Giants Ridge – Quality & Value!
By R.J. Smiley
Many believe that with the combination of world-class golf, skiing, hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and a variety of quality accommodations, Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort is the Midwest’s finest family resort destination.
Giants Ridge is located in the heart of the century old “Iron Range,” a major part of the history of Minnesota. We have heard about the Iron Range – that mystical place Up North, former home of Steve Cannon and Governor Rudy Perpich, where the citizens have a somewhat different attitude than the yuppies from The Cities. But until you have traveled on the perfectly maintained highways, through the seemingly endless series of old but well kept communities, you do not appreciate the pride the Iron Range People have in the extended community.
With Wal-Marts, Pizza Huts and Community Colleges sprinkled between huge piles of rust colored waste rock and well stocked, rugged mine-pit lakes the Iron Range has not only survived, but prospered during the roller-coaster cycles of iron ore industry.
The IRRRB, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, is funded by mining revenues and administered by the State of Minnesota. The IRRRB was designed to fund diversified economic development throughout the Iron Range. With a legacy of unsuccessful projects, Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort is the flagship project of the IRRRB. The agency bought the facility in 1984 to accomplish four goals: create economic development; provide recreational facilities to enhance the quality of life for people of the Iron Range; attract private sector development; and create a year-round destination resort. Giants Ridge has accomplished those goals.
Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort has not one, but two of the America’s top 100 golf courses. The Legend at Giants Ridge and The Quarry at Giants Ridge offer 36 holes of the Midwest’s greatest golf. The Legend opened in 1998 and has received tremendous national recognition and year after year. The GiantsRidge golf courses continue to receive awards and accolades. Golf Digest ranked The Legend and The Quarry as the nation’s most affordable courses as well as among the 75 BESTGolf Resorts in North America.Golf magazine rankedthem in thetop ofits list, “Premier Resorts of 2010”. The Quarry was recently cited as “The Best Golf of the 21st Century” by Golf Digest writer Ron Whitten. Giants Ridge was named among the “Top Six Golf Destinations in the World” by GolfWorld magazine.
Most first time players who venture Up North to experience Giants Ridge’s acclaimed golf experience expect to find twin courses carved from the wilderness. Jeff Brauer, golf course architect for both courses said it best, “The sites of The Legend and The Quarry are different enough to be on different planets. The Legend is the most natural site I have ever had. The Quarry is the most unnatural and because of its ruggedness, it was easy to distinguish it with rugged features. While The Legend was carved out of the North Woods at the corner of Superior National Forest, The Quarry is distinctly different with rock quarries and barren land from a century old sand and gravel mining operation.”
THE LEGEND GOLF COURSE
If the Legend Golf Course was a woman, she would be a finalists in the Miss America contest. There is a reason she is ranked as #70 on the list of Top 100 Courses. Long and lean with smooth curves and fine features, Jeffrey Brauer of Golf Scapes, sculpted this beauty from the unlimited wilderness running around and along the base of Giants Ridge ski mountain. The bentgrass fairways are smooth and wide and the beautiful white, sand bunkers, sparkling blue lakes, giant boulders and variety of towering pines accent each dramatic hole perfectly. As first time players reach the elevated tees on each new hole they are caught up in the perfect blend of natural wilderness with refined beauty.
SIGNATURE HOLES AT THE LEGEND
Having experienced the first two relative easy holes you now stand on the third tee. Several seconds pass as your eyes digest the visual variety of this wonderful, reachable, par 5. The Ridge really did have a giant, or so the huge, mid-fairway foot print converted into a series of white sand bunkers with foot and toes, would cause you to believe. Now your gaize flows over the foot print around the dogleg left to the split fairway where you can choose to play to the shorter fairway or to the safe but longer, right side. The long, slender, elevated green presents plenty of challenge where being on in regulation does not mean a sure par.
The par 3 sixth is a perfect example of the design mastery of Jeff Brauer. This longish par 3 has a very deep and narrow green guarded on the left by a gaping, deep bunker. Brauer has given the chicken in all of us an out. Hit your ball to the right side of the green and the tightly mowed hillside will ricochet your ball back on to the green like you knew what you were doing. However, having your ball on the proper side of the mound that dissects the green could be a problem.
After playing sixteen wonderful and fair holes you come to the MEAN SIDE of Miss America. In all your golf experience, the tee shot on the par 3 seventeenth will be the most terrifying single shot you will ever experience. The green on this very long par 3 is not an island, but a pimple on the point of a densely wooded peninsula that juts into Sabin Lake. You will also notice that the landscaping, flowers and timbers, on this multi-tiered tee are the best on the course. They are trying to make you feel better for the sleeve of Pro V1’s you left in the lake.
THE QUARRY GOLF COURSE
The Quarry Course, the younger brother of the Miss American (The Legend Course), opened in 2004, is the meanest of junk-yard-dogs. There is a reason that golfers from all over the world come to Biwabik to get beat-up by this golf course ranked as #22 in America.
Beautiful in its own right, The Quarry is a testament to Brauer’s imagination. From the opening tee shot until the final putt you are in a battle. There are no level lies on the closely cropped bentgrass fairways and the long, wiry, grass that is allowed to grow un-touched around the nasty bunkers and rock out-croppings will test your strength. When the long-time ranger was asked, “How to play the long grass.” He simply said, “Don’t get in there.” The Quarry is the epitome of target golf. You better have an idea where you want to hit it, and then hit it there. If you don’t… No chance for par.
The Quarry honors the region’s industry by naming every hole for an area mine. Examples: Number four, which commemorates the giant Mahoning mines that produced more than 130 million tons of iron, and number eighteen, named for the Embarrass mine, which today, is the 550-foot deep Mine-pit Lake, the deepest on the Mesabi Iron Range.
SIGNATURE HOLES AT THE QUARRY
In truth, The Quarry is a signature hole. But if one hole can define the golf course, my choice would be the par 4, ninth. The ninth hole plays from an elevated tee to a beautiful, wide, bowl shaped, canyon, with raw, quarry scared walls, fairway and then back up to a severely elevated green with shaved fringe on all sides. A good drive, you think, to the right side of the fairway leaves you with a totally blind approach shot guessing to the proper line. The last hole has its own signature, as you are putting-out on eighteen you will be drawn it to the depths of Mine-pit Lake some 100 feet below, a reminder of where it all began.
Believe it or not, you can play both these two “Top 100 Courses” on the same day for $125, and they will throw in lunch at the very fine Wacootah Grille. This price includes golf cart and range balls. When you think of the prices for resort golf during the winter months, this is a bargain you can not afford to miss. Lodging is available at The Lodge at Giants Ridge, 68 luxury hotel condominium suites located at the base of the ski mountain between holes one and ten of The Legend. You can also stay at the Villas at Giants Ridge, 18-condominium/15-villa facility located on Wynne Lake, between The Legend and The Quarry.
Giants Ridge is managed by Troon Golf, the world famous golf management company that is distinguished by all golf professionals wearing white shirt and tie every day. John Kendall is the Director of Golf who works closely with Jared Finch, Director of Agronomy, who supervises the highly talented maintenance crew.
Giants Ridge is rated as Minnesota’s #1 Ski Resort (SKI magazine). Giants Ridge offers 35 downhill runs, more than 60 km of cross country ski trails and one of Minnesota’s hottest terrain parks. No matter what time of year you visit, Giants Ridge has year-round recreation, lake access, unbeatable lodging accommodations, dining, shopping, and much more.