The Classic – Minnesota Resort Golf at its Finest

Classic. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a classic is something that is historical, traditional, and enduring in design. Others have defined classic as being a work of art of the highest quality. Madden’s on Gull Lake, in the famous Brainerd resort area of Minnesota, has re-defined the term as eighteen holes of Scott Hoffmann championship golf.

I had the opportunity to play The Classic with course designer Scott Hoffmann. The chance to play with a golf course designer is a rare occurrence not to be missed. I was especially looking forward to this opportunity. The abbreviated story behind Scott, Madden’s and The Classic goes like this: Scott grew up working at Madden’s as a kid, went off to college in Michigan to study turf management and returned to resume his career at Madden’s and is now in his 32nd year as an employee.

The course itself is a shining example of how to “find” a course from the given landscape rather than imposing a course on its surroundings. Perhaps the ultimate compliment to the design of The Classic is the feeling that every hole was delicately extracted from the existing natural surroundings. Very little dirt was moved in creating the layout. This tells you what a wonderful piece of property Scott had to work with and how years of walking and hiking the property as a kid prepared him to uncover this course for all to enjoy.

The course begins innocently enough with a tee shot up a slight hill of a tree lined fairway. Think of this as the climb up to the first drop on a roller coaster. You can’t quite see over the edge and you are nervous at what thrills await you. Upon reaching your tee shot the ride and the fun are about to begin. From here, the course flows up, down and around the 220 acre property as if poured onto the land by a higher designer. No holes feel the same and the ever changing topography presents constant challenges to both your game and your brain. Plus, there are no homes or buildings to distract you from the task at hand.

Make no mistake, this is a challenging championship course that is fair yet unrelenting. It demands constant good shot making and even better decision making. There is an amazing mix of shorter risk/reward holes as well as holes with considerable length. The greens are fast and undulating requiring well planned approach shots and nerves of steel. Over the course of eighteen holes you will be faced with tree lined fairways, island-like greens, woodlands, marshes, and natural scenery that tempt distraction like the siren call of the sea.

My overall impression of the course might best be described as a Minnesota version of Augusta National. We all have seen the rolling fairways, undulating greens, little dangers and unique bunkering of that famed layout. Those same influences are at The Classic. Hidden creeks, mature trees, thirsty little ponds, perfect conditions and first class service. And don’t forget to have a wonderful meal after your round at The Classic Grill in the log home styled clubhouse or the relaxing services available at the Spalon Montage spa.

If you are going to stay in Brainerd and play The Classic, I recommend staying at Madden’s. It sits on 1,000 acres surrounded by Gull Lake. Lodging options include lodge rooms, cabins and golf villas. This is Minnesota family resort life at its best.


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