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Hole-By-Hole and as a Whole, I Love This Course - Part 14

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Editor's Note: This is the 14th installment of golf course architect Jeffrey D. Brauer's ongoing journal about construction of the second course at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn., called The Quarry at Giants Ridge. Here, he describes each hole in its final form.

The New Quarry Course Perfectly Complements The Legend

On my last visit of the year, I am pleased to report The Quarry has had the best grow-in I have ever seen, thanks in part to an energetic young superintendent, who was forced to take over when the former superintendent took on another job at the worst (from the course's perspective, anyway) possible time. Fifteen holes are fully mature, (I snuck out to play them with rental clubs and a few balls) and the last three holes, 18, 2 and 1 - seeded last as they were topsoil sources or in the way of haul roads - are well on their way to maturity.

Of course, sodding helps, but also causes different problems, in that seeded and sodded areas require different types of grow-in regimes. All that is left to do now are minor punch-list items, like small drainage problems, replacing dead sod, and reseeding missed areas.

Overall, Park Construction has done an admirable job, and the punch list is very small. Then, the superintendent will put it to bed for the winter, and hope for an early spring, as spring weather will determine exact opening date. He will also install bunker sand next year.

The latest photos show off the proud creation better than any previous ones we have submitted, because, well, they show green rather than the flat gray of construction sand and dirt! Giants Ridge asked me to write a brief description of each hole - an architect's work is never done - and I include it here with current pictures of many holes.

When you step from the putting green to the 1st tee at The Quarry - an easy task since they are connected (an ode to Donald Ross's White Bear Yacht Club near St. Paul, and one of my favorite courses anywhere) - I hope you get a sense of the special golf round in store. The Quarry offers a distinctly different golf setting than The Legend (which opened in 1996) - and a bit more of a challenge. It also offers a setting unlike any in the upper Midwest, and like only a few other courses in the country.

While the first course may well be the most natural golf topography in Minnesota, this is by far the most "unnatural." And yet, the course will surprise you with its beauty. God created 90 percent of The Legend, and U.S. Steel did 90 percent of The Quarry.

We have not disguised the industrial heritage of this site. You will see old mining implements, railroad ties, and other reminders that this was an active sand and gravel mine. At No. 18, you will be perched on the banks of an iron ore pit. The 10th fairway pond was an old clean-out area for rail cars. The 17th hole sits on a former railroad spur. And the grass bunker behind 18 was once a loading dock.

We used the site's dramatic topographic character, including steep banks and deep gouges from mining operations, to provide both dramatic settings and hazards. We replicated golf design features that golfers like from The Legend, like wide fairways and sculpted sand bunkers. We added elements that some golfers said were missing from the first course, like close green-to-tee walks, more challenge and length from the back tees for the better players, and just a touch more contour in the greens.

We introduced more options and variety:

On each tee, you have distinct options, like is it better to challenge a hazard, or play safe? Your answer - in both concept and execution - affects your score. Many of the options favor longer hitters.

There are more fairway chipping areas to encourage creative short-game play. These features favor the finesse player.

The course has some deep hazards, which favor the accurate player who can avoid them.

A variety of green sizes, from the ultra-large 13th on a short par-4, to the postage stamp-sized and Liberty Bell-shaped 4th on the longest par-3 to test accuracy.

I think The Quarry is the perfect complement to The Legend, and a perfect fit for the Iron Range, since it takes once beautiful land that was scarred by mining operations, and returns it to a beautiful state for all golfers to enjoy.

Hole No. 1 - Par 4 - 430/410/385/295 Yards

The opening tee shot offers a choice of laying up (with an easy driver or wood to a maximum distance of 270 yards off the back tee) just before the fairway drops off on the left, or aiming a longer drive to the right of the fairway to catch a down slope for more distance. The left side offers a longer shot from an elevated perch, while the right side creates a shorter approach. The choice is yours.

Your approach must carry two bunkers fronting the green, favoring the right side, to avoid the first of several deep quarry remnants on this course left of the green. A miss right will find a comfortable fairway chipping area.

