so Jeff Mingay was drafted in to conduct a review of Harbottle’s plans and subsequently oversee the remodeling of the 4th, 5th, and 6th holes.
“Manito is AV Macan’s third 18-hole design, following Royal Colwood in Victoria, British Colombia, and Inglewood near Seattle,” Mingay said. “The club is hopeful of completing a historically-inspired renovation of the entire golf course to celebrate its centennial in 2022.”
Manito Golf & Country Club hosted the 1944 PGA won by Bob Hamilton in an upset against Byron Nelson. Of the courses that I have played that have hosted a major (110 to date), Manito is a rare course that has not tried to keep up with modern technology in order to remain relevant to the top players. The course’s focus is on playability for members of all abilities with only a few holes holding a challenge. These holes are the ones with small ponds.
The course is well suited for the composition of its members. This course is perfect for players with a high handicap due to the “simple” greens, wide fairways, and shallow bunkers. As I played I noticed half of the players in a cart (it was a hot and sunny day) as well as many couples playing together. The focus of the course is not to be difficult, it is to have a stress-free round. Players with a plus index would likely find the course to lack adequate challenge.
The course is the easiest course I have ever walked. It is perhaps the flattest course I have ever played with the only real change in terrain being some mounds to the right of the eleventh hole that might go above 5 feet as well as the elevated greens on nine and eighteen. About half of the greens are essentially flat and easy to read. One can often land a ball short of the green and have it release onto the surface. Even the greens with more slope are easy to read. There are no greens that have interior swales and mounds. There are only a few greens with a tier, but less pronounced here than at other courses. Indeed, the first green that any real variation in slope is the sixth. The bunkers are relatively shallow and not particularly difficult to either advance a ball down the fairway or extract oneself if greenside. With the exception of the second and fourth tee, the next tee is very close by.
Perhaps the club also made a decision to remain playable for players of all abilities due to a lack of land. This is a short course barely over 6500 yards from the back tees. Houses ring the property with two holes located on the other side of a road and accessed via two tunnels.
The club could make a decision to make the course more difficult. I have played numerous “short” courses that were very challenging. At Manito, they could change the green complexes. There are no real raised greens The greenside bunkering could be made both more interesting and more penal with some rear bunkers as well as bunkers placed away from the green instead of against. Finally the bunkers could add differing shapes. The green surrounds could add mounding. The fairway bunkering could add central bunkers or bunkers placed inside the fairway. But I stress I do not think the club wants a course that is difficult or requires many decisions. Indeed, the only time I felt I made a strategic decision was on the ninth hole.
As I played I did not see much of an opportunity to increase the yardage as many tees have already been relocated as far as they can go.
From the Black tee the course is 6504 yards, par 71 rated 708/132. The Blue tees are 6188 yards rated 69.6/127.
1. Par 4 – 395/379. Teeing off near the clubhouse, this hole has a wide fairway although the better line is center/right due to the green being placed more on the left side. Trees are relatively thick on both sides but one can advance a ball if in them. There is a single fairway bunker on the left side and a flanking bunker on the right would add drama to the hole. The green is somewhat defended by a bunker on the front right corner and one going down the left side. Yet the front of the green is receptive to balls landing short of the green. The green is essentially flat.
2. Par 4 – 341/331. I wondered if the routing changed here as there are tees immediately to the left of the first green. Yet the current routing has one doing a lengthy walk to tees that instead of having a straight shot, create a dogleg right with an inner corner bunker. There are two bunkers on the right and one on the left greenside. This is another essentially flat green.
3. Par 4 – 365/345. South Hatch road is to the left but the fairway is ample. This might be the most heavily bunkered hole on the course with five placed short of the green. Yet for me the first two appeared to be misplaced. There are two flanking bunkers short of the green which is a good design feature due to the confusion and doubt it creates. Another bunker is greenside to the right. This is another fairly flat green.
