Golden Eagle Golf Club: A gem hidden in the hills north of Brainerd, Minnesota

FIFTY LAKES, Minn. -- A new owner - SVN/Northco Golf and Resort - has flip-flopped the nines this season at the Golden Eagle Golf Club, one of the state's purest "hidden gems".

Golfers now finish below the spacious clubhouse with a final putt on the new 18th green. Gone is the friendly opening stretch of back-to-back par 5s. In its place is the daunting tee shot of the old no. 10, a 170-yard carry over marsh from the blue tees.

What hasn't changed is the serene setting of one of Minnesota's most unique courses. Golden Eagle, located roughly an hour north of Brainerd, sometimes gets lost in the shadow of its Top 100 competition, such as the Classic at Madden's On Gull Lake and Deacon's Lodge at Breezy Point Resort, but it is every bit as scenic and challenging as those more popular courses.

Former PGA TOUR player Mike Morley, the main architect, teamed with Bruce McIntosh, a former Olympic and NHL hockey player in the 1970s, to open Golden Eagle in 2001. They transformed 210 acres of a private preserve into a 6,745-yard course with 110 feet of elevation change. Hills, crooked stances, wetlands and elevated tees are the calling cards of Golden Eagle. Players are constantly battling side-hill and downhill lies on the fairways, which makes what should be a simple shot more difficult.

With five downhill par 3s and five par 5s, there are lots of chances to score. All the par 3s look drop-dead gorgeous. The best par 4s come in succession on the back nine: The short but difficult uphill 296-yard 15th and stunning downhill 412-yard 16th. It's a special round well worth the drive.

Staff rating of the Golden Eagle Golf Club: Review by Jason Scott Deegan

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.

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Golden Eagle Golf Club: A gem hidden in the hills north of Brainerd, Minnesota