As a designated wilderness area, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hardly lacking when it comes to deep forest scenery. So what’s behind the recent planting of 1,000 semi-mature trees at the Manitou Passage Golf Club—the only 18-hole course located within a long iron or two of "America’s Most Beautiful Place"?

Earlier this month, guests of Leelanau County’s Manitou Passage Golf Club got to witness an usual spectacle happening just across the fairway of the 18th hole—an entire forest of trees spouting up right before their eyes.

“Our crew accomplished in two short weeks what might have taken Mother Nature twenty years,” says The Homestead’s Jamie Jewell. “The incredible effort is all part of our wild renewal initiative, a visionary plan that began in 2009 and aims to enhance the golfing experience by returning a native edge to the scenery that helps make playing at this club so unique and special.”

Big Trees, Big Goal

The semi-mature trees — purchased from Komrska Tree Farm, in Interlochen — represent a diverse cross-section of northern hardwoods: cedar, maple, Norway spruce, birch, white pine and more. Ranging in size anywhere from 11- to 16-feet (depending on the species), the new trees provide immediate shade, nesting habitat and cover for songbirds and wildlife as well as adding to the scenic enjoyment of clubhouse guests and golfers playing the exclusive Arnold Palmer course.

Komrska Tree Farm also provided a four-man labor team and the heavy machinery necessary for the planting, says Ben Komrska.

“This was a big job that required a lot of specialized equipment. The smallest tree we planted weighed 400 pounds; the largest weighed in upwards of 2,500 pounds.”

Natural By Design

The coastal views, sprawling forests and farmland of the Sleeping Bear Dunes make it the scenic jewel of Leelanau County. But balancing modern development and creating a more enjoyable experience for golfers all while trying to preserve the integrity of the surrounding landscape is a job that requires a tremendous amount of foresight and planning.

The scope of the project that took place along the fairway of the 18th hole required the expertise of Jerry Pearson of the California-based Peridian International, a landscape architecture and design firm. A Midwest native who has worked on various projects for The Homestead for over 30 years, Pearson understands that guests of the club come not only come for the challenging level of play at MPGC but also for the beautifully wild experience that makes this region one of the most scenic places in America. 

“Protecting the relationship of the course to the natural environment was the first priority,” says Pearson. “But we managed to go beyond that by using native trees that have wonderful bark and leaf textures along with contrasting color — especially in the fall.”

More Projects In The Works

Now that the tree planting along the 18th hole is complete, Manitou Passage Golf Club is already eyeing plans for the next phase of its wild renewal plans, says Jamie Jewell.

“Our next goal is to improve the landscape surrounding the fourth and fifth holes over the coming months and years,” she says. “We are hopeful that those areas can be further restored to a more natural landscape over the coming months. The club invites anyone interested in seeing the photos and progress updates of this and other projects to check MPGC’s Facebook page.”