The Award-Winning Legend and Quarry Golf Courses
By Tim Cotroneo
How different are the two award-winning golf courses that are responsible for launching the reputation of Giants Ridge on the world golf map? Director of Golf John Kendall described the split personalities of his resort’s double-barreled main attraction this way, “Drop someone by helicopter on these two courses and they are so different, you’d never know they’re located on the same resort.”
Most golfers who make their way to tiny Biwabic, MN, do so with the intention of playing both The Legend and The Quarry. Each golf season a legion of Giants Ridge newbies head three hours north of Minneapolis, MN, to cast a vote on the Midwest’s longest-running 50-50 split decision: “Which course do you like best?”
Before choosing sides, an insight into the two courses’ brilliant and diverse design goes a long way toward helping golfers appreciate what they’ll experience. If you thought Giants Ridge tapped the design genius of a born and bred Midwesterner, you’d be wrong. Instead a heralded Texas Golf Architect was brought north to uncover this golf oasis that keeps piling up fans and annual awards.
Shoulder to Shoulder Boulders
Jeffrey Brauer was thrilled to take on the blank canvas that was The Legend, Giant Ridge’s first 18-hole layout that would open in 1997. Looking back, Brauer was captivated by the lush Northwoods feel of the property that offered miles of trees, lakes, and elevation changes. But there was something beneath the surface of Giants Ridge that Brauer had never encountered in such abundance.
What Brauer discovered during the two-year construction process was that The Legend was thick with boulders. We’re talking 90 percent, wall-to-wall boulders. After leading his construction team through 26 course routings, The Legend’s 7,000-yards would ultimately feature elevated tee boxes, lush fairways, towering trees, and two lakes upon completion. The course was an immediate hit. The Legend was named one of the 10 Best New Upscale Courses in the Nation. This initial honor spurred annual recognition that helped Giants Ridge rank as one of America’s Best Golf Resorts.
The Legend’s growing popularity encouraged Brauer to propose a second course, this one completely different from the first. With an opening date of 2004, Brauer designed The Quarry on the site of an abandoned sand and gravel quarry. When asked what he could do for an encore, Brauer’s Quarry design with historic roots harkening back to Minnesota’s Iron Range, was like no other course in the Midwest.
Where Silence is Golden
Playing The Legend or The Quarry is like stepping back in time. This kinder and gentler way of life is especially evident when driving north to Giants Ridge. It’s hard not to appreciate Biwabik’s Main Street which provides a captivating flashback to a time without stop lights or rush hour.
Nowhere is this silence is golden ambiance more apparent than on the first tee box at The Legend and The Quarry. Even the birds chirp in hushed tones. On more than one occasion, golfers find themselves abruptly looking up. What they’re hearing are the leaves on the tallest birch trees rustling against a slight breeze.
Quiet is an amenity that comes with your Legend and Quarry 18-hole round, no extra charge. If you want a perfect glimpse of what to expect before teeing off, bring a cup of coffee out on the deck of The Quarry’s Wacootah Grille and look out on the mirrored reflection from Mine Lake. As the sun rises to your left, take a sip and remind yourself that your scorecard is irrelevant, at least for the next five minutes. This stop to smell the coffee moment is as good as it gets.
Encapsulating Everything Minnesota
The Legend and The Quarry are challenging. The sand is plentiful, the greens are undulating, and you would be wise to focus on course management over a grip and rip mentality. Kendall reminds that his 18-hole proteges often fall under the category of second shot golf courses. In other words, there are tee boxes on both courses in which a three wood, a hybrid, or even a four iron is the wise play.
When asked which golf holes best represent The Legend and The Quarry experience, Kendall paused and then gave a thoughtful reply. “The Legend’s Par 3, 17th hole, which plays 226-yards from the tips, is always our most recognized golf hole. The 17th encapsulates everything that Minnesota golf stands for. The trees, the shot over the lake. It’s very scenic,” Kendall said.
As for the Quarry track that is steeped in annual awards, Kendall leans toward the Par 4, 323-yard 13th hole. “Brauer’s design expertise really shines on this one. He bridged the natural topography of what was here before and gives golfers a strategic test. On this short Par 4, I’ve hit anywhere from a driver to a seven iron. Depending on the weather and the wind, it plays differently every day of the week.”
A Split Decision Decision
You’ve played them both, and so the discussion begins on the outdoor deck of The Quarry’s Wacootah Grille. While gazing out on this birds-eye view of the 500-foot deep Mine Lake, you ask, “Which course was best for you?”
That’s when you remember Kendall saying that 75 percent of Giants Ridge guests play at least three rounds during their resort stay. That settles it. With two golfers in your foursome favoring The Legend and two preferring The Quarry, the only fair way to decide which course is best is by playing another round.
You decide that you can’t go wrong choosing between The Legend and The Quarry. At a resort where friendliness is a way of life, your foursome decides a split decision is the way to go. Everyone goes home a winner, especially when choosing between two courses with the best in split personalities.