Ryan Desjarlais

Ryan Desjarlais

Out on the Back Nine

Ryan Desjarlais is a high school physics teacher looking to shed some light on rural golf. This summer, he’ll feature a different rural course each week.

Recent articles of Ryan Desjarlais

A phoenix rises in the Interlake

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A phoenix rises in the Interlake

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

No matter the year, operating a golf course in Manitoba is tough business. The past two years of COVID stress certainly haven’t made operations easy. Then came this season — the summer eventually started, but it was cold and very wet. Courses all around the province had significant challenges opening their established, but waterlogged, fairways to eager golfers. If you add in the world’s economic problems, golf businesses have been challenged this year, to say the least.

Now, imagine starting a new golf course business in 2022 with no established membership to lean on. Can’t be done? Yes, it can.

Need proof? Head up to Marvellous Meadows Golf and Grill near Arnes, Man.

Alright, some of you might have read Arnes and said to yourselves, “Wasn’t there a golf course in Arnes a while back?”

Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022

The ninth green at Marvellous Meadows is fronted by a large marshy water hazard with tall reeds. It’s not the biggest green but once you’re on the dance floor, the putting is easy.

Golfing, camping… what’s not to like?

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Golfing, camping… what’s not to like?

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

I have covered a few Highway 5 courses last year and this year, and there are plenty more for me to see in future golf seasons. Chipping away at that list brings me to the town of Carberry. To find their golf facilities, one travels south of town from the Trans-Canada Highway on PTH 5, past the famous McCain plant. As the treeline starts to build up, look to the west side of the road for the signs of the Carberry Sandhills Golf & Country Club.

Be careful when you initially turn into the lot; look left and right along the well-used train tracks you’re crossing. Locals say there are trains every day. A small freight passed by while I played my Saturday afternoon round.

This course is just north of Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the region is famous for its sandy soils. These sands were left by a glacial river delta that formed over the region many moons ago. The sandy soils are good for potato farming, and, apparently, golf courses. The greens and fairways here are in great shape, and the sand traps have some of the nicest sand textures in Manitoba.

Hole 1 offers a sample of everything you’re going to experience throughout this course. The narrow fairways feature rolling topography. The greens are large, smoothed out, and anything but level. The natural bush running along the fairways, consisting mostly of large, mature bur oak and poplar, is very thick. Last, the planted conifers, mostly spruce, are tall, mature, and sometimes purposely positioned to add challenge.

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

Hole 2 at Carberry Sandhills Golf & Country Club features a large oak tree right in the middle of the fairway.

Elevation a feature of Cartwright course

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Elevation a feature of Cartwright course

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

From the ninth fairway, if you look really hard towards the southern horizon, you might see an American border drone fly by. This fairway is on one of the most southernmost golf courses in western Manitoba, just five minutes from the 49th parallel. This little gem is the Cartwright Town and Country Golf Club.

If you don’t catch on that this golf course is in the heart of rural farming country, and has that definite small town vibe, you’re not paying attention to the clues around you. Clues like driving through many beautiful fields of green, brown, blue and yellow. Or, the post near the clubhouse that states the green fees, and asks you to just drop you fees in the cash box below if the clubhouse is closed. Another visual clue appears when you look down the first fairway and observe a series of towering grain silos.

I played on a Wednesday, and the fees were very reasonable. However, if you are in the area on a Friday, they have a great deal; a $10 green fee grants you unlimited golf all day. If you walk, all you need is a purple bill. If you ride, you need to pay the cart fee for every nine hole round you play. Speaking of carts, they have a small fleet, so you may want to call ahead. Their carts however are newer, electric, and a sporty shade of red.

This course is built on some interesting landscape. Surrounding the majority of the course are active full wetlands, which explains why the course is green and healthy. If you are playing early or late in the day, some bug spray would be a good idea. The dry lands of the course have a number of ridges and hills. You begin to experience these elevation challenges right off the first tee. You have to tee blind over a ridge that is about 70 metres in front of the green. If you haven’t played this course before, you wonder where this uphill fairway jaunt is going.

