BRAINERD, Minn. - Have you played the Classic at Madden's? Have you played it recently? I have. I suppose I just needed a little reminder of why all those national experts put the Classic on their Top 100 courses lists.
I got lucky. They gave me the earliest tee time on a holiday weekend day and the weather could not have been more ideal. Sunny and warm, but not too hot. No wind, no bugs, no problems, right? No excuses for going big (not low) on the scorecard.
I couldn't have hit the ball worse and I couldn't have had a better morning on the links. It really says something when you can forget a crappy golf round because you are so impressed with the course and its surroundings.
The Classic is not easy, but it's still extremely fair. It's tight and it's demanding and the woods and water can be penalizing. But there aren't too many fairway bunkers and there aren't any gimmicks. The course is immaculately groomed and the greens roll fast and true.
First opened in 1997, the course was instantly a classic, drawing national acclaim. Perhaps most impressive is it tops many Minnesota lists. It probably doesn't hurt that it's surrounded by five of the state's best public courses in a golf-rich region.
There is 60 feet of elevation change and you see a lot of it on the first hole, which is both massive and memorable, starting with a blind tee shot followed by a heart thumping second and third. The second hole is a fun and well-guarded par 3, the third is... I could go on and on but I won't. Know this. I'm writing this a month after playing at Madden's and I can recall each and every hole. Sixteen of 18 of them involve some sort of water, and that certainly adds to the artwork on the scenic canvas.
I would imagine a lot of people like to get up north and get away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. Walking among the oaks you feel like you couldn't be further from civilization. It was uncommonly quiet except for a great, running conversation I had with my caddie.
This is something new they've added at Madden's, and it's a nice touch. What's more "classic" than a caddy? Many of the nation's top courses offer them so it only makes sense that it's an option in Brainerd.
Dave Berggren, fellow reporter and golf addict at KARE asked me if he should take one, as he planned on playing the course a few weeks later. Caddies can be intimidating, but they shouldn't be. Some golfers feel uncomfortable with taking them. They shouldn't.
I spent my morning talking to James, a great kid here from Australia for the summer. He was between high school and college and took the opportunity to travel the world, looping in both Minnesota and Europe. His course knowledge was helpful, though spot-on yardage only gets a duck-hooking golfer so far. He found every stray shot I hit. He helped me with a couple tricky reads and hey, he took a load off my shoulders.
A few things I can pass along to any golfer considering taking a caddie for an upcoming round: He or she has caddied for better golfers than you -- he or she has caddied for worse golfers than you. They just want you to have a good time by offering you some information about the course, the holes, and the greens. Don't be intimidated or embarrassed. The caddies are just like you. They just want to be out for a pleasant walk in a grand setting.
You've got some summer left. Get up north and treat yourself. Bring your camera... and more than a couple of sleeves of golf balls.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)