Destination Golf has become an extremely popular trend in the golf world as of late. Mike Keiser being the man at the forefront of this movement with his properties of Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links/Cliffs and recently Sand Valley. These properties feature multiple golf courses, all of which are considered some of the best in the world. This is not a new trend but it is has been gaining in popularity. Golf havens such as Pebble Beach and Pinehurst have been around for decades and in a time when golf is apparently "dying" these resorts are investing in their product and expanding or remodelling. The reason? Destination golf is in high demand. Could Manitoba become a golfing destination? Crazy thought right? To even mention the cold, wind swept prairies in the same breath as Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach will raise the eyebrows of even the most skeptical people. I will concede that this is a huge reach but bear with me. There is property in our backyard that will make any golf course architect or enthusiast (me) drool and is capable of nothing short of greatness.
Enter Spirit Sands. Every golf course architect dreams of a sand dune setting to work with and lately courses such as Cabot Cliffs, Bandon Dunes, the Prairie Club and more recently Sand Valley have sky rocketed in popularity and draw in golf enthusiasts from far and wide. The Spirit Sands, located in and surrounding Spruce Woods Provincial Park, is exactly what architects dream of. The large, endless sand dunes that tower over the foliage that surrounds them is strikingly similar, if not better than the land that these other courses mentioned above were built on. There is, of course, an advantage that courses such as Cabot or Bandon have over the Spirit Sands/Spruce Woods area and that is the ocean. The ocean undoubtedly brings something aesthetically to a golf course that cannot be matched, period. However, let me introduce you to the Prairie Club home of the #35 & #75 ranked public courses in America and neighbor of Sand Hills Golf Club which is no slouch itself as it is ranked #9 in America and #12 in the WORLD! These facilities are built on land extremely similar to that of the Spruce Woods sand hills and are in a "remote" location in Nebraska. Unbeknownst to many in the Western Manitoba area, the sand hills have been explored and studied by golf course architects and golf enthusiasts who would kill for the opportunity to develop their own work of art on this landscape that appears meant to hold a golf course. Attached at the bottom of this post is an article written by Riley Johns on his trip to the "Canadian Sandhills". Check out the pictures they took and comments made.
Of course, there is far more to building a course than just having a great piece of land. I am also not advocating for the Spirit Sands to be turned into a golf course, in fact I would actually push for Spirit Sands and the Devil's Punchbowl area to be better preserved and utilized. It is simply an amazing area of Manitoba. The Spirit Sands just provide an in your face visual of the dunes that span over many miles inside and outside of the park. Many of the once exposed sand dunes that we see at Spirit Sands are now covered in foliage due to the fact that out of control prairie fires that used to sweep the prairies are no longer present to "cleanse" the land of these invasive plants. But, the topography associated with a large sand dune setting and the sandy soil still loom just below the surface. The Sand Hills Casino located just north of the park could provide the spark needed to set something like this all in motion. Dakota Dunes located just south of Saskatoon has done something similar in recent years, building the top rated golf course in Saskatchewan next to their impressive casino. Could something similar be in store for the area south of Carberry?
The benefits of a world class golf facility being developed in the area cannot be easily ignored. If this truly turned into a golf destination there would be a huge economic impact on the local towns and businesses. Local golf courses could see an increase in traffic due to players traveling to the area who otherwise would not have. Even courses in Winnipeg could feel the impact of this. Don't believe me? See how many people had ever heard of a small town called Bandon, Oregon prior to 1999 when Bandon Dunes opened and I am willing to bet the near by Eugene Country Club gets a lot more attention than it did prior to 1999. This would truly be a win for the area and could provide a much needed boost to the golf economy in Manitoba if done properly and supported by the local populous.
Will "Spirit Sands Golf Club" ever be developed? No, probably not. Our area does not appear to be in a state to support such a facility and until I come into a large sum of money my imagination is likely as far as this golf facility will ever get. Regardless, this area of Manitoba is spectacular and is located right in our backyard here in Westman. Whether you are a golf nerd like me picturing a golf hole at every turn or just a curious hiker, the sheer size of the Spirit Sands dunes is jaw dropping. I encourage everyone to spend a day experiencing it for yourself. It is a must visit location in Manitoba.
The Canadian Sandhills - Riley Johns