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

Cartwright Town and Country Golf Course is located in the heart of farming country, not far from the U.S. border.

Making the most of it

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Making the most of it

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022

Heading east along the beaten path called the Trans-Canada Highway this summer?

Do yourself a favour; take a road less travelled and turn south at Deacon’s Corner for a few clicks. Look for the sign on the west side of the road for the Lorette Golf Course and hang a right.

This par-36 offering is carefully laid out in a rectangular parcel of land just north of the town. Around the course is a flurry of new home construction, which is one sign of the course’s popularity. Another sign came when I tried to book a tee time with a riding cart. Spots were few and, when at the course, my party was combined with another duo. Finally, when our round ended, we noticed that there was a big tournament being lined up, on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend. Obviously, Lorette is a desirable golf destination.

The clubhouse is not the largest, the rental fleet is not the newest, and the pro shop is not the fanciest. So, what is the draw here? I believe it lies in the meticulously maintained grounds. Benches, signage, mid-course bathrooms, and pergola rest stops are all well maintained and placed right where they’re needed. The fairways are very healthy, and the difference from the first and second cut is consistent throughout the course (more about the second cut later). Last, the landscaping around the water hazards and in between some of the fairways, such as the eighth and ninth, is most impressive.

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022

Hole 7 at Lorette Golf Course is this track’s signature hole, and its impressive aesthetic temporarily disguises how difficult it is to play.

Shoal Lake’s Lakeside layout is a gem

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Shoal Lake’s Lakeside layout is a gem

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

Along the Manitoba section of the Yellowhead Highway, you will find a number of Manitoba towns with fantastic golf courses. Many of these courses feature terrain that many Winnipegers would not be used to — such as hills.

However, if you’re not looking for any extreme elevation changes, there’s a great spot along Highway 16 that keeps the elevation changes small, and has photogenic, beach-side fairways. Plan a stop in Shoal Lake and hit the links at Lakeside Golf Club.

This course is also a part of a nicely serviced campground. If you have your own golf cart, this may very well be a place to spend a couple of days. Road tripping with your boat? Feel free to moor up to the golf course’s dock during your round, then head out back on the waters of Shoal Lake to your rental cottage or special fishing spot. The clubhouse has full restaurant facilities, and the town itself offers many choices for dining and shopping.

The club’s first hole is an inviting par 4, and you tee off towards the west onto a fairway that starts wide but narrows around the green with a significant tree line. Hole 2 is a reverse; you tee off in a narrow bush line but the hole opens up towards the green. Hole 3 goes west and is another par 4. However, a large water trap, dead centre of the fairway, tests your ability to hit a decent drive. It you’re too short, your ball’s getting wet. While playing these three initial holes, look for some of the decorative benches and stonework.

Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

The eighth hole at Lakeside Golf Club and Campground is a par 4 that plays along the beautiful shoreline of Shoal Lake.

Treherne’s nine-holer can be played as 18

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Treherne’s nine-holer can be played as 18

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

This week we head out west to one of my favourite regions of the province, the Manitoba escarpment. Last season we looked at Miami and McCreary, two great little courses built on the Lake Agassiz beachfront. This time, we visit Treherne’s Tiger Hills and the Delahunt Golf and Country Club.

Some courses around the province tag on the “country club” part of their names without much to back it up. Delahunt, for example, does not have tennis, polo, nor a spa. It does, however, have a large, modern clubhouse. Weddings and tournaments should be no problem for this capable and inviting space.

Like Lundar, discussed last season, Treherne’s nine-hole course tries to give the 18-hole golfer a different experience between the front and back nines. Many of the holes have different tee boxes, which either change the yardage, the view, or both. For example, the par 3 fifth hole plays at just over 100 metres off to the left, but the same fairway’s tee for No. 14 is at around 160 metres and plays from the right. This approach either puts the sand trap beside the green in or out of play, depending on the tee box.

