Making Memories And More At Cragun’s
By Rhett Arens
The name Cragun’s conjures up long summer days spent dangling your toes in the water while those elusive walleyes play hard to get. Or perhaps the name might dust-off your memory on that surgical 3-wood you hit onto the green and then sunk the 30-footer for your first eagle. It could also wake-up those taste buds for a juicy porterhouse cooking over actual charcoal with a cold beer from the bottom of the cooler. Kids running in circles until they drop, water skiers cutting waves towards shore, bonfires and s’mores, a little Tom Petty coming from the boom box a few cabins down, a mosquito bite or two, sandcastles on the beach, a sunburned back. All of this is classic Minnesota summertime fun in the North Country. Cragun’s was built on the notion that family fun could mean almost anything as long as it was done outdoors. It’s hard to argue with that, I’m going to guess most of us have those memories stored somewhere in the past. And for many of us, ‘resort destination golf’ looms large in that recall.
Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake has recently doubled down on this last point by investing $15 million into the new Tom Lehman Signature Championship and the Dutch 27 Championship courses… The Lehman 18 and a completely renovated Dutch-27 course. If you golf, you know Tom is the face of Minnesota’s modern golfing era to the rest of the world. Tom is a former World #1 ranked player who has pivoted after a dozen successful years on the PGA TOUR Champions into a golf course design consultant and visionary. His firm, the Lehman Design Group have rolled up their sleeves and taken the reigns on this massive Cragun’s renovation. Moving all that dirt and looking into the crystal ball to visualize ‘fun’ and maximize the player experience was a tall order right out of the gate. The topography and built-in water structure were elements that were always there, it just took the expertise of a Major Championship PGA TOUR winner to bring it to life and put it in play. At the end of this multi-faceted project there are three individual nine-hole tracks offering a wide variety of combinations, there is also a new 18-hole Lehman Signature Course and there remains the reversible par 3 nine-hole course for family fun and short game fine-tuning. The work is currently in the final stages of completion and is targeted for a final punch list fall of 2024. Note, ALL the courses are open for business right now… so it’s time to book a stay and play to see what all these golfing upgrades bring to the overall Legacy experience. If golf is your thing, this is your place.
Director of Golf and Tournaments – Jack Wawro has his team ready to meet the fast-paced demands of the golf season. With the new renovated layout and a busy tee-sheet, he is pumped to keep the Legacy name at the top of Minnesota golfing tradition. He says way too modestly that he is simply carrying on Dutch’s tradition. In fact, Jack is bringing the only PGA TOUR Canada event in the U.S., the CRMC Championship back for its second year at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. The CRMC is aligned to the Fortinet Cup which nurtures and develops top North American players who strive to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour and eventually ascend onto the PGA TOUR. All of this speaks to how high Jack has set the bar for these Legacy course conditions… very high.
All this golf talk doesn’t mean Cragun’s has forgotten how to have a spectacular time off the course. In fact, they are masters of letting the good times roll. Water sports is in their DNA. Hospitality is their calling card and they do it well. A look into just what is offered and what is possible during a week at Cragun’s is a serious undertaking because there is so much ground to cover, but let’s try, starting with the five dining options. The Lakeside Dining Room is a light filled, window wrapped classic of a dining hall in the grand tradition of resort breakfasts and lunch venues. The buffet is always hot and filled and refilled with all your favorites. Watching families enjoying each other is half the fun. Irma’s Kitchen is a seasonal sit-down venue housed in the historical former Hungry Gull Restaurant cabin that dates back to 1926. Reservations are suggested as the steaks and fresh seafood served up here are in high demand for a good reason. Irma’s homemade recipes and locally sourced specialties are the focus. The Legacy Grill as you might have guessed sits majestically at the apex of the golfing complex. A classy sports bar atmosphere with both table or bar seating offering up all the space and comfort to handle large groups. It’s open year-round with an inviting patio that encourages patrons to take a table outdoors and watch the players finish off their rounds against some magnificent landscaping features. The Cabana Café is the newest addition to the dining scene at Cragun’s. It’s located conveniently at the massive indoor pool in case you can’t those kids out of the water or the weather turns a bit nasty. They serve breakfast, lunch, and light dinner’s poolside (indoors) or outside on the adjacent, spacious sun deck overlooking the beautiful lake. The Bear Trap Bar is a cozy space in the main building for late night pizza’s a few night cappers and some laughs. The action here can be fun as the day winds down. Not a bad spot to try out your karaoke skills and get out on the dancefloor and groove to the live DJ. There you have it, the full gamut of dining options to choose from.
Being a lake resort, water is integral to everything that happens at Cragun’s. Again, there is a lot of activity to cover but the list of amenities that Cragun’s offers has just about anything you can imagine and when you’ve exhausted that there is likely one more water toy or planned activity just around the corner. A run-down on the must-do list starts here: the beach playground (a kids wonderland), bonfires on the beach (an adult wonderland), beach volleyball, yoga classes, Gull Lake cruises on the North Star yacht, biking the Paul Bunyon Trail, golf at all or any of the three Legacy courses, foot golf on the par-3 course, fishing both guided or on your own with a slip in the marina and a fully stocked bait store nearby, tennis and/or pickleball, hunting on game farms and preserves nearby in-season, waterskiing, tubing, treasure hunts, swimming and whatever else your imagination brings. You can even cap-off a full day with a horse-drawn carriage ride along the paved walkways that run the length of the resort’s property.
The indoor recreation menu offers a wide range of activities as well starting with the massive pool and its kid friendly layout, the 22,000 sq. ft. fitness center is stacked with equipment including a running track, basketball courts, tennis court, pickleball courts (for the boomers) and a revolving calendar of activities like bingo and musical entertainment. In summary, making memories will come easy.
The range of accommodations at Cragun’s may be the largest in the state. Whether you’re part of a large family reunion or a couple celebrating an anniversary, the hospitality staff at Cragun’s can help you dial in a perfect fit for your needs at a price you can afford. There are the classic lakeside cabins or lakeside lodge rooms all with balconies overlooking beautiful Gull Lake. The resort faces east so those sunrises in the morning are a thing to behold. For families who tend to stay in the pool all day there are poolside lodge rooms that overlook the indoor pool, this is a great winter option as well. Cabins of all sizes from 1 to 10 bedroom line the shore in both directions from the main lodge, there are hotel style rooms and large reunion houses suited for, you guessed it, family gatherings. All lodging types and sizes are air conditioned and plenty of comfortable amenities.
In the end it’s all about soaking in that Minnesota summer vibe. Making family memories comes with the territory. Cragun’s is staffed with people that care, people that understand this is your week and when things go just right, you’ll be back next year adding to those memories.