The Classic course is the latest of three 18-hole courses to appear at Madden’s on Gull Lake Resort. Whilst the other two courses are short, user-friendly layouts, the Classic is a more testing design that weaves in and out of wetland areas within a forested site.
The Classic was designed by Scott Hoffman, who is also the is course superintendent. The course opened in 1996 and has aged well and it is certainly unique. The first hole is a par 5 that tilts left. The yardage indicates that big hitters can get home in two, but… Tight fairways, a fairway bunker on the inside elbow, water hazard greenside right and three greenside bunkers. Play it as a 3 shotter. The 2nd is a Florida par 3, mid-length with a water carry. I really liked the short dogleg right 3rd. The tee shot is out of a chute with a water hazard right. On the inside elbow not only is there the water but a long thin bunker and two large trees. This should really give the golfer pause for thought. Fortunately. I teed off first and was just left of the trees in the fairway. Our second player tried to cut a wee bit more and ended up in the bunker, the 3rd hit the tree and his ball bounce into the water and the 4th played a little bit more conservative and did not hit it well. He ended up blocked out and had to try to shape his approach around the trees. A super example of how a hole does not have to be long to create challenges. The 4th is a slight bender left, but is very narrow. Preferred tee shot is a high draw. You can hit it through the fairway. The 5th is hard to describe, I think I will settle on quirky. Dogleg left, the best tee shot will be a high draw. The approach is all carry over a water hazard. However there is an alternative green left and about 50 yards closer. I didn’t quite get it, it is also the number 1 handicap hole. The 6th is a long uphill par 5. It bends slightly left. On the tee aim at the tall tree in the middle of the fairway. Think about what yardage you want for your approach, there are four large fairway bunkers, two left and two front right. While 7 rhymes with heaven, not so much here. A 200 yard plus par 3 with water right, a creek in front and three bunkers behind the green. Put your ego to the side and don’t be afraid to hit driver and pray. It is deservedly the number 7 handicap hole. The 8th and 9th are very similar long straight demanding tight par fours.
The 10th is just begging to be birdied. At 470 yards from the tips, most players have a decent chance at getting home in two. Favor the right to ensure that you will not be blocked out. The only real trouble is a small puddle in front of the green. The long par 4 11th bends slightly right. A good drive should get a lot of downhill rollout. There is a water hazard right and 9 bunkers inside of 150 yards. The 12th is another tough par 3, 200 plus yards, uphill and depending where the pin is you may have to go over trees!. Pay attention to the pin location, the green is two tiered about a third of the way from the right. The wrong side may lead to a three putt or worse. The 13th is the opposite of 10, at over 600 yards it is a 3 shotter. It is tight with a creek in front of the green. The 14th is another 200 plus yard par 3, uphill with two large front bunkers. It is rated the toughest par 3 at handicap 6. The dogleg left 15th is long but does have one of the wider fairways. The 16th is super hole. A slight dogleg right with multiple hazards, most will not go for it. However, if you must aim at the right side of the bunker on the outside elbow. That will set up a hero shot over a water hazard of about 225 yards. Oh, I forgot the water hazard left, just in case you overcook it. For the rest of us favor the right side as the fairway contours left and narrows. The last par 3 almost seems easy after the preceding 200 yarders. Short, but one must carry the water hazard. The 18th is a long demanding par 4. Lists a wee bit left. A good tee shot will carry the left fairway bunkers.
Interesting course that I would pay to play again.
Out of all the complexes and golf courses surrounding Gull Lake, The Classic at Madden’s reigns supreme. There are a hefty amount of coniferous trees and elevation changes on the course, which can cause frustration in amateur golfers. It’s true: The Classic is not for scaredy cats. It’s a rigorous task to play well here; one look at the first hole, a mammoth three-shotter, and you’ll know what I mean. That being said, it is undoubtedly worth the green fee and rightly earns its biennial Golf Digest Top 100 Public ranking, where it placed 59th last year. Conditions and staff are always great at The Classic.
Highlights on the course include the par four third, a drivable hole for the long hitters who want to carry it over water on the right side; and the par five 16th, a dogleg right that slopes severely downhill before the hole, where water surrounds the green in every direction save for the back. There’s a lot of water on The Classic, and a whole lot of fun holes. Many present risk-reward options for the faint. Players are faced with a decision on the par four fifth on their approaches: hit to a small green left of the pond, or slap their irons to the right green, which is much bigger but 50 yards further away. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure.
Anyone interested in a solid test of skill should sprint to The Classic at Madden’s if in the area. That is, if you can take the beating. It’s a no brainer and one of my favorite courses in the state of Minnesota.
The course and conditions are top notch. Beautiful scenery and wildlife everywhere you look. Tough course though, my advice - Play up a tee box to make sure you maximize your fun here.