Your round starts off with an easy, wide-open par 4. The next hole also has a wide fairway, but it plays quite long, even for a par 5. Deep sand traps lie at 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock around the green. It is also the first example of many of the unusual greens on this course. Almost all the greens at Delahunt have distinctive bumps, mounds, and curves. Many also have a strange dome-shaped aspect to them, like someone took an ice-cream scoop to a soil pile, plopped some earth down, and covered it with turf green. To avoid some frustration, you may opt to try shooting some darts with your lob wedge to make your ball sit. Otherwise, bump and roll approaches may see your ball rolling off the mound and back into the short stuff.

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

A sign at the eighth hole offers fair warnings.

Playing the new nine at Niverville

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Playing the new nine at Niverville

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

Niverville is one of Manitoba’s fastest growing communities. Southeast of St. Adolphe, on the east side of the mighty Red River, the sights and sounds of new construction are all over town. Despite its name, one of Manitoba’s newest golf courses lies at the western edge of town. This is Old Drover’s Run.

Like most of the many beautiful houses that surround the course, the course itself is practically brand new. And, like most of the new properties in town, there is still some fine-tuning and detail-finishing to be taken care of, among other growing pains. The course itself is in great shape but, due to one of their aforementioned growing pains, playing here is a real bargain right now. I played nine holes with a riding cart for only $25, which was definitely worth the short drive down Highway 75.

Old Drover’s Run is a links-style course with no trees or bushes. To compensate, it has a few purposeful design characteristics. First, there are sand traps — lots of sand traps — most of which are a deep-lip design, situated in areas along the fairways and greens where most average shots will end up. Another characteristic of this tree-less offering is the many rolling hills, which sometimes cut off your view to the hole. Finally, this nine-hole course has only one par 3 and four par 5s, making it a whopping par 39!

You start your round on one of the par 5s, and you soon run into the sand trap challenges placed throughout the course. I counted at least 10 traps on this hole alone. Half were fairway traps, at average drive distances, and the others were peppered about the green. Fortunately, the green is large, so you don’t have to throw a dart with your wedge. The trap theme continues on the second hole, and the three that are placed in front, behind, and to the left of the green are especially troublesome.

Friday, Jul. 8, 2022

The proximity of holes 7, 8 and 9 to homes in Niverville give Old Drover’s Run an urban feel.

Bombing around Blumberg’s nine-holer

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Bombing around Blumberg’s nine-holer

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

Hello, and welcome back to Out on the Back Nine, where we look at nine-hole golf courses around the province. This column hopes to inspire Winnipeggers to get out on some road trips to have nice walks on beautiful landscapes, only to, as Mark Twain suggested, have them spoiled by a game of golf.

It has been a slow start to the golf season here in Manitoba. A long, long winter and a wet, wet spring have challenged golf operations so far this spring. However, with last week’s warm temperatures, it seems we are making the turn into summer.

We will start off this season fairly close to home. One must warm up and tweak one’s game before venturing out too far into the wilds of Manitoba. Just south of the Trans-Canada Highway on the way to Headingley lies John Blumberg Golf Course. Many folks know there is an 18-hole course there, and the last five holes along the Assiniboine River are certainly worth playing. Many folks also know there is a full driving range and practice green at the facility, too.

However, a lesser-known fact is that the 18-hole layout surrounds another, nine-hole course, which is the subject of today’s article.

Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

In addition to its 18-hole course, John Blumberg also features a par-34 nine-hole layout.

Few oaks, interesting hazards at Prairie Oaks

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Few oaks, interesting hazards at Prairie Oaks

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021

The leaves are turning and the temperatures are falling, so it is time to shorten our rural golf road outings down to quick day trips.

