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Giants Ridge Quarry and Legend Courses: Superb Golf

by Scott A. Sumner
   Located some four hours by car to the southwest of my home at Thunder Bay, Ontario is Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort.  This picturesque area of Biwabik, Minnesota is home to two of the finest golf courses I have ever played, the Legend and the Quarry.  The Legend was the original golf course and opened 7 years ago. The Quarry opened in July 2003 and just had their one year anniversary.  Both golf courses are owned by the State of Minnesota and are managed by  the Troon Golf Management company based in Scottsdale Arizona.  Troon manage about 140 golf courses worldwide.  The other facilities on site like the Lodge Hotel where we stayed at Giants Ridge are privately owned.  Both courses were designed by  Jeffrey D. Brauer with Lanny Wadkins as player consultant  on the Legend course.  Brauer also designed the new course at Fortune Bay.
     Ryan McGywer, age 30, is the head instructor for Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort.  "I think what makes the Quarry course so impressive is the canvas with which they had to work.  No 5 tee at the Quarry is an old taconite deposit where so much was a done by the miners.  On  No. 10 is a nature lake where they just built the hole around it."  states ryan McGywer.  "They really used the natural terrain well and thats what separates this golf course from any other.  The terrain is so unlike any other with the elevation changes and the rock outcroppings that you have say on number 11.  It is a unique piece of property."
   Ryan McGywer is from Green Bay Wisconsin, originally.  He is a member of the 100 person Golf Digest course rating panel that evaluates courses.  "I went to college in Louisiana and have had a lot of jobs in my life that I hated.  I realized at one point that every day you have to get up and go to work.  You can get up and work and hate what you do or you can love your job.  It was Aristotal I think that said if you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life, something to that effect.  I love my job."  smiles McGywer.
Gren fees at the Quarry and Legend are $75.00 which includes cart, in the prime season - June 18 to September 16th.  Preseason it is $50.00 and after September 17th the rate goes down to $55.00.  Between the two golf course there are 30,000 rounds played, quite good considering the relatively short season.  The primary golfing audience at Giants Ridge come from the Minneapolis market.  "We are growing into a small Brainerd.  You now have three fantastic courses all done by the same architect.  There a casino at Fortune Bay as well as fishing and other things to do.  It is an environment for tourists -  it worth the drive."  notes McGywer.  The drive from Minneapolis is about two hours and one hour from Duluth.
     "We have had 15 raters from Golf Digest magazine to see the golf courses this year which is unheard  for such a remote location.  There have been some incredible reviews of the golf courses.  They almost cant beleive it.  We were given best golf course in the state of Minnesota, best golf course of the 21st century and top 100 calibre.  All pretty impressive for us."  states McGywer.  "For the resort guests I will schedule them on the Legend course first as a really nice tune up to their round over here at the Quarry.  Let them play first to warm up as the Quarry which is by far the tougher of the two courses.  The Legend is more playable.  The Quarry reminds me a lot of Pine Valley in New Jersey which is the number one golf course year in and year out in the world.  Quarry reminds me of it because of the land, the elevation changes, the pine trees, the wild flowers and the rugged nature of the golf course.  The real story of the golf course is in the short par 4s.  The mastery of the design of these holes, 6, 9, 10 and 13 are just splendid examples of short par fours."
     The greens are very good at the Quarry and Legend courses.  They have assistants  who go around and repair ball marks, with a lot of attention to detail.  There is also staff staying on top of the people out there playing.  "Weather wise it has been a cold, rainy spring which was tough on the golfers but good for the golf course.  The Quarry course has grewn in a lot and, matured.  We've gone from originally cart paths only to now just on three holes, 6 ,9 13."  informs McGywer.  "On the golf instruction side we have the new Troon Golf Academy that we are starting between the golf courses.  My goal is to get the calibre of the golf instruction to match the courses.  I think we have world class golf courses and nice accomadations.  We need to get the instruction level up as well' states McGywer.
   Our first course to play at Giants Ridge was the Quarry.  On a cold rainy day I was still very excited with this impressive course.  You can't help but notice the superb conditioning of the course from tee box to fairways, traps and greens.  It is at a PGA tournamnet calibre.  Just fantastic.  Every hole at the Quarry has a name.  They are named after mines sites in the area where taconite and iron ore mines were prominent.  The maintenance staff is from 20 to 40 people and they do an outstanding job.  The greens are bent grass and the fairways are a rye blue mix as well as in the rough.  The golf course provide jobs and bring in tourists to revitalize the area.  Eventually you can do real estate.  The Quarry can be a challenging layout especially from the blue tees at 6696 yards, let alone the  gold tees at 7201.  The course just seemed to blend into the natural setting including gravel mounds and ruggrd terrain we are used to in the north.  In all my travels in golf in the last year or so from coast to coast in Canada, several areas in the US and in the Bahamas I would be hard pressed to find a better conditioned course than the Quarry.
   After a nice evening at the Lodge Resort hotel, to dry out we played the Legend course.  Again the conditioning of this course was superb from tee to green.  I loved the layout and design of the holes.  We smartly choose to play the white tees this day and my 12 handicap game performed better at the Legend.  I really enjoyed the unique long cart ride down an old gravel road to reach some of the back holes on the Legend course.  Hole 17, a par 3 over of the lake water was spectacular.  It is a fun, well conditioned course that makes you want to play it over and over again.  Be sure to make a stop at Giants Ridge your next golf destination.

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