Cragun’s Legacy Courses – No Gamble Here
By Steve Dowling
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, is also known as a great place to kick back and relax. Minnesota is a fantastic place to play golf. The Brainerd Region has been the epicenter of the state’s renowned golf notoriety. Within the Brainerd region, one of the premiere golf resorts is Cragun’s Resort. This resort is well known for its 55 holes of golf as well as thousands of acres of surrounding scenery.
Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake combines great golf, the best of the outdoors and topnotch service in the central Minnesota vacation hotspot of Brainerd. Great for golf groups, families and couples alike.
This writer had not played a Cragun’s course in ten years and can only ask myself why I had not teed it up there for such a long time! The golf experience revolves around Cragun’s Legacy Courses, which offer 55 holes of outstanding golf value. The two 18 hole courses – the Dutch Legacy and Bobby’s Legacy, have Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed layouts that allow each to play along the shores of Legacy Lake while starting from a single clubhouse. In fact, each nine holes on the Legacy Courses starts and returns to the clubhouse, making it easy to mix and match parts of both courses or add an extra nine holes to extend the experience. Special to Cragun’s is the very unique temptation of the “Gambler’s Hole” on Bobby’s Legacy course – a final, 19th hole that golfers seldom pass up to play on the short ride back to the clubhouse.
Guests can also enjoy the unique experience of playing the Reversible 9. This par-3 course was designed by Jones to be played clockwise one day, then counterclockwise the next. Cragun’s Legacy Courses are an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary, befitting of the beautiful surroundings. GPS units are built into each golf car to provide accurate yardages on each hole, and even allow golfers to order food and beverage from the course.
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Yards: 6,879 – Opened 1998
Golf Digest has rated the Dutch Legacy at 5-Stars, making it one of only 25 five-star public courses in the U.S. Brilliant design blends with the beauty of an Audubon Signature Sanctuary course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The design showcases a skillful blend of par 3s, 4s and 5s, resulting in an exciting level of playability for all levels of golfers. At least five sets of tees are positioned on each hole.
Holes: 18 Par: 73 Yards: 6,755 – Opened 2000
4½ star-rated (Golf Digest) course was named after it’s famed designer, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Bobby’s Legacy is a shot-makers dream, featuring elevated tees with a beautiful harmony of shorter holes with longer, more traditional par 4s and 5s. A signature of the course is its many split fairways and multiple tees. The beauty of dramatic lake vistas will take your breath away. Just beyond the 18th green is the very unique “Gambler’s Hole” – a final, par-3 155-yard 19th hole that will help golfers settle bets!
Holes: 9 Par: 27 Yards: Clockwise 1,365 Counterclockwise 1,240
The unique, reversible par-3 course inspired by the classic St. Andrews in Scotland. The Reversible 9s direction alternates daily and is ideal for a warm-up round or novice, family and group play.
Overall, owners Dutch and Irma Cragun take it personally that the resort carries their name and are continually hands-on to ensure operational quality. They were responsible for securing the first Minnesota certification of the prestigious, and difficult to obtain, Audubon International Signature Sanctuary classification. Additionally, they personally hired a top golf architect to design a course to play across and around an undisturbed wetlands area on their magnificent piece of land.
Cragun’s Legacy Courses are presented in impressive conditioning with resulting seemingly never ending accolades. The many 3rd party accolades and inclusion on the exclusive ratings lists are based upon many high quality factors including layout, conditioning, service, and overall experience. Cragun’s courses qualify at the top of the scales in every ratings category. The greens are amazingly receptive to targeted shots. The 5+ tee-boxes on every hole ensure resort quality course playability. Pleasing golf vistas are impressive at every turn and can only be categorized as the highest visual quality. Shot-making opportunities abound on all 55 holes.
The next step in being impressed by a top-notch club is the course condition. Cragun’s General Manager of Golf, Eric Peterson noted in a casual conversation, “We’re passionate about the quality of playing conditions and playing surface conditions here at Cragun’s”. Scanning the property, and reflecting on the visuals in my six hours touring the golf complex, there is no question that Eric is spot-on. “Not only do we maintain the course with the greatest attention to detail, but we are always making improvements such as clearing out-of-play areas, bunker redesigns, flora & fauna upgrades etc. We have undergone an extensive tree removal process over the past several years, and emphasized being as eco-friendly as possible,” Peterson proudly explained.
Difficult To Choose A Favorite Hole
While there are literally dozens of great holes to highlight, a favorite of mine is #18 on Bobby’s Legacy. This mid-length par-5 plays around a large picturesque wetland in a routing that resembles a horseshoe shape. This hole is a gamble in its own right and a fitting lead-in to the #19 Gambler’s Hole. Depending on the amount of wetland the player bites off on their drive, they can end the round with an eagle chance or a birdie! Shorter hitters play it as a three shot par-5 hole and can still end their round on a memorable positive note that will bring the golfer back for sure. This hole is typical of the golfing excitement Cragun’s offers at both of the 18-hole layouts.
Off Course Player Amenities
The clubhouse at Cragun’s Legacy Courses features 35,000 square feet dedicated to everything you need to enjoy a day on the links. In addition to a large and well-stocked golf shop, there is entertainment on every level. The Legacy Bar seats 85, with great views of golf and multiple TVs for catching other sporting events. The Legacy Grille features a full menu for pre- or post-golf dining, and a pavilion that can seat up to 250 for special events and parties. The clubhouse also features an Audubon Room and fireplace lounge for quiet relaxation.
Not A Gamble
So, regardless what you’re looking for in a golfing experience, and in spite the presence of a Gamblers Hole, there is no gamble when making a decision to play any, or all, of the courses at Cragun’s Legacy Courses.