On the flats of the Red River flood plain, just 10 minutes southeast of Winnipeg, lies a nice little nine-hole course currently displaying a beautiful palette of fall colours. The course even has a species of tree right in the name. Near the town of Île-des-Chênes lies Prairie Oaks Golf Course.

This course has been around since 1993. However, some of you may not have heard the name before. Have you heard of Oak Grove, the original name? Or perhaps its more recent name, the Shamrock? If you answered yes, then this is the same club. The new owners changed the name a few years ago to Prairie Oaks.

I will admit that when I was heading there just off Highway 59, I was expecting the course to be along a creek or river with many bur oaks dominating the fairways. Well, although there are many wonderful tree and shrub species on the course, some very strategically planted with the intent to frustrate players, very few were oak trees. Despite the lack of its namesake, the moniker is still catchy.

Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
The newly renamed Prairie Oaks Golf Course, near Île-des-Chênes, makes for a good walk but offers up some interesting challenges, too.

Take a little trip out to Lundar G & CC

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Take a little trip out to Lundar G & CC

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

As summer draws to a close, we begin to look at nine-hole courses a little closer to, and possibly inside, the city of Winnipeg, making for easy one day outings.

This week we take an hour-long drive up Highway 6 to visit one of the many communities of the Métis nation. Judging by this town’s roadside attraction, you should expect to see a goose or two during your round. The town is Lundar, and the Lundar Golf & Country Club is ready to welcome you.

This summer’s drought was hard on fairway maintenance for many rural courses, especially in the central plains. Here in the Interlake, just a few kilometres from the shores of Lake Manitoba, Lundar’s fairways are thick and healthy. The greens are in great shape, too.

This is a nine-green course, but it has 18 “fairways” as the course designer made two separate tee boxes at each hole, and their placements apart from each other are sometimes quite dramatic. Your back nine is truly a different playing experience from the front. The par and yardage changes make the first round a little longer than the second.

Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

Ryan Desjarlais
The ninth green at Lundar Golf & Country Club. No. 9 is the course's signature hole.

Enjoy the lush greens at Black Bear Golf Club

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Enjoy the lush greens at Black Bear Golf Club

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

This week we travel northeast of Winnipeg out on top of the rock croppings of the Canadian Shield. Located just off of the beautiful Lee River in the Lac Du Bonnet area, you will find nine beautiful holes of golf that include cliffs, fields, ponds, and granite. Welcome to the Black Bear Golf Club.

Many of the province’s golf courses have dry, brown fairways due to this year’s drought. Not here.

The fairways and tee boxes are emerald green and healthy, and all the large, luscious greens on this course are in fantastic shape. Kudos to the groundskeepers.

Now, if you are a golfer who fears sand traps, fear not. There are no traps here. Water hazards, though...

Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
Black Bear Golf Club, located just off the Lee River in the Lac du Bonnet area, is free of sand traps — but beware the water hazards.

Waskada a great golf destination for families

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Waskada a great golf destination for families

Ryan Desjarlais 5 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

This week we venture west-south-west to Manitoba’s oil country.

On your drive you will likely see the impressive Turtle Mountain, and on the west side of this landmark lies the village of Waskada. Surrounded by many pump jacks, a.k.a. thirsty birds, lies a cute little golf course that is unique in our province. Oil tycoons and regular folks alike are welcome at the Waskada Golf Club.

If you “Google” this course, you may not get a lot of information. That is because the golf course is one of many facets within Waskada Community Park. The golfing facilities are integrated around the park’s baseball facility, and their new modern and extensive children’s play structure. The park also offers a modern covered picnic area with bathrooms and a kitchen. Waskada’s campground is located right beside the park and close to holes 5 and 6. If you have a large family with small kids, this place ticks off a lot of boxes.

Golfers can play their round and always be in visual contact with the children’s play area. Those who don’t like golf can play a bit of softball, or simply have a seat in the shade of the giant oak trees.

Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
Waskada Golf Club is just one of Waskada Community Park’s many facets, but it’s one any avid golfer should check out.

