Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Take nothing for GRANITE

If you like your fun mixed with a healthy dose of fear, head for the Hills

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Some say the par-5 third hole along the lake is spectacular. Others claim nothing compares to the spectacular views from the 14th tee. But it says here the best hole at Granite Hills Golf Course is the Cliff Hole, a.k.a. the 13th.

Nowhere else in Manitoba can you blast a drive into a 10-metre rock face and carom it towards the green. Maybe it will carom right back at you, but hell, getting there -- somehow -- is half the fun. And there is fun by the bucketload at Granite Hills, a course already challenging the Heclas and St. Charleses as top course in the province, despite being a mere whelp of age 4, having opened in the fall of 2007.

No one who has played this beauty of a golf course just 20 minutes north of Lac du Bonnet comes away disappointed, except, probably, with their score.

"I think it's the best course in Manitoba, period," says general manager Ada Vandersteen (who also admits to some bias). "And a lot of the pros who have played here say the same thing."

It's tough to argue that. Granite Hills has the elevation changes of a Morden or Neepawa, more lake holes than Hecla, more damn trees than are called for and huge, amazing hunks of Canadian Shield granite. "Every hole is different here," says Vandersteen. "There's not a boring minute."

Case in point is the 545-yard par-5 third that doglegs left along the lake. It's similar to the 18th at Pebble Beach, minus the drop-to-your-death vertical to the beach. Although it is a very nice hole, it ain't so tough (see right).

 

How to eagle the monster 3rd (on a calm day)

Pull out the Thunderstick and vaporize a drive down the left-centre. Sizzle a flawless 3-iron about 10 feet short of the green, which has a front-left pin. Use deft touch on an elegantly played 9-iron to chip it in.

 

Set and stay a spell

This is a course so nice you should play it twice. If you make the 90-minute drive up from Winnipeg, consider an overnighter and 36 holes. There are cabin rentals at Granite Recreational Park and SCSK Rentals, both on Cape Coppermine Road, and Trail End Camp in Point du Bois. In town, you have the Drifters Inn, Glen Howard Inn and Lakeview Inn. Campers will be happy at Champagnes RV Park.

 

The hit

Weekday green fees are $34 (Monday to Thursday). Half a cart is $17.

Weekend rates apply Friday to Sunday and carts are mandatory these days. $57 covers it. Senior rates are in effect Monday to Thursday.

 

Getting there

Granite Hills is located approximately 90 minutes northeast of Winnipeg. From Winnipeg take Highway 59 north to Highway 44. Proceed east on Highway 44 to Highway 11 and turn north to Lac du Bonnet. From Lac du Bonnet take PTH 313 east to PR 433 (Lee River Road) and follow the signs, approximately 14 kilometres to the golf course located on Cape Coppermine Road.

 

The numbers

Par 72; four sets of men's tees maxing out at 7,082 yards and a slope rating from 118 to 140. Two sets of women's tees with slopes of 129 and 138.

"A lot of women are afraid to play here," says Vandersteen. "But they shouldn't be. Women hit it straighter than men."

Course record is even-par 72, so this beast has yet to be tamed. You could be the one.

 

Any numbskulls out there?

Was anyone else out there fool enough to play on Tuesday, May 25, the day a wind warning (blasts up to 90 km/h) was issued? Our clueless foursome played Bridges. It was hilarious. Balls were blowing off the tee, putts started moving without being putted. On the par-3 13th, about 140 yards, one guy, thinking we were sheltered, hit an 8-iron. It looked good until about halfway there, when it rose above the tree line. Then it zoomed straight up and started coming back at us. The net result was a 30-yard shot.

Pro shop staff said apart from us, there was but a twosome on the course.

 

Four-wheeled menace

Used to be the biggest danger one faced on the links was being drilled in the head by an errant shot. Or busting a club on a tree root and having the shaft pierce your jugular. Or stepping on a rake. Not that these unfortunate occurrences are now to be completely discounted, but according to the New York Times the biggest threat to physical well-being on the golf course is now the power cart.

Says the Times... "The Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported in 2008 that nearly 148,000 cart-related injuries occurred between 1990 and 2006, with those injuries rising to nearly 13,500 in 2006, from about 5,700 in 1990. The figures included cart-related injuries away from the golf course because the vehicles are increasingly being used in other settings. Still, 70 per cent of the injuries took place at recreational and sports facilities."

It stands to reason those statistics would apply, proportionately, to Canada. So, next time you hit the links, consider walking.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2010 A32

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