Golden Eagle – The Brainerd Golf Trail’s Northern Gem
By R.J. Smiley
The northern end of the Brainerd Lakes golf trail is a land of rolling forested hills and home to a wonderful golf course called Golden Eagle Golf Club. Located in the hamlet of Fifty Lakes, this area is unlike many of the more familiar Brainerd area courses. The land here is much hillier than the Gull Lake area and the terrain plays a major part in defining the golf experience at Golden Eagle. Even though it was early in the year, the course was in really good condition. The greens were in especially great shape and by midsummer I imagine they will roll even faster and truer. Make sure to bring your “A” putting game if you are planning on scoring well.
Bruce McIntosh was my host for the day and is one of the co-owners of the Golden Eagle development. He is a Golden Gopher hockey alum and also played on the 1972 Olympic Silver Medal hockey team in Sapporo. From Edina, Bruce is a lifelong Minnesotan who now splits his time between the golf course in the summer and Florida during the winter. He is an avid golfer and co-designed this interesting eighteen hole layout with former PGA tour pro Mike Morley.
The course is a true test of golf for players of all abilities. It plays a comfortable 5,097 yards from the front tees to a stern 6,745 yard test from the tips (73.3 rating, 140 slope). Compounding the difficulty of the course is the constantly changing terrain and the resulting array of uphill, sidehill and downhill lies so many of us struggle with. This layout will require nearly every shot in your arsenal. There are amazing par threes with dramatic carries over marsh land to reachable par 5’s that are well guarded by ponds and strategic bunkering. The feel at Golden Eagle is very similar to that at both St. Croix National Golf Club and White Eagle Golf Club in the Hudson area of Wisconsin. The 130 plus feet in elevation change provides everything from scenic hilltop tee boxes to lakeside holes and dramatic shots all along the way.
Ned, my golf partner this trip, wanted to make sure I mentioned the cart paths. He said they were the most fun he has ever been on. Mr. McIntosh agreed pointing out that even his cart path contractor didn’t think they could be done. Many of the holes require switchbacks in the cart path to safely negotiate the hilly terrain, making cart driving as fun as the golfing. However, this is one course where the race car driver among you is better left in the passenger seat or at one of the nearby go cart tracks.
In addition to the golf course, the Golden Eagle development includes a full service clubhouse, single family home sites and a large rental “cottage”. The cottage is actually a two story building that can be subdivided to accommodate groups of various sizes. It has a total of four bedrooms, each with private bath, as well as a complete kitchen and dining room. The clubhouse is a large log cabin structure that sits perched on a hillside providing great views of the surrounding course. It includes a full service pro shop as well as a spacious dining room and bar area. The pro shop is fully stocked and has everything you could need for a day of golf. The restaurant and bar occupy a soaring vaulted room with wood ceilings, a curvy wood bar and a wall of windows that looks out over an expansive deck and the golf course beyond. This is the perfect place to add up the scores and settle all wagers over a hot meal, a cold drink or both. Not to mention the scenery isn’t half bad either.
Golden Eagle is an excellent option for Brainerd golfers and it is an easy 30-40 minute drive from Nisswa. Weekend green fees peak at $84 (including cart) and drop as low as $35 depending on the time of year. See their website at www.golfgoldeneagle.com for complete course, lodging and package information. It is well worth the trip to Golden Eagle Golf Club to experience a course many of you may have not heard of but will be happy to brag about once you have made the trip.