Minnesota’s top course closes, but then re-opens

The 14th hole at The Quarry at Giants Ridge

Editor's note: Since the writing of this initial article, Giants Ridge has re-opened despite the budget issues.

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This should be the height of the golf season in Minnesota, but since July 1 golfers haven’t been able to play the top-ranked course in the state.

The two courses at Giants Ridge, a resort in northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range, were forced to close when the state government shut down over a budget impasse. The resort, located about 60 miles north of Duluth, is operated by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, a state economic-development agency. The resort’s privately operated lodging facilities remain open.

Giants Ridge is home to The Quarry, ranked No. 1 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Minnesota. The resort’s other course, The Legend, also is highly regarded and has been ranked among the state’s top 10 in past years. 

Though the region is remote and lightly populated, it’s a popular golf destination because of Giants Ridge and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, a resort course located nearby in Tower, Minn. The Wilderness is ranked No. 2 in the state and held the No. 1 ranking in 2010. 

Tom Beaudry, general manager at The Wilderness, said he is seeing “short-term increases in our bookings from Giants Ridge being closed.” But he knows that won’t last. 

“For the long-term, I don’t know that we can afford to have those two golf courses closed,” Beaudry said. “Part of the attraction of this area is that we are located within about 30 minutes of each other, and when people come up on a golf trip, they want to play all three.”

Beaudry estimates that 70 percent of golfers who play at The Wilderness and Giants Ridge come from outside the area, and more than half of those players schedule multiple rounds at the two resorts. 

A ripple effect already is evident. Beaudry notes that some customers already have canceled rounds for the weekend of July 16-17. It’s likely that some of that business will be redirected to Brainerd, a resort area located about a two-hour drive north of Minneapolis.

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