Breezy Point Resort – The King’s Aces
By E. Nolan
I leave for Ireland this week. (True story.) I’m taking my son on his first ever international golf trip (excluding Canada and Mexico), and the course I’m most excited to show him is my favorite Arnold Palmer course in the entire world – Tralee Golf Links – on the Emerald Isle’s Wild Atlantic Way. I fell in love with Tralee on my first visit, imagining The King walking the fairways, taking in the sunsets on the ocean, plotting out the routing, dreaming of the possibilities. A statue of said King still stands there today, welcoming all golfers to the first tee. And that course, well, it remains (in my heart) as unforgettable as the man who built it.
I host a handful of journalists in Minnesota every year. I take them around to the best courses in the Twin Cities and the state, and the course I’m always most excited to show them is my favorite Arnold Palmer course in the United States – Deacon’s Lodge, in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes, at Breezy Point Resort. I fell in love with Deacon’s Lodge on my second visit, the first time I took my son there to play it. Breezy Point Resort had just acquired the course and poured an awful lot of TLC into it under the watchful eye of a model golf ambassador and the diligent green thumb of a brilliant superintendent (both men still there). A silhouette of The King greets you at the entrance to the course, and the Palmer Grille feeds you after your round, but the sweetest treat is the golfer’s experience on those hallowed grounds.
I can hear you thinking it. “He’s biased.” Hang on a… no… You’re right. After twenty-eight rounds at Deacon’s Lodge over the span of 9 wonderful years, I will gladly admit to a strong bias. I am absolutely affected by my fondness for the family that runs the resort, for the man that manages it, for the phenomenal professionals they employ at all three of their golf courses and for every smiling server, receptionist, housekeeper and maintenance worker. “He’s paid to say all of that.” Well… sort of. Ask anyone who knows me… I’d say the same for free. And, lest you think Tralee and Deacon’s are the only two Palmer courses I’ve played, I’ll gladly share the list of the other 26 over a basket of Cajun Wings.
Deacon’s Lodge is a course that grows on you. The first tee shot has been described as awkward, and it is certainly that for hackers like myself, but no opening “snowman” has ever subdued my affection for that first-impression beauty. The second hole is my favorite public Par 5 in Minnesota, and while I often bristle at the use of the word quirky being applied to places I love, I’ll gladly concede the rest of the round at Deacon’s Lodge is just that. It’s a course for golfers who like to have fun… for the player who enjoys a LOT of risk/rewards… who appreciates a design that is neither straightforward nor croooked. My good friend (and editor) at GolfAdvisor, Jason Deegan, said of the place a couple years back, “There are a lot of similar courses in Minnesota, but no course I can think of similar to Deacon’s Lodge.” Count him and a dozen other keyboard artists as aficionados of the place Palmer built in tribute to his father, which is why I keep taking people back, (year after year) and why it remains THE favorite golf course my son and I visit in Minnesota each year.
There’s something about the sound of a loon call echoing across the water. You’ll hear it a lot on the lake just right of Deacon’s 2nd green, and you’ll hear it on another lake just south of the course, reverberating all the way over to Dockside and Breezy Point Resort. Diners will lift their heads to the sky, looking for the vocal aviators, while the musicians entertaining the crowds most summer nights will smile, as the lonesome sound cuts through their words and chords.
Dockside is one of the premier dining settings in the state of Minnesota – literally built ON the water, adjacent the beach and main lodge of the resort. Dockside features indoor and outdoor tables, as well as an upper floor with a fancier menu at Marina II, where wooden floors and glass walls showcase a beauty that even distracts from the steaks, chops and seafood passing by on steaming plates. You can eat breakfast there daily throughout the summer – incidentally something I’ve never done, as I’ve yet to have a morning at Breezy I wasn’t playing Deacon’s.
Breezy Point has another notable eatery – Antlers – just up the street (Highway 11) at one of their signature lodging sites – Whitebirch – where golf rooms meet golf views and fine food. (Proudly serving The Ugly Cheesecake Company desserts!) Dig in to that, then check out the digs for overnight stays. The resort features a collection of condo and townhome accommodations, as well as cabins, lodge rooms and suites (with and/or near an assortment of swimming pools). You can stay next to any of the three golf courses (Whitebirch, The Traditional and/or Deacon’s Lodge) and find enough space for any size of type of party.
Girls groups that don’t golf spend plenty of time at the Serenity Spa. Guys groups that don’t golf spend plenty of time out on speedboats, pontoons and kayaks fishing (and possibly drinking). Every group that DOES golf gets to choose from the aforementioned trio of “on Point” options, though none of them can fairly be described as “Breezy.” Traditional is a historic design – one often walked by the greatest former players in the game. It’s a tight test of a course that favors accuracy over distance and patience over persistent attackers like me. Whitebirch is a bigger, broader test of your game – THE original championship design in the Brainerd Lakes. Whitebirch is a course that ramps up in both challenge and beauty, with a closing stretch that includes some wild carries, gorgeous scenery and a green guarded by a small waterfall. I’ve said plenty about Deacon’s Lodge, but I can always say more…
Deacon’s is a place that’s as beautiful in the morning as it is in the evening, and as memorable in the day as it is post-round in your dreams. It’s not uncommon to see families of deer bounding about, to catch people ordering seconds on baskets of those Cajun wings, and to find a 19-year old “kid” digging around in the weeds for ProV’s while his dad takes his 7,000th picture of the 5th green.
It took a while for the national course raters to realize Deacon’s Lodge was back to prime form – for it to finally break back into the state’s Top 10 (then race all the way up to #2). Now, everybody knows. They don’t need me anymore to tell people how much I love it – to list the ways and whys and insist that people visit. They can slash their advertising budget if they want to. They can… but they don’t. Why? Because they believe… no… they KNOW there are others out there like myself perusing for that special place to spend their dimes and time on a design that embeds so deeply in the mind you can’t stop thinking about it. That was Deacon’s Lodge. That IS Deacon’s Lodge.