Golden Eagle Golf Club – Golden Eagle Is Bruce McIntosh’s Baby!
By R.J. Smiley
When you call Golden Eagle Golf Club to make your tee time reservation, chances are you will talk to Bruce. When you enter the pro shop to pay your green fee, chances are you will pay Bruce for the privilege of playing his wonderful golf course. When the winner buys those rounds of beer, chances are Kathy McIntosh, Bruce’s wife, who manages the grill, will serve you.
McIntosh played golf as a kid, but hockey was his game. As a college senior, he was a star for the Gopher team that finished fifth in the WCHA, then made a run at the end of season and finished runner-up in the NCAA Championship. The year was 1971 and Minnesota hockey and golf legend, John Harris, was a freshman on that team. But, McIntosh’s fondest hockey memory is the 1972 Olympics. Bruce calls it the first “Miracle On Ice!” Bruce and his USA Olympic team won a silver metal in Saporio, Japan. That team, with all amateurs, mostly college kids, beat several European powers on the way to silver.
After the Olympics, Bruce spent three seasons in the NHL before returning to Minnesota to become a PGA golf professional. Bruce worked as an assistant pro at several big name private clubs, but the itch to create something was an itch he could not scratch. While he was at The Minikahda Club, Bruce became acquainted with PGA TOUR player and course designer, Mike Morley. This relationship led Bruce to act as a consultant with Morley and Dan Helbling on The Preserve Golf Course north of Brainerd and another project in northern Minnesota.
The framework for Golden Eagle was conceived in the mind of Bruce McIntosh long before he started looking for “that perfect piece of property”. For years he had been formulating just how his golf course should operate to give golfers what they really wanted in a golf course. When he finally located the perfect piece of wilderness, an undisturbed private preserve that was off the beaten track, he walked the property with friend and former design associate, golf architect, Mike Morley visualizing the endless variety of golf holes. This was it! He had to build the golf course of his dreams on this property!
With the property selected, Bruce made the following suggestion to Morley, “Let’s each make a list of what we like in our favorite golf holes and courses. Then let’s make a list of what we don’t like about some holes and courses.” Strangely, their lists were similar; both like holes where a golfer can see what they are playing. Both wanted wide fairways where golfers had a place to hit it and not lose it. Neither wanted a golf course with wall-to-wall cart paths. That brings us to Golden Eagle today.
You turn off the highway and your car takes you down a private lane into Minnesota before it was settled. As the driving range appears on the right and your eyes sweep the perfect ribbons of alternating dark green and lighter green grass to a modest clubhouse that sits on a hill top overlooking much of the beautifully manicured oasis. As you exit your car, the quiet is deafening! You have arrived at Golden Eagle.
The best way to experience the total effect of Golden Eagle is to play it several times in a row; choose a Play & Stay Package. You see Bruce and Kathy have designed and built accommodations across from the fifteenth fairway with nothing but Minnesota in the back yard. They have taken all they have “learned and desired” on their own golf trips and created the ideal Golf Cottage.
Whether you are staying on a Play & Stay Package for the first time or just a first time player who remarks how beautiful Golden Eagle is. Bruce will ask that same question. “Why do you think Golden Eagle is so beautiful?” Bruce already knows the answer, but likes to pull the answer out of his guests. “Makes them remember the reason better,” he says.
Golfers stand there, cock their head and get that distant look in their eyes. They hesitate, sometimes for a minute, or longer, and then say something like this. “Well every hole is sort of a, you know, a picture. You can see the whole hole. I can see my ball stop rolling. When I stand on the tee, I know where I am going.”
Bruce doesn’t say anything, but he knows that when he and Mike Morley made their list of things that they wanted in Bruce’s golf course, elevated tees with sweeping sight lines were the plan. They did not want intimidating narrow shoots for fairways where golfers are constantly looking for golf balls. Bruce and Morley got it right!
NOTE: Don’t play Bruce for money on his golf course. The Olympic Hockey star can flat out hit his golf ball! Bruce holds the course record from two of the three sets of tees at Golden Eagle. At the age of sixty-one he lipped out on #18 for a 62. Who shoots their age at sixty-one?