Golden Eagle Golf Club – Golden Hours
By E. Nolan
There’s a time of day called “The Golden Hour” – the last hour or so, in summer, before the sun sets. For many a golfer it’s their favorite time to be on the course – the vibrant warmth of the day giving way to a peaceful cool, shadows stretching, animals coming out of hiding… mother nature at her most approachable and admirable.
Golden hours seem to extend a bit longer the further you get from the city – the less chaos, the more serenity. On the right day, under the right weather conditions, you can play a full 18-hole round in the waning evening hours with the course feeling like it is all yours. That’s right, under the right conditions at the right place you can extend an idyllic “golden hour” into three or four.
And then, there’s a course in Northern Minnesota where extended golden hours are not only routine but unlimited – where they descriptively last an entire day. Officially 33 miles north of Brainerd – in Fifty Lakes – Golden Eagle soars above the Brainerd Lakes Region (geographically), taking in the scene from its lofty perch in the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. As I alluded to earlier, one could say that EVERY hour spent at Golden Eagle Golf Club is… “Golden.”
Mike Morely and Bruce McIntosh built and opened Golden Eagle nearly two decades ago, in 2001. Mike – having played on the PGA TOUR for 14 years – knew a thing or two about true championship courses, and Bruce (a local hockey star) invested heavily in bringing quality golf to his home state. Bruce told me years ago, “I knew this could be the best course in Minnesota, if more people would come see it, and see it the way Mike and I do.”
Now managed by SVN – Northco Golf and Resort, more people are getting that chance – to see Golden Eagle the way it was originally envisioned… pure, unadulterated, beautiful and fun. “I’m not going to tell you this is the best course in Minnesota,” General Manager, Ryan Freitas, says. “But, I will say it belongs in the conversation, and that everyone coming to the Brainerd Lakes should make the short drive up to check us out. I’m convinced you’ll be happy you did, and that you’ll definitely keep coming back.”
Golden Eagle is a Par 72, 18-hole championship golf course nestled into 210 acres of what was a private game preserve. With 6,745 yards of play from the Gold tees, and five other yardage options (down to the Red tees at 5,069 yards), the course can be played by as many angles as skill levels, and enjoyed by every age. Morely and McIntosh designed the course with as many elevated tee boxes as possible, to allow for players to have and appreciate some truly stellar panoramic views.
As you come down the drive, you’ll see everything Golden Eagle offers, from a full driving range to an incrementally challenging and incredibly beautiful course. The round opens as if it has a secret to tell, but wants you to wait a bit to hear it. A pair of 5-pars opens your round as the beauty of the front nine unveils itself to you. The anticipation of the reveal grows over the first three holes on the back before another hint of greatness comes on the stunning 3-par 13th, over the wetlands. The hints keep dropping from there, and the interest keeps rising, with back to back 5-pars leading up to another stunning 3-par at the 16th. The landing areas on most of the 4 and 5-par holes are broad and forgiving but, depending on the tees you choose, you’ll have to bob and weave your way through tree-lined corridors, around bunkers and over plenty of marsh. Suffice it to say, if you play Golden Eagle from the tips, you’re going to be challenged… All. Day. Long.
The nines have been flipped back to their original order when the course opened. I feel like the front nine is a LOT easier than the back – certainly more forgiving. The wide landing areas continue, as does the highlight reel, beginning with three 5-pars in a five-hole stretch where you can really pick up some strokes if you’re on your game, and a great two-hole closing run – both downhill. Don’t be surprised if you see an eagle on the back, and score an eagle on the front. That’s the ultimate Golden Eagle experience.
Expect Golden Eagle to be in tiptop shape all summer. New Superintendent Aaron Porter has followed a remarkable career path to get here, with experience at some of the region’s most prestigious clubs. They’re lucky to have him, for sure!
Expand on the Golden golf experience with a Stay & Play package. They have cottages and four other partner hotels in the area (Clamshell Beach, Sunset Ridge, Towering Pines and Manhattan Beach Lodge). Take advantage of their deals and steal away!