With planning and timing, Brainerd, Minnesota is an affordable golf spot

Fore-go expensive golf by spending three days and less than $200 in Brainerd, Minnesota

BRAINERD, Minn. -- Two top-100-caliber golf courses -- Deacon's Lodge and The Classic at Madden's -- anchor this rugged lake region three hour's north of the Twin Cities. Multiple family friendly resorts -- Cragun's Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake, Grand View Lodge and Madden's on Gull Lake (all in Brainerd), and Breezy Point Resort in Breezy Point -- awaken from their winter slumbers, transforming into hotbeds of activity.

Lake destinations in the upper Midwest only have a short window of wonderful weather every summer, so beating higher green fees for an affordable getaway takes some planning. The good news is that three days of golf for less than $200 in green fees can probably even include a top-100 pick on the itinerary for those who can play during the week or don't mind last call.

Playing both The Classic ($105 weekdays/$119 weekends) and Deacon's Lodge ($99 weekdays/$109 weekends) can be done with some concessions, but that's risking twilight battles with mosquitoes and maybe not finishing the round. Twilight rounds after 3 p.m. at each will add up to $150 ($80 at the Classic, $70 at Deacon's). That leaves enough money for a $50 twilight round at one of the fine courses at Grand View Lodge, The Pines in Nisswa or The Preserve in Pequot Lakes. I slightly prefer The Pines simply because of its location right at the resort.

Another way to keep greens fees down is by walking.

That's not possible at Deacon's Lodge, a water-logged target test designed by Arnold Palmer 45 minutes from Brainerd. It's the preferred way to play, though, at The Classic. Madden's is promoting walking this summer by offering a much lower $85 walking fee during the week, a savings of $30 per round. Adding another walking round on one of its other courses -- Pine Beach East ($45) and Pine Beach West ($28) -- will bring some serious value into the equation, opening up the option of a coveted morning round.

An ideal schedule would be a morning walking round on the Pine Beach East to warm up the first day, followed by an afternoon living the lake life, maybe boating or swimming with family and friends.

Get up early the next morning for some fishing. That afternoon would be spent playing Bobby's Legacy at Cragun's. A great Dinner and Golf Special after 2 p.m. costing $79 will feed your belly and craving for birdies. (Afternoon tee times from 2-4 p.m. normally cost $70. Count the extra $9 against your food budget.)

The grand finale will be a relaxing weekday walk on The Classic ($85). Scott Hoffman, who is still the course superintendent, routed the only design he's ever done through towering oaks, which provides a natural, tranquil, traditional golf experience. Several covered wooden bridges that span the marshes add some real character.

Or, if you don't like that schedule, how about twilight times at The Pines ($50) and The Preserve ($50) on back-to-back days, followed by a golf and dinner special on the Dutch Course at Cragun's ($79)?

The combinations of courses are endless around Brainerd, but sadly, the summer season isn't. Better get cracking on those plans.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Default User Avatar
Commented on

Totally agree with those comments. If you want to save even more, consider going later in Sept or early October to take advantage of Fall rates. Weather is still good then, just need a light jacket or sweater. Last year played all 3 of Madden's 18 hole courses, incl The Classic for $99 total plus tax (walking rate). Fantastic value.

Related Links

Three of Minnesota's best golf resorts nestle up to the shores of Gull Lake near Brainerd, a major reason why Golf Digest considers this area among the top 50 golf destinations in the world.
2 Min Read
More from the author
6 Min Read
August 9, 2022
GolfNow Compete, developed with input from Rory McIlroy, offers GPS yardages, hole maps, multiple games to play and a place to fire up your friendly, competitive juices.
5 Min Read
August 3, 2022
A complete redesign of the golf courses at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake and the new 13-hole Gravel Pit par-3 course make the trip to Minnesota even more worthwhile.
4 Min Read
August 1, 2022
Aces, smiles and camaraderie delivered the joy while playing 100 holes to raise money for a great cause - junior golf.
3 Min Read
August 1, 2022
The newly released TOUR schedule features 25 public courses where you can pretend to be Rory and Tiger for a day.
5 Min Read
August 1, 2022
Tips to enjoying special golf trips to Scotland, Ireland and Pinehurst highlight this month's Secrets column.
3 Min Read
July 27, 2022
New, unique iron offerings from TaylorMade and PXG and new summer fashion lines from TravisMathew and Linksoul highlight this month's column.
5 Min Read
July 25, 2022
Dundonald's new luxury accommodations and clubhouse complement a Kyle Phillips-designed links that has hosted men's and women's Scottish Opens.
3 Min Read
July 13, 2022
Scottish tour operator Bonnie Wee Golf has put together a collection of some of the oldest and most memorable links courses in the world.
7 Min Read
August 10, 2022
Now 30-years mature, the statewide system of affordable golf courses offers adventure that doesn't have to break the budget.
3 Min Read
July 18, 2022
Record scoring shouldn't detract from another magical major at the Home of Golf.
Load More
Now Reading
Fore-go expensive golf by spending three days and less than $200 in Brainerd, Minnesota