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.

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Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd was loving it.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.