Giving Golf in Manitoba its Due
I have a greater appreciation for the ongoing advocating which @PrairieGolfMagazine does for golf in central Canada now. I am not going to urge you to cancel your golf trip to Cabot or PEI either. But golf in Manitoba is misunderstood, underappreciated and surprising in its diversity, value and enjoyment. A two day, three course junket with Prairie Golf Magazine’s Jeremy Kehler to courses east of Winnipeg was a real eye opener for me. I had no expectations and I mean this with no pretense; I honestly had no idea what to expect. Facts are, you won’t find Manitoba courses on many Top 100 course lists. Manitoba has only 130 of Canada’s almost 2300 courses (just over 5%) and there is an undeniable short season (but not much more so than other Central Canada provinces).
From where I live in Southern Ontario, Manitoba simply isn’t thought much at all on Canada’s golf scene. While Jeremy is looking to change this, my own experience is that golf in this part of the country is a genuine unknown to many, and with this comes assumptions and misconceptions (I know, I had many). We played three public courses – Quarry Oaks, Pinawa and Granite Hills – all of which are either side of 90 minutes outside of Winnipeg. Quarry Oaks is a Les Furber design which opened in 1998 and is a 27-hole facility which offers some unique diversity from each set of 9. Pinawa is set along the Winnipeg River and Pinawa Channel and edges along the Canadian Shield; and reminiscent for me of the relaxed and enjoyable layout at Brudenell River in PEI. Granite Hills is arguably one of the province’s best public courses and is located along the shores of Lac Du Bonnet and makes a compelling case for being thought of more within these national course lists.
My reflections are akin to stumbling upon a rural course which is understated, enjoyable and leaves you wanting to come back again. Even for a course like Granite Hills, there is no pretense to it. In fact, it is understated to a fault. And I wonder what is really holding back a course like Granite Hills from greater national recognition? Location? Perhaps. The lack of other courses of higher esteem in the area? I don’t know if that is fair. A sense that there are 100 better courses in Canada? Arguable, of course, as this is so subjective. But using the criteria which national leaders, SCORE Golf, use to help select their Top 100 – Challenge; Beauty; Design; Strategy; Fun Factor; Condition; Par 3’s; Par 4’s; and Par 5’s – would still place Granite Hills in the conversation for strong consideration, in my opinion. Alas, subjectivity on ranking takes the science out of this. This is a debate I welcome to wade into now, having experience and an informed opinion.
Over the coming months’ Jeremy and I will share more details on our weekend, including course reviews, pictures and reflective pieces on our golfing experience. If you happen to be traveling to Winnipeg, do bring the clubs, tack on a day (or two) and make your own plans to experience the unique and enjoyable golf courses in ‘Friendly Manitoba’. Like myself you may be pleasantly surprised.