As with most greens at The Quarry, the contours are gently rolling, encouraging the closest approach shot possible, without risking greenside hazards.

Hole No. 2 - Par 5 - 580/550/515/485 Yards

If you plan to go for this green in two, aim to the right of the wide fairway. If playing conservatively, go left, to avoid the trees beyond the landing area blocking your second shot. The second can be blind, so get your bearings on the tee.

Reaching the green in two requires a long shot over a former sand quarry (which actually provided much topsoil for both The Legend and The Quarry courses), and there is a sliver of fairway in front of the green. Playing left offers a wide fairway, which narrows as you get closer to the green.

On the third, green contours dictate the shot, with the front-right pin location sitting on a lower deck. The back of the green forms a valley, and approaches to this area will tend to kick back down onto the green.

Hole No. 3 - Par 4 - 445/420/370/310 Yards

A long par-4, with two difficult shots required. The fairway is among the narrower on the course, and you should favor the right side, near the bunker. The small green slopes right, so the approach should favor the left, ideally clearing the bunkers short of the green and ricocheting onto the putting surface. Most putts are fairly flat.

Hole No. 4 - Par 3 - 255/220/185/155 Yards

The first par-3 reaches the legal limit for short holes from the back, but offers some respite from the front tees. The tee shot must be long and accurate since the small green, shaped a bit like the famed Liberty Bell, is well guarded. It is open at the front, but bunkered at the sides and back, suggesting more club and a controlled swing to achieve success.

Hole No. 5 - Par 5 - 525/490/455/405 Yards

The most dramatic tee shot on the course, and a realistic chance to reach a par-5 in two, providing you miss the waste bunker and wetlands left, and sand bunkers right. While the second shot on hole 2 requires brute strength, this second requires accuracy, as the green sets below an old quarry scar and beside a bunker. Only a straight shot will suffice to reach in two, and even a pitch should reach the right side of this "L"-shaped green to have a flat putt.

Hole No. 6 - Par 4 - 360/335/305/210/ Yards

This par-4 starts a sequence of holes in the heart of The Quarry. The tee shot is intimidating, requiring a carry over old scars, and needing to stay straight to remain on the ridge that holds the fairway. The carry is short, and the fairway wide, suggesting a lay-up for best control.

The approach is also tricky - to a very large green for a short hole - and heavily contoured. A large valley separates the front and middle of the green, while the back right is blind to the golfer, but set in a punch bowl that may kick shots back onto the green.

Putting is only flat if near the hole.

Hole No. 7 - Par 3 - 185/170/155/ 125 Yards

This par-3 is as dramatic as the previous hole, featuring a downhill tee shot over a sand quarry reaching a depth of 40 feet. There is no truth to the rumor that your feet get warm down there because of proximity to the center of the earth, but you want to avoid it, nonetheless. Even as a downhill hole, I recommend you take an extra club, as there is lots of room to miss at the back, and even a downhill putt from the top tier will look comfortable in comparison to the uphill sand recovery from the front of the green.

Hole No. 8 - Par 4 - 485/455/425/350 Yards

Perhaps the most difficult hole on the course, with an old sand-mining area serving as a waste bunker on the right. Despite its fearsome qualities, you'll want to favor the right with the tee shot, as it offers better vision up a narrow slot to the green.

The second is long and uphill. Fairway surrounds the green, offering some forgiveness, and the green has similar contours to the rest, meaning your putt won't necessarily be easy!

Hole No. 9 - Par 4 - 380/360/330/265 Yards

This was one of the last holes designed on The Quarry. We were afraid of using this low area for a long time. Even though the fairway expands out of view to your right, the tee shot should hug the left, to provide excellent vision up a narrow slot to the green.

The approach is uphill, to a green surrounded by grass bunkers and steep banks. This is the hardest shot on the course for a spray hitter.

Hole No. 10 - Par 4 - 360/350/330/265 Yards

Start the back nine with a big gamble on this hole. Carrying the pond allows you to drive the green or get a shorter approach with a better angle. An approach from the safer right side must carry a "doughnut" bunker to a shallow green.

