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The Brainerd Area Of Minnesota, Golf Mecca

by Diane Ambro
   Brainerd Minnesota is located about two and a half hours drive south west from Duluth and the area is saturated with some of the finest golf courses you could ever want to play.  My friend Carol Coffey and I visited several courses a few years back and we were very impressed.  We decided to pay them another visit the second week in May to see how things were developing in that area.
   Most of the courses opened the last week in April or the first week in May.  Unfortunately it rained while we were there so we only got to play one course.  On the plus side, it was the Classic at Madden's which is rated as the 33rd Best Public Course in the country by Golf Digest magazine.  Even though it was early in the season, the course was in good shape.  I imagine it will be in prime condition shortly with all the rain.  On an interesting note, play is limited on the Classic to only 20,000 rounds per year, less than half of what our local courses allow.  The Classic is definitely upscale as are it's neighbouring courses the Legacy, the Preserve, the Pines and Deacon's Lodge, to name a few. All of these 'must play' courses are within 45 minutes of each other and they are part of a new marketing group called the 'Brainerd Golf Trail'.
   Eighteen golf courses and resorts in the area have banded together to promote Brainerd using a proven concept developed in other areas such as the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama.  One of the driving forces behind the group is Bill Crumley, Director of Marketing and Communications at Madden's at Gull Lake.  Bill, who has been with Madden's for almost a year says their goal is to 'creat a more golf friendly, memorable destination' for golfers and their families.  By combining their marketing dollars they feel they can more successfully get the word out that Brainerd is an affordable alternative for golfers who want to play some of the best golf courses in the country.  Add to that a variety of other quality courses, fine resorts, recreation areas and outdoor activities and you have a vacation suited to golfers and non golfers alike.
   I have always maintained that Brainerd is a hidden treasure for those of us who love to golf and play outdoors.  But don't just take my word for it.  Experts from Golf Digest travel the world every couple of years or so to find the best golfing destinations on the planet.  This year Brainerd was rated as the 41st best place to golf in the world.  Pretty impressive for a small Minnesota community.
   The best thing for those of us in Northwestern Ontario is that it is a drivable destination so there is no need for airfare or car rentals.  Just drive to Duluth, continue south to Hwy 210 where the Black Bear Casino is located and turn right.  Brainerd is a couple of hours down Hwy 210.
   Carol and I were fortunate enough to have reservations at Madden's Resort on Gull Lake.  This unique family owned property has many types of accomodations to suit every need.  Part of the charm is that no two rooms are exactly alike.  Most of the lodging is part of family owned resorts that have been around for decades.  The Madden family has aquired these properties and improved them.  The huge resort is an ecclectic collection of new contemporary golf villas, quaint cabins, classical cottages and there are even 'family reunion' style houses for large groups or families.  The large houses have common rooms and eight or so bedrooms that will sleep from 12 to 24 people.  The whole atmosphere is friendly and more relaxed than corporate owned products.
   There are three eighteen hole courses at Maddens and a social par three course.  The list of activities is long including tennis, waterskiing, fishing, boating, bicycles, excercise room, massage, pools, saunas, shopping, children's programs, bonfires, barbeques, etc. etc.
   Madden's offers a number of package vacations that include meals, accomodations, activities and unlimited golf on their Pine Beach East and West courses . All accomodations are rated deluxe, premium or luxury and guests can play the Classic course at a discounted rate.  You can contact them and they will make up any type of package that you want.  Their number is 800 642 5363 and the website is
   If you've always wanted to go to golf school, look no further than Madden's, home of the Minnesota Golf Teacher of the Year, Chris Foley.  Chris has been the pro at Maddens since 1997 and he delivers first class instructions for beginners, children or experienced golfers.  He uses video swing analysis to speed up the learning process and he can provide expert advice on club fitting.  He offers many group or private lessons and information is available on his website at  We had hoped to take a lesson with Chris when we visited but he was booked up and the rain drove us home sooner than we'd planned.  I met Chris about six years ago and I was impressed with his quiet, easy manner (reminds me of TBCC pro Craig Morton)  He was just as I remembered him this time and I would definitely like to hone my skills at his school some time soon.  For information on any of the resorts and golf courses on the Brainerd Golf Trail visit their website at Their toll free number is not up and running yet but just call Bill Crumley at Madden's, 800-247-1040 and he'll be happy to help you contact any of the properties in the group.
   I'm looking forward to visiting Brainerd again this summer for some golf, relaxation and bicycling.  With so many activities and attractions it is an area that you have to discover for yourself.  You won't be sorry, I can guarantee it.

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