There’s arguably no better place in Minnesota – maybe the Midwest – to experience the best and most varied golf than up on the Iron Range.
This is especially true in fall, when the colors of great north woods start to change. While courses in the southern part of the state are baked and the days there are still hot, northern Minnesota is easing into cooler days with plenty of sunshine, making the walk or the ride around the links about as comfortable and enjoyable as it gets.
Park yourself for a long weekend and drive no further than a 30 mile radius to visit a half-dozen top-notch courses. And don’t plan on breaking the bank.
Starting with the biggest player in the region, Giants Ridge Recreation Area in Biwabik is home to two award-winning courses that combine unique natural landscapes with dramatic and challenging features.
As the #4 public course in Minnesota according to Golf Digest Magazine, The Legend’s distinctive design is acclaimed by all who enter. Younger sister to The Legend, The Quarry is sculpted in equal parts from tall timberland and reclaimed mine lands. In 2013 Golf Digest named it the top public course in the state and 20th in the nation. The Quarry recently made GOLF magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play,” the only entry from Minnesota to be included.
The combination of classic and innovative designs on these courses is really enough to place them on anyone’s must-play list. The scenery – rugged and dramatic – adds to the lure. But play and stay late-summer and fall rates, both at the on-site properties and around the region, seal the deal.
Sundays through August, twosomes play nine holes on either course and get dinner at the Wacootah Grille (on-resort) for $72. Starting September 1, rates on either course drop to $62 on weekends and $52 Monday-Thursday. Includes cart. (Restrictions apply. Visit giantsridge.com for details)
The Couples Fall Golf Getaway includes a two-night stay at the all-condominium property, The Lodge at Giants Ridge, plus two rounds of golf, a couple 60-minute massages, and range balls. (Again, restrictions may apply. Visit giantsridge.com for details)
Beyond the beauties at Giants Ridge, nine- and 18-hole municipal and semi-public courses across the Iron Range offer high-level play and unique landscapes. Consider including the Eveleth Muni on St. Mary’s Lake or the Golf Digest-rated Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing on your tour. Dine al fresco at the Virginia Golf Course clubhouse, Michael’s, or take in the character of the Hoyt Lakes course. Hibbing’s muni is wide-open, perfect for a quick round before or after visiting some of the area’s historic sites and attractions.
Where to Stay: properties range from historic bed-and-breakfast sites and luxury guest homes to popular franchise hotels, resort villas and condos, mom-and-pop motels and lakeshore campgrounds.
Where to Dine: Onsite at Giants Ridge, the Wacootah Grille overlooks Mine Lake and offers outdoor dining. A pub and restaurant at The Lodge is close to the golfing action. In Biwabik, Vi’s Pizza (featured on WCCO TV) is popular with locals and visitors. The Whistling Bird in Gilbert offers Caribbean-inspired dishes in its friendly and colorful dining room.
What to Do: Off-course, the paved Mesabi Trail bicycle path winds from Giants Ridge to Grand Rapids. Bike rentals at the Rental Shop at Giants Ridge, along with canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle-board rentals. It’s not a trip to the Range without stopping at a mineview; Virginia’s Mineview in the Sky and Hibbing’s Hull-Rust Mineview are staffed through September. Museums featuring state and regional history include Minnesota Discovery Center, the Minnesota Museum of Mining (both in Chisholm), Gene Nicolelli Bus Origin Museum (Hibbing) and the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum (Eveleth).