The Gold Standard At Golden Eagle Golf Club

By Rhett Arens






The sign out on County Road 1 says, “Welcome to Fifty Lakes.” No truer words were ever spoken as you roll into Golden Eagle Golf Club with your expectations high and of a day of pure, iconic northern Minnesota golf lying ahead of you. You’ll be forgiven for being a bit giddy as you unpack the clubs and climb the steps into beautiful clubhouse with an extra spring in your step. Professional management company, SVN | Northco, General Manager Aaron Johnson and the staff have painstakingly walked through all the contingencies and nuances in their on-going effort towards continuous improvement. This is the norm for the team as they are constantly evaluating incremental changes with a keen eye on keeping the player experience at the center of the universe. 

To ensure their philosophy is realized for their customers, Golden Eagle has brought in a new Clubhouse Manager from down the road at Deacon’s Lodge, Ben Klein. Ben brings a fresh, enthusiastic vision to the Golden Eagle team while naturally keeping the bar set high for customer expectations. The first evidence of this happens as you walk through the revamped Pro Shop brimming with new lines of golf apparel and accessories adorned with classic Golden Eagle logo (my personal favorite in the state). 

Before there was golf on these 210 acres there was raw wilderness. The former private preserve was blessed with elevations, natural wetlands, towering pines and several bodies of water. Course architects Mike Morley and Bruce McIntosh looked hard into the quiet northern woods and came away with a vision that incorporated all of these natural elements. They got to work weaving them together in a manner that sets up the 6,745 yard design into a series of holes that plays to both scratch handicappers and the weekend warriors. No easy feat bringing these two types of player demands into harmony on a single score card, but they nailed it.

Golden Eagle sits about 20 minutes north of the busy summertime recreational hub of Cross Lake. This makes it a must stop for golfers staying in the area who will be amazed at the championship conditions surrounded in quiet solitude. Don’t let that put you off as you pursue putting a string of pars on the card and feel free to let out a big cheer if that birdie drops in the cup. No reason to hurry off after the round either as the comfortable, well-appointed clubhouse and big deck are the perfect north woods setting to recap the round and enjoy a sandwich or appetizers with a cold refreshment for the large selection of craft beers.

I’ve racked my brain, but I can’t name another course that starts off with back-to-back par 5’s. On paper one might second-guess this unique design element, but in reality, it makes perfect sense as a start-up test into rolling north woods fairways that will twist and turn, challenging almost every club in your bag. These ‘welcome to the round’ holes allow you unwind immediately while at the same time giving you a possible birdie opportunity (or two) if you come in sharp. Many of the holes offer contouring that gives a roll back to the center, like a saddle effect. This serves to keep the pace of play steady and tends to keep a few of those wayward drives out from under the trees. Those mature tree-lined fairways are beautiful to look at, take a group picture with, possibly spot a resting owl or hawk, but they are tough to hit out of.

There is an abundance of elevated greens in the overall layout, in fact nearly every hole at some point from tee to green plays up or down in a manner that makes an impact. This keeps you second guessing club selection which only adds to the fun. The grounds keeping crew work diligently year-in and year-out to keep the courses playability dialed in. Aaron himself rides the course regularly identifying small improvements or tweaks that improve sightlines and general aesthetics. A tree here, some brush there, opening a shady area or just keeping the fallen debris tidy. If you’ve made it to Fifty Lakes with a round of golf on your agenda, they have every intention of exceeding your expectations. Golden Eagle has been the Gold Standard for forward-thinking customer service for years. The team lives and breathes the stewardship mindset for providing a top-notch customer experience.  They hold themselves accountable and the members and guests benefit from this throughout the full Golden Eagle experience every time they stop onto the grounds.

You will undoubtedly find yourself at several head-scratching risk-reward points sometime during your round. There are a number of carry shots that will test your nerves or pause your bravery. That is the crux of good course architecture. Sculpting the land out of the raw Minnesota wilderness while keeping the golf fun was a challenging goal for the design team back in 2001. The course still plays to that Gold Standard, even better with the on-going improvements where playability within a natural setting awaits you in Fifty Lakes.