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The Wilderness at Fortune Bay: A Fabulous Course in a Rustic Setting

by Scott A. Sumner
   There has been much talk in the local golfing circles about the new Wilderness Golf Course at Fortune Bay.  I had the opportunity to see for my self on August 8th.  After a four hour drive from Thunder Bay where you turn west at Silver Bay to the Aurora area you reach the Wilderness and their fabulous clubhouse.  During our lunch break I talked to Vince Dodge who is Golf Course Superintendent and Sharbee Hoskins, Asst Golf Professional.
  "I've been here since 2002. Construction started a year before in 2001 with some clearing.  From start to finish it took 3 years to complete the course," notes Vince Dodge.  "I'm from Chicago and previously worked at at Indian Lakes Resort.  I came on board when we were just starting the irrigation system.  Usually the first person to bring on in a new course construction is the Superintendent.  The shapers worked for Wadsworth Golf Courses construction, the biggest in the world."
     The Wilderness at Fortune Bay is owned by The Bois Forte Band and is located on 140 to 150 acres of land. Last summer, May 29th 2004 was the opening of the course with all 18 holes.  "There are 36 acres of fairway, 3 1/2 acres of greens, 4 1/2 acres of tees and 120 acres of rough.  Everything else is water.  The golf course cost $8 million and the 7000 square foot clubhouse $3 million.  It seems like a lot of money to build a course but we we had to be resourceful with areas that had rock  outcropping on 1 and 4 for example.  To remove them would have been really expensive," says Dodge.  "We used bent grass fairways, tees and greens using Pen Eagle and Pen Links 50/ 50 blend on fairways, straight up Pen Links on greens and Pen Links/ Pen Cross on tees for more aggressive recovery."
   "Our premium rate is $84 per person for 18 holes riding a cart.  Range balls are $5 or $8," notes Sharbee Hoskins.  "I think the course is awesome- very fun.  I lived in a lot of places- California, Florida, Arizona, Minnesota and North Dakota.  This course is as good a golf course I've ever seen to play.  When you play it every hole is so big.  I've had friends come up from private clubs in Minneapolis and then look at our hole number one and they say they could fit four of their holes here."
      "The Wilderness opened on April 22nd this year and will operate to the middle of October and are on pace to do 21,000 rounds.  There are no memberships but you can buy 12 rounds for the price of 10.  Our main draw is out of Minneapolis with some Canadians and some locales.  They will play here and the Giants Ridge courses usually coming the 3 1/2 hours by car from Minneapolis and then stay at Giants Ridge.  Plans are in place to build 60 more rooms at the golf course hotel and casino."
   Our most recent course award was we were ranked the 39th public course in the US by Golfweek.  It is a pretty stellar list," notes Hoskins whose best score at the Wilderness has been even par.  "Next week we are hosting the Minnesota Club Pro tournament for three days and the best players in the state will be here.  They will likely set the course record."
    On a hot day of 94 degrees it was fun playing the Wilderness.  The course is very pretty, well conditioned and a challenge with large sweeping undulating greens and enough length to challenge every golfer.  I really enjoyed the GPS system on the Club Car Precedent electric carts which even allow you to record your score on screen.  It is a fun course to play and one you want to accomplish as soon as possible.  

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