Minnesota's Iron Range: Land of lakes, legendary giants and spectacular golf at Giants Ridge

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 11, 2013, 3:12 pm

BIWABIK, Minn. -- Minnesota's Iron Range region is quite familiar with big things. The Ojibwa Native Americans spoke of 'Mesabi,' a mythical giant whose footsteps created the thousands of area lakes and whose collected treasures became the abundant wildlife in the region.

Modern day legends from these parts include Kevin McHale, a giant in the paint for the Boston Celtics, as well as a giant of modern songwriting, Bob Dylan, both of whom grew up in Hibbing. Golfers with a particular fondness for Dylan could couple a golf trip with Hibbing's 'Dylan Days' festival, which is held each spring.

There are legendary gals, too. The fishing town of Ely is home to actress Jessica Biel, not to mention 'Dorothy the Root Beer Lady,' who lived in solitude on the Isle of Pines in the boundary waters. She came to be so beloved that she was visited by as many as 7,000 people annually and sold root beer to passers-by on canoe.

And lest we forget the world's largest hockey stick is located in Eveleth, next to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame:

Hockey Stick

Major iron ore quarrying was the predominant industry of the Iron Range for decades, but with operations now dormant, the region has shifted into tourism. The transformation is led by a vibrant fishing industry. When traversing through the small towns of the Iron Range like Biwabik and Ely, one gets the sense the local economy is propped up predominantly by bait shops and drinking establishments. Pub chatter usually begins with a question of one's luck on the lake that day, and every menu in these parts serves up a big helping of walleye, served grilled, baked, fried or put on a sandwich.

The leading resort around here is near Biwabik at Giants Ridge, a state-owned golf & ski resort and development with two championship courses and loads of other recreation opportunities in both winter and summer.

The Legend and Quarry golf courses at Giants Ridge

Both the Legend and Quarry golf courses at Giants Ridge, separated by about three miles, are managed to premium standards by Troon Golf and were designed by golf course architect Jeff Brauer. Despite the same architect and opening in the same era of design six years apart (not to mention the same green fee $82-89 peak season), the Legend and Quarry play and look vastly different. The original course, the Legend, opened in 1997 and traverses through deep woods along the base of the hillside used for skiing in the winter.

The first and 10th holes play parallel to one another, but for the most part, every other hole is encircled by nature.

Legend 1 and 10

The first and 10th holes on the Legend play beside one another. 

The signature hole of the entire property -- and arguably the entire state -- comes courtesy of the Legend's par-3 17th. It's more than 200 yards, practically all carry, over Sabin Lake. Flowers encircle the tee box to beautify it further. When golfers aren't white-knuckling their grip on the tee, it's a popular spot for wedding ceremonies.

Legend No. 17

No. 17 on the Legend has a postcard setting. 

The Quarry course debuted in 2003, built on top of the former mining operation, which lends itself to more rugged terrain -- yet it remains more walkable than the Legend course with shorter distances from green to tee. The design features larger green complexes with five pin positions per hole (versus three on the Legend). With larger fairways but a little more trouble surrounding them, there are plenty of opportunities to be aggressive. Each par 5 is beautifully entertaining and different, and two fabulous drivable par 4s for longer hitters lend themselves to a course that has many different looks from the tee.

Quarry Giants Ridge

Big hitters can drive the par-4 13th hole on the Quarry course at Giants Ridge. 

Bordering the Quarry clubhouse and the 18th hole, Embarrass Lake (named for the nearby town, not one's misfirings with a putter) is one of the larger manmade holes dug up during quarrying and is known to be up to 500 feet deep.

Quarry 18

The Quarry's 18th hole requires a firm draw off the tee or you could end up in Lake Embarrass. 

Stay and play (or live) at Giants Ridge

Visitors to Giants Ridge can stay in either the main lodge, located at the base of the ski hill, or a vacation villa located on Wynne Lake, which has its own small beach. There are a wealth of outdoor activities off the course here, including frisbee golf along the ski slopes, and mountain and road cycling on the Mesabi Trail network.

Then of course, there is fishing. It would seem practically sacrilegious to make a visit to Minnesota without putting a hook in the water. You can do it just about anywhere as guides, bait shops and fishing holes can be found on every corner. For those who don't have the gear or know-how, Giants Ridge can arrange guided fishing trips of nearby lakes. Or head to the town of Ely, which has some fantastic lakes teeming with smallmouth bass and walleye.


One of many catches caught on Lake White Iron in Ely with our guide Andy Brandau. 

Giants Ridge has opened up some lots for residential offerings, although they are set well off the golf courses.

More top Minnesota golf on the Iron Range

For those who want to play another top Minnesota course, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, part of a casino development, is located 35 miles north of Giants Ridge. 

View tee times for Giants Ridge and more golf courses in Minnesota on GolfNow

Getting here

Duluth is the main airport hub, about an hour's drive, and services many major airlines, most notably Delta through Detroit and Minneapolis as well as United via Chicago. Giants Ridge is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the Twin Cities.

More information: GiantsRidge.com.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.