Manitoba is not often thought of as a golf destination or as a province with high quality golf. While we do not have the mountains or an ocean to offer as the backdrop for our golf courses, Manitoba certainly isn't all flat wheat fields. We have valleys and beautiful lakes, thick woodlands and rock croppings, we even have the great Alister MacKenzie's only Canadian work in our province. Throughout these 4 posts leading up to golf season in Manitoba I will lay out all of the great golf available in Manitoba and how you can best enjoy them on your day or weekend off this summer.
North West Manitoba
In this second instalment of this series I am heading north of the #1 Highway and west of Portage La Prairie to the North West corner of our province. Home to Riding Mountain National Park, beautiful Duck Mountain Provincial Park and a number of fantastic lakes and valleys, the north west corner of our province is home to some of the provinces best golf courses and destinations for a weekend get away.
The Yellowhead Golf Trail
Portage Golf Club - Heading out of Winnipeg just 45 minutes west of the perimeter highway on the Trans Canada lies Portage la Prairie home to the Portage Golf Club. PortageGC is located on an island setting created by an Assiniboine oxbow now called Crescent Lake. The course has many challenging holes close to the clubhouse and along the lake on the east side of the course with tight fairways lined with large, mature trees. On the far west side the tree lines are more open and forgiving as the trees are not as mature...yet. As much as I need this forgiveness off the tee, my favorite holes on this 6,311 yard layout are the finishing holes of 16, 17 & 18 which offer fantastic risk-reward with the lake running along your left the entire way home. Portage is a course worth stopping in to see before heading to the north west or south west corner of the province on your golf trip.
Neepawa Golf & Country Club - Heading down the Yellowhead Highway the first 18 hole course you will come across is Neepawa Golf & Country Club, just 100km north west of Portage la Prairie. Winding up and down the Whitemud river and its valley, Neepawa offers many challenging holes with some drastic elevation changes. These steep changes in elevation make for some great golf holes with even better views, both of which are on display on the 7th tee (pictured below). Stretching out to 6,538 yards from the back tees there is no shortage of challenge for the more accomplished player with an avenue for the higher handicap to play is always available. With great course conditions available all season and a beautiful setting teed up for you NeepawaG&CC lives up to it's title of "Western Manitoba's Must Play Course".
Minnedosa Golf & Country Club - Another 20 Minutes west of Neepawa on the Yellowhead Highways lies the lake community of Minnedosa, home to Minnedosa Golf & Country Club. This is now my home club so I will attempt to remain unbiased and give a proper description of Minnedosa National, the best golf course on the Yellowhead Highway! Minnedosa possesses a number of similarities to Neepawa with its original 9 holes winding up, down and along the Little Saskatchewan River and it's valley. The the back nine, which fully opened in 2004, runs along the top of the valley featuring a modern, strategically bunkered routing overlooking the valley community of Minnedosa. Measuring at 6,461 yards from the back tees MinnedosaG&CC takes the golfer from the river banks of the Little Saskatchewan, up over 100ft to the top of the river valley making for some dramatic views and golf holes. I have many favorites holes on the course but my favorite view is the one you get from the par 3 eighth tee box which overlooks much of the course but mainly the 7th hole (pictured below). Minnedosa Golf & Country Club provides a fun round of golf in a beautiful setting!
Portage Golf Club, Neepawa Golf & Country Club, & Minnedosa Golf & Country Club all lie on or close to the Yellowhead Highway on the way to Riding Mountain National Park from Winnipeg & area. All three are worth making a stop for this summer!
Poplar Ridge Golf Course - Situated just outside of Riding Mountain Nation Park's south gate lies the small community of Onanole and Manitoba's newest 18 hole golf course, Poplar Ridge. I am embarrassed to say I have only played Poplar twice before but in those rounds the conditions were what stood out the most to me. The course was in fantastic shape from tee to green first thing in the spring and in the heat of the summer. The course has many quirks and blind shots that may frustrate golfers the first time around and that probably should have been taken into consideration in the construction process but the second time around it is actually quite enjoyable and you realize you have more room than you think. There is no shortage of heroic carry opportunities for the longer hitter to attempt on the 6,642 yard property. In an area known for one major golf course, Poplar Ridge provides legitimate competition and contrast to the area and continues to grow and adapt its golf course with great on course changes happening each year.
Clear Lake Golf Course- The major golf course in Riding Mountain mentioned above is Clear Lake Golf Course. The front 9 of Clear Lake was constructed in 1928 by legendary architect Stanley Thompson, the back nine being done by Vic Creed with the full 18 hole course you see today opened for play in 1934. The 6,309 yards stretches over undulating terrain, through mature forrest along the east bank of Clear Lake. The lake is visible on some holes but is never more present than as you crest the hill on 9 after your blind tee shot. This view hits you hard and one could be forgiven for forgetting that they are in Manitoba. My only wish is that I was around to play the course in the early days when the trees had not fully matured in some locations and the beauty of Clear Lake could be seen across much of the golf course rather than in a few specific spots. For those who have played the course, imagine having the lake immediately on your left for holes 10, 11 & 12... Clear Lake Golf Course is considered by many the best golf course in Western Manitoba and it is very hard to argue against this point at times.
Gilbert Plains Country Club - 100km north through Riding Mountain National Park (beautiful drive) and west of Dauphin is a small town of under 1,000 residents with a golf course that draws golfers from hours away. Gilbert Plains Country Club is the definition of a small town gem and I can only hope the local population knows how fortunate they have to have an 18 hole course that is always in quality condition and offers one of the more unique experiences you can find in Manitoba. Gilbert Plains challenges the golfer off the tee but should you place your drive in the proper position the course becomes very scorable as the greens are very receptive and in quality condition year round. This exposes exactly how poor my putting can be! The back nine dominates conversations about the course as its drastic elevation changes make for some wild golf holes that leave an impression, sometimes good and sometimes not so much! Take a look at the video at the link below of the 10th hole which gives you a hard intro to the back nine at GPCC. This place is well worth the drive north, put it on your list for 2019.
Hole #10 - Gilbert Plains Country Club
Prairie Lake Lodge - This is one I am yet to play myself but when multiple sources tell me how great a property is it would be a disservice to not at least mention said property. Prairie Lake Lodge is an 18 hole executive Par 3 course on the banks of Lake Of The Prairies just north of Russel MB, about 4 hours from Winnipeg. This may not be the reason you venture to the area but with quality fishing at Lake Of The Prairies and a number of other activities to participate in, Prairie Lake Lodge Golf Course should be added to the list. The course itself features 18 short holes in excellent condition from all accounts and overlooks the lake created by the Shellmouth Dam. Courses like this are invaluable to the golf industry. They give the beginner golfer, junior golfer or less accomplished golfer a setting where they can reach each green in a reasonable amount of strokes and not become frustrated with their score. They are also great fun for the more accomplished golfer and increases the odds of getting an ace! Prairie Lake, I will see you in 2019!
As always, there are a number of other golf courses in the north west region of our province that I simply cannot fit in this post or haven't had the chance to see yet and give a proper assessment of including Swan River Golf Club & Dauphin Lake Golf Course. Each course in the North West region offers something different and the terrain itself is not what you generally associate with Manitoba. The next region boasts locations that are as far from the general Manitoba landscape as you can get! Stay tuned for next week's North East instalment.