The 18th hole with Embarrass Lake on the right
The 18th hole with Embarrass Lake on the right

Another Giant is Born – The Quarry at Giant's Ridge

by Mark Sculati


There are many cliches in the world of sports. It's hard to know how they get started, or who said them first (Yogi Berra seems to get credit for many of them), yet they are so simple, you can’t help but use them. The two that best fit The Quarry at Giant’s Ridge are “success breeds success” and “let’s play two”.

The father figure in this story is The Legend at Giant’s Ridge. Opened in June 1997 (see our earlier reviews), it has received accolades from every golf organization that has visited: 4.5 (out of 5) star rating in Golf Digest’s top places to play in both 2001 and 2002; #1 Public course in Minnesota, Golf Digest (1999) etc. It even won a national Environmental Steward award from the GCSAA in 2001. The Legend will stand up against any course in the country, but it now has competition right next door.

The success of The Legend and the number of people clamoring to play it led to the birth of The Quarry. Opened in July 2003, The Quarry will no doubt be receiving accolades similar to The Legend, especially after a year of growth.

There is a little twist to this father/son story line. The son looks nothing like the father. Jeff Brauer, golf course architect for both courses said it best – “The sites of The Legend The 18th hole with Embarrass Lake in the background 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." This golfer/writer has played both courses and can't really believe they sit so close together- I guess that’s what mining pits do. Here’s one for you – how many courses in this country are actually built around mining pits? That alone is worth the trip to play The Quarry.

OK – what about the course. Vital signs from the whites (we here at Minnesotagolf.org try to provide insight from where most of America plays): yardage – 6,101 rating 70.5 slope 132. That’s right, only 6,101 from the whites. Our recommendation, providing you have a handicap of 18 or less or you hit a big driver, is to play from the blues. The yardage is a deceptive 6,696 – don’t be frightened by it.

Let’s look at number one for example. It’s 409 yards from the blues, 381 from the whites. The second hole, a par 5 As the fairway, which is a generous 50 yards wide (every course should have the first fairway that wide to ease jitters and speed up play – no breakfast balls needed) gets closer to the hole, a steep drop off occurs. Go past the drop off – gunk and hello mr.double – not a good way to start. You actually want to be a little farther back. It’s a great starting hole. The drop off factor to double bogey occurs on many holes, so you must pay attention to the yardage book – I know it’s hard to do when your out for a social round of golf, but there’s nothing worse than bombing a drive relatively straight into trouble that could have been avoided.

Number two is a spectacular looking par five that, after an easy tee shot, requires two good shots to make the green. After the par four third, a regular golfer’s hands tighten on the club while viewing the next hole. A par three that measures 269 yards from the tips, 228(blues) 188(whites). With that yardage from the tips, this course is ready to host a US Amateur or some other topflight tournament – more on that later. We were hitting drivers/three woods into the wind from the blues. It does play downhill, but it wasn’t easy. This hole is similar to a famous one in Scotland called Redan at North Berwick Scotland. We loved the view the hole provided even though our scores didn’t reflect it. Holes five and six provide great views from atop spoils (spoils are leftover mounds of rock/dirt from the mine pits). Hole seven is an all carry par three from on top of the ridge – use more club – better long than double bogey short. Hole eight is a long, tough par four – 455(blues) 424(whites), but the green is an easy two-putt - for bogey for most of us. Number nine is short, so choose the right club off the tee so that you have a shot at the green – hint, put the driver away.

Number ten is also short, but is as pleasing to the eye as any par four you will see. There is water to the left with a lone pine standing guard and a fairway to the right for all of us slicers. Big dogs can try to carry the water, but the best way is to the right. Number eleven is a short par three, but the green is perched on a steep ledge – club selection is key (it’s an overused golfism but it’s true). Use more club than you think on this hole.

Number twelve plays 436 from the blues and 395(whites) with a narrow fairway – hope your driver is warmed 13th hole - a (possibly) drivable par four up by now. Number thirteen, a par four that measures 296(blues) and 275(whites) brings a choice most normal golfers don’t encounter. Perched up high on the tee box you can hit driver to the green through a small opening or lay-up to two different fairways. We had two lay-ups and two drivers. The lay-ups were 2/2 and the drivers were 1 /2 – we say lay-up. Again the view from on high is fantastic.

Number fourteen is an easy drive and then you have a chance to go for it in two as it plays 499(blues) and 454(whites). Most people will have to lay up on their second shot to their throwup zone – 50 yards and in. Number fifteen – drive up and see where to go is a must! Sorry marshals, but we highly recommend this. This hole actually calls for a longer shot on your second swing. The view from the fairway to the green is fabulous.

Number sixteen, a par five is – well, no other way to put it – tough. A long carry tee shot is the first step (which is something golfers are not very good at and comes completely assembled with bad thoughts). A position second shot followed by the third to a huge green with a ridge – can you say three putt and bogey or double?

Number seventeen is a breathtaking par three with water along the left and woods to the right. It looks long and full and it is. Play a club that will get you five yards past the flag. A true beauty. Peter Wong, a photographer captures the essence of the hole perfectly in early morning sunlight on one of his prints.

Number eighteen again, drive up and see and also where the second shot can be (will be for most golfers) longer than the first. It provides a gorgeous view of the Embarrass Mine Lake. A truly tough hole set up for tournament golf. I mention tournament golf because that is what this course is destined for. According to Jeff, “ As good as the Legend is, The Quarry will be longer, stronger, and ready for a championship tournament.” So it was no surprise to us that our photographer lost sleeves of balls.

“Let’s play two.” Golfers that road trip jump at the chance to play 36. To take a road trip and only play 18 is like playing nine - you’d rather not. With The Quarry and The The Quarry Legend, Giant’s Ridge has become a golf destination. You can make your tee times six months in advance for slice sake. Picture this. January 15, thirty below out and you get up to use the phone – the wife asks what your doing – I’m calling to make a tee time is your reply. Beautiful.

As I look back on this article/review one thing I noticed was the word “view”. At The Quarry the views are everywhere and that is truly what golfers want – an aesthetically pleasing experience that makes them forget about the outside world. To stand on the tee box with your buddies and marvel at the beauty that lies before you. The Quarry provides that beauty and feeling only golfers truly know about - something that’s hard to put into words when telling your significant other you want to go play golf for the weekend.

NOTES: Tee Times can be made at (800) 688-7669 or you can go to www.giantsridge.com for all the information that you need including lodging , directions etc. The lodging right at the course is highly recommended. Stay and play packages are available.

Director of Golf
John Kendall, PGA
Resort General Manager
Linda Roketa