The Rich Get Richer

by Kevin Turnquist

Another golf season and another millennium have come and gone but there are some things in this world that just don't change. Politicians lie and citizens believe them. People remain totally preoccupied with how they present themselves to the world. Human males think about sex all the time. And Giants Ridge remains the undisputed champion of Minnesota Public Golf Courses.

We spent the glorious summer of 2000 trying to find a course that would surpass Giants Ridge but once again came up empty. New courses like Deacons Lodge and Stone Ridge, old classics like the Wilds, Troy Burne, and Rush Creek- they all took their best shots but at the end only the Biwabik Behemoth was left standing.

After we crowned Giants Ridge "Best Public Golf Course in Minnesota" in the summer of 1998 a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon. A steady stream of peculiarly attired middle-aged white guys have made the journey up to Biwabik, only to return with the same conclusion. Golf Digest visited in the summer of '99 and -- what a surprise -- followed in the Minnesota Golf Pages' footsteps once again, proclaiming Giants Ridge the No. 1 public golf course in Minnesota. There's just something about this course that is hard to define but you feel it when you're there. The impeccable layout, the enormous sugar sand traps, the beautiful turf, and the amazing vistas all come together to make the experience of playing Giants Ridge almost magical.

Of course whenever anything or anyone stakes a claim to No. 1 the line quickly forms to take potshots. While few have found anything to complain about with the golf course itself, that's not to say that people have not found things to gripe about. These criticisms have tended to center around things like the fact that it is almost impossible to walk the golf course. Others complained that for a "destination" golf course there's nothing else to do at the destination besides play golf. Some complained that  "there is just no place nice to stay up there," as though staying at a motor hotel such as the AmericInn or (shudder) a Super 8 is somehow far below them. Or they whine that "it's too hard to get a tee time." A few crybabies have bemoaned the difficulty getting to the Biwabik area itself. Fortunately, Giants Ridge and have ready responses for each of these complaints.

Giants Ridge is answering concerns about the length of the walk and the difficulty obtaining tee times by adding a second golf course. Due to be completed in 2002, it will be built in an old quarry a mile or so from the existing course. The farsighted planners have set out to purposefully build a course that would lend itself to walking. It is supposed to have all of the wonderful features and attention to detail that the existing course is known for.

Giants Ridge is addressing the issue of becoming a full-service "destination" in a number of creative ways. They continue to offer boating and fishing on two adjoining lakes. An extensive trail system for mountain biking and in line skating has now been completed. And in a truly inspired move, an 18-hole Frisbee golf course has now been opened. All that's missing is an upscale mall shopping experience but at least a few of us are glad that Biwabik is still lacking in this area.

The lodging problem has been solved with the construction of the lovely new Giants Ridge Lodge. Set at the base of the ski hill -- and only a few feet from the pro shop -- this lodge is designed along the lines of the ski lodges that one would find at Rocky Mountain resorts. Huge logs support the structure. Rooms are two room suites, many with fireplaces and whirlpools. The facility has a swimming pool and hot tub. A nice restaurant and bar make leaving the premises unnecessary.

As for those who complained that the course is too hard to get to let's just point out that sometimes a little struggle can make an experience all the sweeter. The accompanying photos document the obstacles we encountered this summer as we (as usual) scurried desperately in an attempt to reach the course by our appointed tee time. We have been assured that next summer four-wheel-drive vehicles will not be necessary to reach the course via the "shortcut" that our skillful team of navigators discovered.

Even if the roads were torn up all the way from the Twin cities to Biwabik, even if dodging earthmovers was a regular part of the trip, even if we had to stay in nationally franchised motels -we would still make our annual pilgrimage to Giants Ridge. There's just something about this course.

Check out our first review of Giants Ridge: Minnesota's Finest Public Course?

Tees Yardage Rating Slope
Gold 6930 73,7 133
Blue 6528 71.9 129
White 6112 70.1 126
Red 5084 70.3 126

Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort
P.O Box 190
County Highway 138
Biwabik, Minnesota 55708

Check out the Giants Ridge web page