4. Par 5 – 485/480. There is out-of-bounds is to the left side due to housing. Therefore it seemed strange to me that the two fairway bunkers are on the left when there is already enough potential for penalty. The hole is essentially straight. Near the green on the left is a bunker about 15 yards short as well as flanking bunkers on the front corners. The green is perhaps the flattest on the course.
5. Par 3 – 149/141. This green might be even flatter than the fourth. There is a large bunker on the front right and a smaller one on the front left.
6. Par 4 – 423/417. The course improves with the sixth which has no bunkers but out-of-bounds is on the left with South Perry Street. This is another essentially straight hole. The green is the first good one with a raised back half although there are no other contours.
7. Par 4 – 380/367. This is another straight hole with a small bunker placed on a narrow space between the green and the fence of a neighbor’s property. This is another near flat green.
8. Par 3 – 196/179. You have to walk a bit to get the tee placed back in the trees. This is perhaps the best hole on the front nine as the green is set to the left with a left side bunker. There is decent mounding fronting the green. The green has a decent back to front slope and a bit of a shelf on the back left.
9. Par 4 – 384/363. This is essentially a straight hole. The pond that fronts the double green complex (shared with eighteen) is built with a protruding front that comes back down the fairway. For those laying up if they hit a poor tee shot, the safe play is to take a club less so as to not find the water. The green is raised with the water down the right moving away with the water fronting the green more problematic. There is an area of short grass short of the green perhaps fifteen yards long. The green has an interesting knob on the middle left with another mound behind the green providing a backstop. The green is raised to the back and has some slants to either side. I did like the visual of this hole.
10. Par 4 – 392/376. I thought this to be a decent hole as a slight dogleg left. The green has a bunker on the right front, left front and back right. The green has a subtle tier about two-thirds in.
11. Par 4 – 415/385. This is another nice hole as a dogleg right with an outer corner bunker. For the first time a less traditional shaped bunker is on the left side of the green which is raised to the back and has a back third plateau.
12. Par 3 – 192/153. Perhaps the most difficult par 3 on the course due to a pond that sits on the left stopping at the left front. Any pin positon on the left side of the green would be difficult. I had a front right pin position. For the first time a rear bunker is used to go with two bunkers on the right. The green has another tier in it but it is not difficult to read.
13. Par 5 – 570/564. The longest hole on the course moves gradually left. The fairway is generous. The single fairway bunker is on the left about 90 yards out. The green has bunkers on the side but is easily accessed due to its size. The green is flat.
14. Par 4 – 503/495. This is a gentle dogleg right with an outer corner bunker. This hole wants more bunkering down the fairway and perhaps a central bunker about 110-125 yards out. The green is well defended with a small bunker left and two on the right. The green rises a bit to the back but is very simple.
15. Par 4 – 392/366. You cross under South Hatch Road to get to the next tee placed nearly inside the house behind it. This is another somewhat wide fairway on a hole that has no bunkers and is flat including much of the green.
16. Par 4 – 378/366. Maybe the best green on the course as it is slightly raised with two bunkers on the right and some greenside mounding on the left. There is a single fairway bunker on the left.
17. Par 3 – 174/160. The best green complex on the par 3’s comes next. The green sits between two bunkers and is somewhat hourglass shaped with a rise to the back. The trees on the right side of the hole create a bit of doubt in one’s mind.
18. Par 4 – 370/323. This plays as a dogleg right and this fairway seems to be the narrowest on the course, yet there is ample room. The second shot needs to carry the pond to a green that has a narrow front. A “shared” bunker is placed on the mound to the right of the green (it’s on the left side of the ninth green). The pond continues down the left side and behind the green. This green, much like the ninth has more internal movement than most of the other holes.
Manito is a course that could be improved to make it both more difficult but also more interesting. As it is, it is a course that its membership likely highly values for the ease of the walk (or ride when its hot), One does not have to think much on the course as the course is very much “what you see is what you get.” There are several interesting holes such as eight, nine, ten, twelve, seventeen and eighteen. But overall the course has too many uninteresting green surfaces, green surrounds and a lack of interesting bunkering. The trees create a beauty to the course but often are not a factor.