Hole No. 11 - Par 3 - 160/145/130/115 Yards

This short hole features a very long "ribbon" green, angling slightly left, which requires a good combination of distance and accuracy to assure a par or birdie. The left side is guarded by a substantial waste bunker, so it is best to favor the right side with any misses.

Hole No. 12 - Par 4 - 475/440/410/330 Yards

A long par-4, with a narrow fairway, featuring just one target bunker.

Beyond the landing area is an old quarry scar, which guards the front of a fall-away green. The proper shot is to aim just over the bunker to the left side of the green, because the shot won't hold as well as others. The right side is guarded by old spoil piles, which would make for a very difficult recovery.

Hole No. 13 - Par 4 - 320/295/255/230 Yards

We crafted among old spoil piles that never showed up on the maps! The dramatic contours shape play on the hole, as the golfer chooses from two landing areas - the upper left allowing vision to the green. The green is unusual in that it sits atop an old quarry bank, and is only 45 feet deep, but more than 200 feet wide! Accuracy is essential, as it is highly contoured.

A few long players may try to run a tee shot all the way to the green, but the steep bank in front of the green usually prevents that.

Hole No. 14 - Par 5 - 515/495/465/440 Yards

A great par-5, like the others reachable in two shots, but with a twist. The bottleneck fairway, surrounded by six bunkers, makes the long hitter match distance with accuracy.

The green sits among spoil piles, and the right side is blind, reminiscent of old holes in Ireland and Scotland. If you don't see the pin, it must be right, giving you the choice of flying the piles, or playing safely to the visible left side. Since it's a small green, this is probably the correct play. If laying up, play far left near the fairway bunkers in order to gain full visibility of the right side of the green.

Hole No. 15 - Par 4 - 470/440/410/335 Yards

A strong dogleg-left par-4. The tee shot cannot exceed 270 yards from the back tee to avoid going over a steep bank, but should be played as far down the fairway and as far left as you dare.

From here, a panoramic view of the green opens up. The approach will be more than 200 yards to a large, well-guarded and contoured green.

Definitely a make-or-break point in the round.

Hole No. 16 - Par 5 - 550/520/495/405 Yards

A daring tee shot, which requires at least a 245-yard carry from the back tee to clear a 20-foot-deep bunker, shortens this hole considerably, and offers another birdie opportunity. Playing safely to the right leaves trees blocking the second and these golfers will need to settle for reaching the green in three shots. A center bunker - yet another quarry remnant - complicates matters, but should be easily cleared.

Hole No. 17 - Par 3 - 235/195/165/130 Yards

A straightforward, yet difficult par-3 over a pond. The most difficult pin position is front left, and a safer play is either right, or slightly long, putting back.

Hole No. 18 - Par 4 - 455/400/380/315 Yards

The closing hole offers a look at an historic iron mine, after viewing sand and gravel quarries throughout the course. From the tee, Embarrass Mine Lake, a 700-foot-deep mining scar now filled with clear spring water, is visible in the distance. Of more immediate concern to the golfer are two fairway bunkers left, and tight O.B. on the right, creating perhaps the most difficult tee shot on the course. The first bunker on the left is probably easily carried with a good tee shot, but only the longest players can carry the second; it requires a 250-yard carry, but shortens the hole considerably.

The second is a long uphill shot, with the lake on the right. The left side offers a ricochet bank, and a safe bail-out, but only if you clear the last quarry remnant on the front left of the green. It, too, is more than 20 feet deep, giving you one last chance at a glorious recovery should you happen to find it.

Practice Facility

The Quarry offers an attractive practice tee and range conveniently located between the No. 1 and No. 10 tees. It also has a chipping and sand bunker green nearby, as well as a practice fairway bunker.

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, GolfScapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80. Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., and Giants Ridge are rated among the best affordable public courses in the United States, while his Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a Golf Digest best new course winner, Champions Country Club is rated 5th in Nebraska and TangleRidge Golf Club is 12th in Texas. President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects during its 50th anniversary year in 1995-96, Brauer also designed Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State, which opened in June 2000 as the cornerstone golf course for The First Tee program as well as the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.