This is the final in our three part series highlighting eastern Manitoba courses. It has been composed by Mike Johnny (@36aday) and Jeremy Kehler (@meximenno) and also appears on Jeremy’s website, prairiegolfmagazine.com
Quarry Oaks – A Rustic Beauty
Located about 45 minutes southeast of Winnipeg, just outside of Steinbach, is a stout course with three sets of nine. The drive from Winnipeg is a peaceful and easy one and the course is situated just east off Highway 12. It was the first golf experience in Manitoba for Mike and Jeremy was proud to show off the diversity and quality of public golf in Manitoba. After an easy check in with pro shop staff who personified the moniker ‘Friendly Manitoba’ we were quickly able to tee off. The plan was to play the Desert and Quarry nines and drive the Oak nine to get some photographs and maybe play a few holes.
The course opened in 1998 and was designed by Les Furber. Furber has an extensive list of Canadian courses he has designed, notably, Glasgow Hills (PEI) and Salmon Arm (BC), with most of his work in western Canada. With superb short game practice facilities and the range closely located to the opening tee, were able to get warmed up quickly and tee it up. We agreed playing from the tips would give us a good sense of the challenges the course presents, as each nine has some unique characteristics. The Quarry plays over 3600 yards and is the longest of the three nines. Desert plays 3454 and Oaks is 3354. There are 4 sets of tee markers with 5 playing options for players (Blue/White bridges the gap well between Blue and White tees).
The initial impression was that this was a rugged, nicely maintained and challenging layout. The Quarry was a consensus pick for the most challenging of the three. For Mike, the Desert was his favourite of the three nines. There is a natural feel to the course and the layout appropriately maintained in that tee boxes, greens, fairways and bunkers are very well maintained while the rest of the course retains a rugged and natural feel. Each nine returns near the clubhouse which is spacious, comfortable and bright. The food is fresh, reasonable and service is very good which allows time for a quick stop between nines to load up.
Desert – Perhaps Furber’s best use of the land, this nine utilizes waste areas very effectively to frame golf holes but also open up more expansive landing areas. The par 4 7th is an excellent example where players can take a target approach to a landing area left leaving a short iron in to a well-protected green, or, take an aggressive approach straight at the pin with long hitters able to make it with a good tee shot. But throughout this nine it is possible for players to use less than driver to position themselves off the tee. As is the case on all three nines, the greens are large and with some undulation which will test the putting game. The toughest hole is the par 4 4th, playing over 450 from the Black Tees, a demanding tee shot gives way to an approach shot to a large green. As the website mentions, par here is an exceptional score.
Quarry – The Quarry nine is less open than the Desert nine. Trees or water demand great accuracy on all shots off the tee and on approaches. The par 3’s provide little relief as the 2nd hole is a demanding 220 yard hole which is well guarded by bunkers short right and long left. The par 3 6th is beautiful, the signature hole, but in a more open part of the course wind will force accuracy to an island green. And with tough closing holes, the Quarry is a nine-hole stretch which will demand a great deal from your game. Here, the conditioning of this course is an asset, as the fairway cut provides a good target in relation to rough and waste areas.
Oak – Possibly the easiest of the nines, the Oak nine is more straightforward in its presentation. With an equal number of par 3’s, 4’s and 5’s it is the par 5’s however present the greatest challenge with both the 2nd, 7th and 9th holes providing unique risk-reward challenges. The par 3’s lack the wow factor of the other nines but does open up scoring opportunity. Consistent with the rest of the course, playing the par 4’s properly means well positioned tee shots are a must.
Reflecting back for Mike, for whom this was his first golf experience in Manitoba, he was left impressed and wanting to get back and play the course again. The Desert nine offers so much diversity and is an intelligent design. And experiencing the Oak nine, especially with the potential to score on the par 5’s, is something all players should make time for. Jeremy was glad to show off the desert nine, as it is among his favourite nine’s in the province.
Aura – MJ 6 out of 10. Context is key here. For golfers in Manitoba, this course is known as a quality course with good value and diversity in its play options. Outside of Manitoba, this course simply isn’t known. And while this is a popular lament of golfers in Manitoba who feel they get no love on a national stage, for public players seeking that sweet spot of value, quality and accessibility, Quarry Oaks is well worth the visit if you’re in the Winnipeg area.
Value (cost / experience) – 8.5 out of 10. This course, perhaps more than any other we played over our two days, brought strong diversity of opinion. And this is driven by the three nines and the diversity of play amongst them. Mike loved the Desert nine but felt the Quarry nine was not as dynamic. Jeremy… Together, we felt it was a strong and fair test of golf with great diversity of golf holes bound together by quality design elements from Furber. The costs – peak fees are $47 – were exceptional and we both left feeling satisfied about our golf experience.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8 out of 10 – Furber was provided a unique parcel of land, which reclaimed from previous mining operations, was designed with a rugged and natural look. For a prairie location which is predominantly flat, this course is far from benign. The overall conditioning is very good, with careful care and consideration to the greens, bunkering and fairways. We appreciated that the course wasn’t over maintained with an emphasis on a links style which is natural and allows the golf holes to seamlessly integrate into the landscape. Greens are large, rolling well and consistently. The tee boxes and fairways are well maintained contrasted to the waste areas, rough and water hazards, help frame landing areas for players.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8 out of 10 – We had a fun golfing experience at Quarry Oaks. The course challenged our game and playing off the tips helped show off the real strengths of this course (though for Mike as a double digit handicap it was too tough in spots). The staff are very nice; helpful and professional. The course provides strong diversity of golf holes. The consensus is we’d love to return and play all 27 again, especially the Oaks nine. This was an excellent start to our Manitoba golf adventure.