Golden Eagle Golf Club – Forward Thinking

By Steve Dowling

The co-designers of Golden Eagle Golf Club stood one day, before construction began, at a high point of the property overlooking their uncut rolling timberland and motivationally reminded each other, “We’ve got something beautiful here, let’s not do anything to screw it up”.

In the hamlet of Fifty Lakes, MN there’s a golden golf experience 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. Located just minutes from Crosslake, Golden Eagle challenges the best of players from the championship tees while also providing four sets of tees to fit every level of ability. Golden Eagle Golf Club sits on 210 acres of land that was formerly a private preserve. The layout is a northwoods blend of forests, wetlands, and 130 feet of elevation changes.

It plays a comfortable 5,097 yards from the front tees to a heart thumping 6,745 yard test from the tips (73.3 rating, 140 slope). There are many lakeside holes, amazing par-3’s with exciting carries over marsh land, reachable par-5’s and strategic wetlands and bunkering. Golden Eagle has been ranked in the “Top 20 Courses in Minnesota” and “Best in State”, by Golf Digest and was awarded the 2004 “Golf Course of the Year” by the Midwest Golf Course Owners Association.

The clubhouse is a large log structure, with extensive decking, that sits perched on a hillside providing great golf vistas. Golden Eagle is an excellent golf destination or option for Brainerd-bound golfers. Green fees peak at $85 (including cart) and drop as low as $35 depending on day of week and time of year.

“Mac” Believes Your Round Should Be Fun
Bruce McIntosh is the co-designer, builder and owner of Golden Eagle. I’ve known Bruce for almost 25 years, I can confirm he’s an unassuming over-achiever and a fun guy. “Mac” is a Golden Gopher hockey alumnus who also played on the 1972 Olympic Silver Medal hockey team and spent professional time with the Minnesota North Stars. Pretty good resume, eh? But that’s just the beginning as he was also a teaching pro at Woodhill Country Club as well as interim Head Pro at Edina Country Club. Additionally, he ran a very successful Minneapolis insurance firm for 20 years before he decided to launch into the golf business full time. From Edina, Bruce is a lifelong Minnesotan and currently cards in at a ‘zero’ handicap. One could only expect that any golf course he operates would be a fun course with championship qualities.

Reflecting the belief that championship courses are not built just for professionals, Golden Eagle offers an impressive variety of play. What can be a serious challenge from the back tees can become friendly from the regular and forward tees – always fun. McIntosh believes, “Some people take golf too seriously – golf should be fun. There’s more to golf than your score, golf gives you a chance to get out with friends on a good day (most of the time) and enjoy both the weather and the scenery plus get some exercise. At Golden Eagle we provide a fun layout. We don’t want golfers to pay a lot of money, get beat up by the course, and never come back.”

Tailoring The Tees To Bring To The Fun Back
There has been a decline in golf participation in the United States over the last few years, with the National Golf Foundation reporting about three million fewer golfers in 2009 than in 2005 and 24 million fewer rounds played in 2010 than in 2005. To help golfers have more fun on the course and enhance their overall experience by playing from a set of tees best suited to their abilities, the USGA and PGA of America have embarked on a new quest to change the attitudes of millions of recreational golfers by persuading them to “Tee It Forward”.

The Tee It Forward initiative encourages all golfers to play the course at a length that is aligned with their average driving distance. Golfers can speed up play and enjoyment by utilizing tees that provide the greatest playability and enjoyment. “Simply put, Tee It Forward can make golf much more fun for golfers,” McIntosh states. “We believe that by moving up to another set of tees, golfers will experience a new approach to the game that will produce more enjoyment and elevate their desire to come back and play even more golf.” With many more golfers hitting approach shots with 6- and 7-irons instead of hybrids and long irons, their chances for enjoyment increase. Also, playing from more forward tees should result in fewer overall shots, shorter distance traveled on each hole and, potentially, fewer lost balls as well as speedier play.

At Golden Eagle Golf Club, Bruce McIntosh is hoping this also will assist in reversing the decline in rounds played and the net loss of golfers over the past years, but most of all he hopes Tee It Forward enhances the element of enjoyment of golf that brings players back to Golden Eagle over and over.

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