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So why not start with the Classic? The Classic at Madden's in Brainerd, Minnesota is one of those courses you're lucky to play once in life, and then once you do, you absolutely have to play it again. Hole by hole, as you marvel your way around the course you'll walk off each green and glance back at each hole wishing for and/or considering a return to the tee to play them all over again.
Were the state of Minnesota defined exclusively by its golf courses and not by lunatic politicians, brain numbing winters, and a perennially underachieving professional football team, (whose stadium is even deflating) the state would represent itself much better nationally, and the Classic at Madden's would no doubt be a part of that alternatively sunny definition.
Long considered merely the neighbor to superior golf (and football) it's about time the great golf in Minnesota received some overdue recognition. A local writer once challenged that perception with the statement. Minnesota gets plenty of attention nationally for its great golf. Ever heard of Whistling Straits? Good point. Ever heard of geography?
"I feel lucky each day I get to be out here. And luckier each day I get to play here," says Head Pro Glenn Hagberg. "Lucky" is definitely one of the words any visitor to the Classic would use to describe him. The other shall go unwritten. But he knows it, and he most certainly appreciates it.
There's a near mystical quality to the Classic, that's almost impossible to describe, but equally impossible not to feel and understand once you're here. The course is so acutely conscious of its role as an environmental steward that the Audubon Society should consider renaming itself the Classic Society. The Classic opened in 1997 and gained a great deal of acclaim from Golf Digest (33rd Best Public Course in the US). It has its critics, largely due to its level of difficulty, (you probably won't shoot your handicap from the forward tees) and then somewhat for its cost per round, but truthfully, if there's a course in Brainerd worth $100 a round it's either Deacon's Lodge or The Classic no question.
What makes the Classic perhaps even greater is that it was not designed by one of golf's architectural giants like Nicklaus, Palmer or Fazio. Instead, it was magnificently crafted by the superintendent of the other Madden's courses, Scott Hoffmann, and it is more than worthy of comparative praise. Scott has a passion for the area, and a great knowledge of the land. His green thumb only made the creation of this golf Eden more superb, more supernatural. He wanted to preserve the essence of Brainerd in this design, and did so to perfection. From the loon calls echoing off the serene lakescapes adjacent holes 1-3, to the wooden bridges crossing the natural marshes and woodlands. No detail was ignored or deemed irrelevant. It is a thoroughly unique and enjoyable round, certainly a beating we would love to take again.
Less than 2 hours north of Minneapolis, Twin Cities golfers are merely an early morning car ride away from a day in paradise. There is a fantastic practice facility with complimentary range balls, a true putting green, and keenly observant, albeit comically stern (and highly informative) starters. This isn't the course you mess around on. It's a privilege to play here, and rightfully it should be taken away from those who don't respect the opportunity. The rangers monitor pace of play, and the entire staff is both efficient & proficient in service.
The Classic is the gold standard of professional golf in Minnesota, a worthy symbol of pride for the residents of a state who definitely deserve it and hopefully will take advantage of its presence.