Rollin’ on to Roland Golf Club

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Rollin’ on to Roland Golf Club

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

This week we look at another flat-land course in the heart of the prairies, near the village of Roland, home of 4-H Manitoba and the land of giant pumpkins.

Established in 1958 as Elm Park, this week’s facility has evolved from sand and oil greens and dry fairways into one of Manitoba’s most picturesque nine-hole courses. Welcome to Roland Golf Club.

Most nine-hole courses this year have had challenges with their fairways owing to the drought Manitoba’s facing this summer. Roland’s fairways, however, are luscious and green. The club updated its fairway irrigation systems during the course’s most recent hole redesign in 1997. To supply that system, the club manages its water reserves well. The greens and tee boxes are also in good, emerald health. During the aforementioned redesign, three new greens were created, and five holes were redesigned from the 1980s layout. This relatively-new set of links plays out as a par 36.

There are many beautiful holes on this course, but the first is probably the club’s signature challenge. By yardage alone, a heavy hitter might be tempted to start the day with a long-drive birdie attempt on this par 4.

Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
If you're not an accurate hitter, water and trees are what you'll find at Roland Golf Club.

Helicopters, airplanes… and golf

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Helicopters, airplanes… and golf

Ryan Desjarlais 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 9, 2021

What do airplanes, farm tractors, glass towers, hay balers, flat land, helicopters, and military history all of it have in common? They can all be found at the Southport Golf Club.

Southport is a former military base, CFB Portage la Prairie. Its former name gives away its approximate location. The complex is south of Portage la Prairie on Highway 240. If you’re coming from Winnipeg, take the Portage bypass and watch for the 240 overpass. Proceed south from the bypass on 240 and you’ll find yourself on the well-maintained grounds of the Southport campus. Follow the blue signs pointing out the golf course.

Following the signage will lead you down an ever-narrowing paved road, and along that road, you will read signs picturing a helicopter and saying, “Beware! Low-flying aircraft.” As you pass the aircraft control tower, you may feel you’re in the wrong place, as there is nothing but open fields and runways, and the road that you are on keeps narrowing.

Not to worry; look for the three or four tall, obviously out-of-place evergreen trees on the horizon and keep going. Once you’ve reached those planted conifers, you have entered the golf course. Now, be cautious here, because the road runs right through the middle of the course.

Monday, Aug. 9, 2021

What do airplanes, farm tractors, glass towers, hay balers, flat land, helicopters, and military history all of it have in common? They can all be found at the Southport Golf Club.

Southport is a former military base, CFB Portage la Prairie. Its former name gives away its approximate location. The complex is south of Portage la Prairie on Highway 240. If you’re coming from Winnipeg, take the Portage bypass and watch for the 240 overpass. Proceed south from the bypass on 240 and you’ll find yourself on the well-maintained grounds of the Southport campus. Follow the blue signs pointing out the golf course.

Following the signage will lead you down an ever-narrowing paved road, and along that road, you will read signs picturing a helicopter and saying, “Beware! Low-flying aircraft.” As you pass the aircraft control tower, you may feel you’re in the wrong place, as there is nothing but open fields and runways, and the road that you are on keeps narrowing.

Not to worry; look for the three or four tall, obviously out-of-place evergreen trees on the horizon and keep going. Once you’ve reached those planted conifers, you have entered the golf course. Now, be cautious here, because the road runs right through the middle of the course.

Picturesque Rivers Edge is worth the trip

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Picturesque Rivers Edge is worth the trip

Ryan Desjarlais 3 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 27, 2021

We head northeast of Winnipeg this week to the town of Beausejour, well known for its winter snowmobile races. Beausejour’s also known for being a summer spot, too, as one of the gateway communities to the province’s share of the great Canadian Shield.

