Cragun’s – Taking Golf To The Next Level

By Steve Wetzler

Some think that Minnesota golf resorts are all the same. The fact is they couldn’t be further from the truth. While most are on a lake and offer golf, lodging and wonderful amenities, they are all very different. They forge their niches and guests return year after year to their favorite resort. Guests develop friendships with many staff members, the staff watch as guests children grow up summer after summer.

Cragun’s can be described as a mom and pop resort on steroids. A focus on family, incredible golf, a mile of prime Gull Lake shoreline, a wide array of lodging options and recreation activities that will keep you busy from dawn until dusk. All just a short list of examples as why Cragun’s is one of Minnesota’s premiere resorts.

Dutch and Irma Cragun have worked a lifetime making summer vacationers feel like family. We spent a weekend last fall at Cragun’s and enjoyed every minute of our stay.

Cragun’s boasts 55 holes of championship golf designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.; Dutch Legacy, Bobby’s Legacy, the Reversible 9 and hole #55, the Gambler’s Hole. The Legacy courses sit on over 300 acres of woods, marshlands and lakeshore. A premium is placed on shot selection, as there are several options to the green and a plethora of risk/reward shots to be found. The variety of hole designs makes the Legacy courses so interesting. The Legacy courses level the playing field as they put as much emphasis on thinking your way around the course as they do for bombing one off the tee box.

Kim and I arrived early on Friday to get a round in at Dutch Legacy. Dutch Legacy has been awarded 5 Stars by GolfDigest and is an Audubon Signature Sanctuary course. Playing 6,879 from the tips, Dutch Legacy is a great test of golf, yet it has five sets of tees and is enjoyable for golfers of all skill levels.

Even though the tee sheet was full, we didn’t run across many other groups and the pace of play flowed smoothly and efficiently. It was a beautiful fall day and the course was in excellent condition. We finished our round in about four hours. Kim shot a 92, I make her play from the whites, and I shot…let’s just say she beat me.

We stopped at the bar at the Legacy Grille after our round for a quick drink before heading back to the resort to meet our friends, Ty and Sandy, who were coming up for the weekend.

The must attend event of the weekend is Dutch’s party, the Friday night dinner buffet by the pool with live music and Dutch visiting every table welcoming his guests. Dutch’s party is on Sunday nights June – August and moves to Fridays during the shoulder seasons. It’s Dutch’s stage and he is the star. He meets new friends and shares stories with old friends. Dinner was also our introduction to a pack of grandmothers that I will refer to as the ‘tomato eaters’. One of them was standing behind us with a three-foot fork trying to spear a tomato from my salad. She finally got it on the eighth try. Stick around after dinner for Cragun’s Bingo. We played for about an hour. I won $3 in Cragun’s bucks but I really wanted the red, white and blue socks. After dinner we found a fire burning on the beach and stared at the stars. It wasn’t a late night as we had an early morning tee time at Bobby’s Legacy.

Named after it’s famed designer and rated 4 ½ Stars by GolfDigest, Bobby’s Legacy is every bit a shot maker’s dream as its brother Dutch. Bobby’s Legacy also offers many split fairways and multiple tees for golfers of all skill levels. Just beyond the 18th green is the 55th hole, the Gambler’s Hole. Kim and I halved the Gambler’s Hole, but once again she beat me playing from the whites.

We asked PGA General Manager Eric Peterson what is their niche. “What separates us from other courses in the Brainerd Area is the overall experience.  The Legacy complex is one of the finest in the Midwest with two championship courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., a fantastic practice facility and reversible Par 3 course, and a 35,000 square foot clubhouse,” said Peterson.  “When you couple these first class facilities with a great team focused on assisting our golfing guests it creates an amazing atmosphere.  Our goal is to be Minnesota’s course with the most fun.”

Speaking of ‘Team’, Cragun’s has new member joining the superb leadership team of Peterson and Director of Golf, Chuck Klekatsky. Chris Foley returns to the Brainerd Lakes area in May.

“I spent 14 great years at Madden’s on Gull Lake and can’t wait to get back to the Brainerd Lakes area and my new partnership with Cragun’s.  Cragun’s has outstanding facilities for coaching and teaching.  With a great range, short game area, and par 3 course there is a great opportunity to create a total golf-learning environment. I am extremely excited to be in a situation where I will be devoting 100% of my time to coaching and teaching.  There is so much great golf at Cragun’s and in the Brainerd Lakes area.  It is going to be fun to get back to growing the game and promoting golf in the area!” states Chris Foley. Dutch Cragun has put together an awesome threesome. The Legacy Courses at Cragun’s are in great hands.

The Gull Lake Spa was next on the list after golf. I didn’t want the hour with Michelle the magic fingered masseuse to end, but it was getting close to dinnertime and I wasn’t going to miss the tenderloin medallions I had noticed on the menu.

We were shuttled back to the Clubhouse for dinner at the Legacy Grille. I highly recommend it. Trust me on this one, the meals were excellent and for those that don’t know me, eating is my forte. We all ordered different entrees, so we ended up sharing the tenderloin medallion, the traditional prime rib, Northern lakes walleye and the salmon.

A short ride back to the resort and we were at the Bear Trap Bar in the main lodge for karaoke. Yes karaoke, but hey I was on vacation, and I had a few drinks at the Legacy Grille and the shuttle was preplanned. Well, the tomato eater girls were there too. Somehow Ty and I ended up on the stage singing Stand By Your Man by Tammy Wynette in falsetto ala the Blues Brothers with the tomato eaters singing backup. The tomato eaters were good at solo karaoke songs, but were lame as backup singers.

What a vacation! Great company, great golf, great food and entertainment, a great staff and even a really good rubdown. I have no doubt you will feel that fun atmosphere surround you during your stay at one of the most recognized, and pleasant places to be in the Midwest; The Legacy Courses at Cragun’s. You can’t beat it.

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