Giants Ridge Opens The Quarry Golf Course
by Diane Ambro
We were in the company of Minnesota's finest on July 28th when Carol and I hob-nobbed at the grand opening of the Quarry Golf Course at Giant's Ridge. The occasion called for and got us trussed up in our glad rags (dresses and high heels, can you imagine?) as we celebrated the long awaited opening of another Jeffrey Brauer course. The day began earlier with a round of golf at the original course, the Legend, which is in the best shape it's been in for years. As always, we had a great time playing the course and our day was made more splendid by the sunny blue skies and warm temperatures.
A cocktail party started the evening's festivities and the guest of honour was his honour, Governor Tim Pawlenty. Representatives from state departments were present as were the obvious and not so obvious secret service people protecting the governor.
We were literally wined and dined with scrumptious hors d'oeurves - giant prawns on ice, salmon, potstickers, meatballs, etc. This feast was followed by an elegant dinner of pork tenderloin, wild rice, salad, and a creamy cheesecake dessert. The wine flowed liberally throughout dinner, which may or may not have been a good thing given our lack of tolerance for the grape. By the time the governor came to visit us at our table we were down right 'bubbly' but he was a good sport and he made a valiant effort to look me right in the eye while we spoke. This couldn't have been easy as I seemed to have trouble convincing my eyes to look in the same direction at the same time. We spent a few minutes talking about Northern Ontario and it's importance to Minnesota as a tourist resource and vice versa. Mr. Pawlenty is fairly new to the job replacing Jesse 'the Body' Ventura (he of the wrestling and snake toting fame). At the apres dinner bonfire I once again spoke to Mr. Pawlenty and I found him to be sincerely interested in Canadian politics. We spent quite a bit of time chatting until his bodyguards moved in and spirited him off to his room. Maybe I looked ominous or maybe it was simply past his bedtime. I'll die not knowing.
The next morning we were up early and excited to finally be playing the new Quarry. Carol and I visited the Quarry last fall and took pictures of the course which looked super back then. The folks at Giant's Ridge organized a tournament for the grand opening and Carol and I were teamed up with former playing partners Mark Aulie and John Kolhase from Virginia, MN. We'd played with both of these fellows before so we knew we were going to have a good time. We also knew we wouldn't win anything given that neither of us have played much golf this year and we weren't bringing our 'A' game to the course. Did we care? Not on your life, we just wanted to go out and have a rousing romp on the new playground. What a blast!
I have always made it known that I love the Legend at Giant's Ridge, but guess what? I love this new course as much or better. It opened at the beginning of July but final touches weren't completed until this tournament. The yardage markers are in and the course is in excellent shape.
The Quarry is a different golfing experience from the original Legend. While the Legend has a rustic northwoods feel to it with stately trees, massive boulders and sparkling lakes, the Quarry is true to it's name. Jeffrey Brauer, the talented architect and designer of both courses managed to take an old quarry pit and turn it into a unique, and challenging golf course. Heaps of rocks, sand piles, natural windswept fescue and wetlands contrast sharply with the manicured beauty of the fairways. Many of the holes have seriously raised tees, deep hazards and narrower fairways. The greens are large and dramatically contoured in some cases. Overall it is more rugged and raw than the Legend but no less enticing.
Carol and I agreed that the Quarry was really fun to play because you have to think about every shot. You can't just haul out your driver on most holes and whale it down the middle. You have to pick your target and decide where to land the ball so that it rolls to that target. The fairways are banked in some cases and there are choices to be made on holes number two and thirteen epitomizing the risk reward theory. Temptations abound, but be wary. Wise golfers will have plenty of balls in their bags.
I'd advise golfers to get one of the yardage books when they play the Quarry for the first time and check it carefully. The booklets are well done with diagrams of each hole showing yardages from each of the four tees to landing areas, greens, etc. Each of the holes has been named after an iron ore mine from the Iron Range history. They have not selected a signature hole yet, but my three favourites are the par 3 number 7 where you have to carry the ball at least 100 yards over a 40 foot deep quarry pit to a bunker protected green. This hole is named 'Missabe Mountain' and fortunately there's a decent drop area because you couldn't play an errant shot out of the pit. My second choice is 'Milford' the par 4 thirteenth hole. While the yardage is not excessive (323, 296, 275 or 239) the hole has a double fairway with a steep bank guarding the green. There's deep grass on the bank and playing out of it would be nearly impossible. The hole plays downhill from elevated tees and players can have fun choosing which way to attack it. Long hitters could reach the green in one but be careful not to drop a short shot into the bank in front or roll off the back of the green down another steep slope.
The par four eighteenth hole is a scenic delight with your tee shot facing towards the Embarrass Mine Lake. The fairway makes a sharp turn to the left and your second shot must avoid the pit that leads to the lake on the right and the bunkers and deep grass on the left. Fortunately the green is huge.
Having seen the course during it's early stages, I was incredibly impressed by the final product. The vision of the architect is astounding and those responsible for the actual construction are to be commended. Giant's Ridge has another winner on it's hands and I predict that the Quarry will receive similar accolades to those given to the Legend by Golf Digest. For the past two years the Legend has been rated four and a half stars by Golf Digest's Places to Play.
Both of these courses are a short drive south of Thunder Bay. We made the drive in three hours and forty-five minutes with no heavy metal on the pedal and one pit stop. The shortest route is through Silver Bay on the new highway linking Biwabik to Silver Bay. I have maps so please call me if you'd like one faxed to you. 473-8539.
Next year there will be another reason to visit the Giant's Ridge area as a third Jeffrey Brauer course opens nearby at the Fortune Bay Casino and Resort. Judging by Mr. Brauer's other successes, I expect the 'Wilderness' will be exciting and inviting. I plan to visit them this fall when hopefully the first nine holes will be playable so I'll update you on their progress in future issues.