Golf writer and enthusiast, Josh Berhow, relocated from New York to Minnesota in 2020. He embarked on a quest to find the best golfing in his new home state and took to Twitter to ask for local course recommendations. The course he had the most recommendations for was Giant Ridge, and after playing the course he has concluded, it lives up to all the hype.
Listed below are some of the key points taken from his article, “Giant Ridge Lives Up To The Hype” that he believes makes Giants Ridge the best golf course in Minnesota:
- 1. Giants Ridge is about a three-hour drive from the Twin Cities and just over an hour from Duluth, Minn. The Iron Range resort was already a winter destination for skiing and snowboarding, but it wanted to be bigger, and year-round. That’s when Jeff Brauer was brought in. Brauer — with consulting help from Lanny Wadkins — unveiled The Legend course in 1997. The Quarry, also a Brauer design, came six years later, giving Giants Ridge a superb one-two punch for golf-hungry travelers, perhaps the best public combo in the state.
- 2. The Quarry is 68th on GOLF’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play ranking and the only Minnesota course to make the most recent list. But The Quarry is more than just good, it’s a bargain. When GOLF released its first-ever Top 100 Value Courses in the U.S. ranking a few months ago (the best courses you can play for $150 or less), the Quarry ranked 9th in the entire country. At $79-109, depending on the time of year, it’s an absolute steal. (Check out rates for both courses here.)
- 3. Building the two courses was far from easy, though. It’s the Northwoods, meaning — yes, you guessed it — it’s wooded nearly everywhere. It’s also filled with sensitive environmental areas, so creating approved routings was a laborious task. The Quarry, true to its name, was carved into an old sand, gravel and iron ore mining site. The Legend is at the main lodge, while The Quarry is located just a couple of miles down the road.
- 4. Giants Ridge has lodging on site and some other options down the road, closer to The Quarry. It’s logical to stay, since it can be a bit of a drive depending on your location, but they offer great 36-hole deals, too. One from this past summer: 36 holes, plus lunch in between, for $160 during the week and $175 on the weekend. There are a few different restaurant options on site, and the cozy town of Biwabik has some solid local eateries as well. On property, though, The Sleeping Giant Restaurant & Bar, located at the main lodge, was our go-to stop. It’s everything you’d want in a 19th hole — a casual no-frills pub with pool, darts and good drinks; the ideal atmosphere for explaining to your buddies why that 7 on the 4th hole was oh-so close to actually being a 4. (Pro tip: even if the kitchen is closed, ask a bartender if they can toss in one of their pizzas for you. That’s what they did on one of our late nights, and we’re still forever grateful.)
- 5. Bring a swimsuit! I didn’t, and I regretted it. There’s a pool and huge hot tub on site, which would have been the perfect spot to relax after 36 holes.
- 6. OK, back to the golf. Two courses, right? Right. Everyone has their preference, and here’s mine. The Quarry, I thought, was the better course, yet I had more fun on The Legend, which is more open, more forgiving and more in front of you. High-handicappers, like this 15 handicap, are more likely to fire a better score at The Legend, and the better golf I play the more fun I have. The Quarry had my favorite hole (the 13th), but the Legend had three others I loved (the 3rd, 11th and 17th). You’ll most certainly shoot a better round your second time playing The Quarry, which might be true with any course but definitely here. There’s a good amount of strategic play that goes into it, with blind shots, several ways to attack holes and plenty of green-side mounding that can help feed balls to certain pins. The greens are big and undulating and missing in the wrong spots is bad news.
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