The Takeaway: Classic delivers a top notch experience with impeccable conditioning and a walking caddie. That is countered by some amateur design features and too many trees on the course that create a claustrophobic feel at times. As the names suggests, the course has a classic feel with the shape and style of the bunkers and turf and is worthy of being included on a golf trip to Northern Minnesota. Grade B-
Designer: Scott Hoffman in 1996
Cost: $85.00 - $160.00 (walking caddie is $50 plus $35 suggested gratuity per player; forecaddie is $25 plus $20 suggested gratuity per player) Click for current rates
Phone Number: (218) 829-2811
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Maddens Resort (The Classic)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 11266 Pine Beach Peninsula, Brainerd, MN 56401
Accolades: Ranked 9th in Minnesota on Golf Course Gurus' Best in State list.
What to Expect: Located 150 northwest of Minneapolis, The Classic is the premier course at Madden’s Resort which features four total tracks. As its name suggest, The Classic seeks to offer a classic golf course and experience which is does by encouraging walking, offering a caddie, and featuring an old school design vibe. The course has the feel of an early or mid century parkland country club due to the grass stretching from the furthest back tee to the putting surface in a fashion that requires few forced carries with the driver. Newer courses generally don’t have quite as much turf in an effort to conserve water and reduce maintenance costs, so the feel at Madden’s is more mature than it really is. The thing that stands out most at The Classic though is the amazing conditioning. Turf conditions are absolutely ideal with firm fairways that you can still take a nice divot from and greens that are fast that roll pure as any you’ll find. However, the slopes in the putting surfaces make some pin placements borderline ridiculous. While the design is good overall, there are some amateur features that wouldn’t be found on a course designed by a seasoned course architect. For example, the forced carry into the 5th green with a ridiculously thin bailout fairway strip up the left side next to an alternate green. Or the long par three 7th with a lake on the right that distracts from the hidden creek across the front that the green slopes back into. Or the incredibly odd placed raised bunker well short of the 18th green that blocks the view of the green and clubhouse that could provide a nice backdrop for the hole. From a challenge perspective, The Classic is a strong challenge with some forced carries into greens that will be difficult for higher handicappers to handle. While the course lost four or five thousand trees due to storms over the first 20 years of being open, it could stand to thin more trees out manually due to the claustrophobic feel that some fairways give and the big shadows that are cast across the fairways much of the day. In the end, The Classic offers a high class experience that could go next level with some modifications to the design and softening some slopes in the greens.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 16th Hole – 532 Yard Par 5 – Easily the best hole at The Classic, the 16th is just a great par five with plenty of options and elements to consider. For a strong shot of reaching the green in two you'll need to challenge the 300 yard aiming bunker on the outside of the dogleg, or better yet, thread your tee shot just right of it in the sliver of fairway that is offered. From here a 225 yard shot will be enough to carry the water fronting the green and give yourself an eagle putt. If you don't have the length, or guts, to challenge the corner of the dogleg you can lay back to the fat part of the fairway and layup again short of the water while making sure to stay on the right half of the fairway since everything tumbles down to the left. On your layup you better plan on finishing around the 75 yard mark because the fairway really tightens down around 100 yards. With water flanking the left side of the second half of the hole it is one more factor to consider while tackling this fine three-shotter.
Best Par 3: 17th Hole – 159 Yards – I tire of seeing long par 3s at the end of a round and appreciate a shorter offering where birdies are more likely to happen and things can get more exciting in a match or tournament. The 17th offers a scoring opportunity and does it with some fashion over a pond with four bunkers surrounding the putting surface. The oval shaped green encourages players to take dead aim at every flag position except the front left where the water and sand come into play the most dangerously at which point a shot to the middle of the green will still leave you a 25 footer for birdie.
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 440 Yards – The best view on the course awaits you on the 8th hole but you have some work to do before you can enjoy it. The tee shot plays nearly 20 feet uphill to a fairway protected by a cluster of three bunkers on the left side that tightens the landing area to 15 yards wide. The approach shot plays to a green that tilts from right to left with a single bunker on the right and two more bunkers on the low side of the putting surface. The trees behind the green have been thinned out to afford a view of Bass Lake that provides an impressive backdrop to this hole that is both attractive and requires a pair of well executed shots to reach in regulation.
Best Par 5: 1st Hole – 545 Yards – The opening par five at The Classic sets the tone early with a wild ride. The opening tee shot is relatively unassuming with the fairway slowly climbing uphill before plunging 50 feet to the lowest point of the short grass before ascending over ten feet to the green. The putting surface slopes away hard on the right third as well as from back to front, so the safe play is to approach the flag from the left third away from the deep bunker that fronts the green. This is where you quickly get a feel for how fast the greens are at The Classic and they should gain your respect instantly.
Birdie Time: 10th Hole – 470 Yard Par 5 – This is just a gift. At 18 yards shorter than the par four 18th, this short par five is reachable in two for a good percentage of the players that tee it up at The Classic at Madden's. This bunkerless hole a single line of defense; a small water hazard fronting the green. Don't get suckered in by the extra width up the left side, drives should stay up the right half of the fairway in order to not get blocked out by overhanging trees and have a chance of reaching this green in two with an iron. Even if you choose to layup, there is no trouble to contend with until 50 yards from the green which will allow you to hit to your favorite yardage and go flag hunting from there. Not taking a birdie here will likely cost you the hole in match play and at least a ½ stroke on the field in medal play.
Bogey Beware: 7th Hole – 214 Yard Par 3 – This hole is just mean. 214 yards is plenty hefty for a par three but when you throw a creek across the front, a pond on the right side, and a trio of bunkers along the back it get borderline sadistic. A mild bailout area is afforded left of the green but then you'll be faced with a chip from the long grass back towards the water. If you go in the water the drop zone that is afforded has to play over the creek in front of the green which could lead to a Jordan Spieth moment from the 2016 Masters. There is no way around the fact that you have to execute a great tee shot to have a decent chance of carding a par and you'll still have to play things smart to do no worse than bogey.