Just east of town, along a slow flowing section of the rocky Brokenhead River, lies nine holes of golf surrounded by thick, mature, mixed woods, and the odd camper trailer. This is Rivers Edge Golf Course, which plays as a par 35. The club is right between Brokenhead River Park, a seasonal campground, to the south, and a stretch of cottages to the north. All are connected by pathways along the river. The area is picturesque, and there’s little doubt why folks make this their summer residence.

The first hole on the golf course is the most impressive. From the tee box you may not see it, but this fairway has a lot going on. First, you need to tee off over the Brokenhead River, and avoid the team of Canada geese security guards. Second, you have to carry the elevation change mid fairway, or a second shot will leave you blind of the green. Finally, you need to approach from the left and avoid the semicircle of trees guarding the green to the right.

Once you cross the river, either on the high swinging bridge for those walking, or the low-lying concrete bridge for those riding, all the other holes of the course are accessible. Hole 3 is a par 4/5 with a slight dogleg left. Now, if you’re not paying attention, one could play this hole straight, and mistake the green from No. 5 as your target.

Tuesday, Jul. 27, 2021

Ryan Desjarlais
A healthy flock of Canada geese stand guard at the bridge which crosses the Brokenhead River at Rivers Edge Golf Course in Beausejour.

McCreary nine-hole course is breathtaking

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McCreary nine-hole course is breathtaking

Ryan Desjarlais 2 minute read Monday, Jul. 19, 2021

The sandy western beaches of ancient Lake Agassiz have a unique soil table, one that is perfect for golf courses. Many of Manitoba’s best nine-hole courses are built here. McCreary Golf & Country Club is another shining example of escarpment golf.

This course is great for all levels of golfer, although it tries to intimidate you at the start. A long opening par 4 runs into another long hole, a tricky, dogleg-right par 5. By the third hole, you are rewarded with a straightforward par 3, although water does lie to the right.

Incidentally, water also lies to the right of the other par 3 on the course, hole 7. If you naturally slice or draw to the right, consider yourself warned.

Once you settle in to your round, you realize the forgiving fairways are luxuriously wide, and the scenery is a great mix of natural prairie grasses and deciduous tree growth. Although the course is relatively level, the surrounding vistas are anything but flat. This course is built right at the base of Riding Mountain National Park, and the rise of the mountain over the eighth green is breathtaking. You can see the odd deer here but, since you are so close to Riding Mountain, you might also see the occasional elk. The course closes off play with another, but less difficult, par 5. Par for the course is 36.

Monday, Jul. 19, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
McCreary Golf & Country Club is another shining example of escarpment golf.

Grab your sticks and hit the links in Miami

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Grab your sticks and hit the links in Miami

Ryan Desjarlais 2 minute read Monday, Jul. 12, 2021

It’s summer, and with the heat and sunshine, one might think of Miami’s beautiful sandy beaches.

Manitoba’s Miami has a beach too, and on that ancient beach of Lake Agassiz stands one of the province’s most beautiful and challenging nine-hole, par 36 golf courses.

This great little course, besides being one of the newest courses in Manitoba, is also a successful land reclamation project. The area under the links used to be the town’s refuse grounds. The course at the Miami Golf and Country Club, just an hour southwest of the city on Highway 23, was designed by Dave Grant and it is not your normal flatlanders’ course. The designer really took advantage of the changing elevations and thick oak tree growth.

Hole 8 is the signature hole. The tee is elevated about 50 to 60 feet above the fairway. The short grass is narrow, has a bank of oak trees on the right, and a severe elevated mound of rough on the left. Getting to the sloped, tricky green requires your approach shot to carry the green’s 30-to-40-foot rise. This hole is beautiful to see, but sometimes heartbreaking to play. The rest of your play, against the picturesque backdrop of the Manitoba Escarpment, includes dog legs, elevated greens, and a deceptively tricky hole 6, playing as a par 3.

Monday, Jul. 12, 2021

Photo by Ryan Desjarlais
The eighth hole at the Miami Golf and Country Club makes great use of the area’s natural elevation.