Madden’s Resort in Brainerd Minnesota: Laid-back luxury, world-class golf & fun for everyone

Cover: Hole 11, The Classic at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nestled amidst a lush forest and bordered by the sparkling waters of Gull Lake, Madden’s Resort is home to world-class golf, stunning sunsets, an excellent staff and a laid-back lifestyle with something for everyone. A true retreat in every sense of the word, Madden’s has an activity to fill every minute of the day or, for those seeking a more tranquil experience, serenity for a quiet, scenic escape.

Wilson Bay sunset, Gull Lake, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Wilson Bay sunset, Gull Lake, Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With four golf courses, delicious dining options, more water activities than you could fit into a week, beautiful accommodations, and a fabulous spa, it is understandable why so many have visited and returned to this wonderful resort over the last 87 years.

On our first visit to the highly acclaimed Midwest resort, we spent our time exploring all Madden’s has to offer, while also taking a bit of time to marvel in the peaceful beauty of central Minnesota.

Madden's at Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Madden’s at Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

The Voyageur complex at Madden's Resort, located next to the spa
The Voyageur complex at Madden’s Resort, located next to the spa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s Resort has a wide variety of rooms and locations across the sprawling resort. Our room was in the recently remodeled Voyageur complex on the west side of the resort near the spa. If you love magnificent sunsets – there’s no place quite like it.

Wilson Bay sunset at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Wilson Bay sunset at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2015, the Brainerd Lakes area was hit by a massive storm that toppled thousands of trees in the region, with Madden’s taking the brunt of the storm, which destroyed much of the Voyageur building and several others on the property. Fresh off of the renovation, we were among the first to stay in the newly re-opened rooms.

Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of locally made caramels that were spectacular!

Welcome gift at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Welcome gift at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oversized room was immaculate and decorated in neutrals with slate blue accents. With a comfy chair, desk, flat-screen TV, a luxurious bath and a kitchenette, the room was both relaxing and well-equipped. The cozy bed covered with white, plush linens and pillows was incredibly comfortable. Glass doors led to the large private patio with a couple of chairs and fabulous Wilson Bay views.

Room in the The Voyageur complex at Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Room in the The Voyageur complex at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort has 285 guest rooms with varying accommodation types and location options. In addition to Wilson Bay, where we stayed, there are golf villas near Madden Inn & Golf Club, Mission Bay accommodations that are close to the beach and water, and Madden’s offers all-inclusive stays at Madden’s Lodge on the Steamboat Bay side of the resort.

Bay View Cottages on Steamboat Bay at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Bay View Cottages on Steamboat Bay at Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madden Lodge, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Lodge, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Resort

Steamboat Bay, Madden's Resort on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Steamboat Bay, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures© Chasing Light Media

One of the first thoughts I had when we drove into Madden’s was what a spectacular job they’ve done in blending their landscaping and development with the natural environment. Built across 1000 acres, of which, over 600 acres remain undeveloped, the natural habitat is accentuated by colorful plants, fountains, and art. The natural and developed elements blend harmoniously to create an enhanced landscape that celebrates the natural beauty of Minnesota.

Idyllic natural setting of Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Idyllic natural setting of Madden’s on Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Part of embracing natural beauty is protecting it and Madden’s green initiatives for the resort are apparent throughout. Outdoor bars use reusable drinkware, the wine list features & identifies several organic or sustainable wines, guests are encouraged to reuse towels and recycle, the resort has water and energy efficiency practices in place throughout and there’s an on-property chef’s garden that supplies fresh vegetables and herbs for the restaurants.

Chef's Garden, Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Chef’s Garden, Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s four golf courses

The Classic Golf Course at Madden's
The Classic Golf Course at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shortly after checking in, we made our way to the Classic Golf Course, which is consistently recognized by golf publications as one of the best courses in the Midwest, as well as the world. Built in 1997, The Classic at Madden’s meanders over gentle hills and through towering trees, with pristine bent-grass tees, fairways and greens, and stunning views.

Beautiful evening on the Classic Course at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
A beautiful evening on the Classic Course at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Early evening on a course is such a pleasant time of day. As the heat of the day fades and shadows dance across the fairways, a quieter pace permeates. As we made our way around Madden’s Classic course, my thoughts turned back to childhood evenings getting a few holes in with my Dad after he arrived home from work. The unhurried outings where he’d casually correct my stance and we’d take time to practice an approach to a challenging green came flooding back with a smile as we drove along on the cart.

Golfing at Madden's Classic Course, Brainerd, Minnesota
Golfing at Madden’s Classic Course, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In the distance, just across one of the Classic’s picturesque bridges spanning a pond with lily pads, a foursome shared a laugh as they headed toward their cart en route to the 17th hole.

The Classic Course #17 viewing #16 at Madden's
The Classic Course #17, viewing #16 at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the park-like setting of the 6,101-yard Classic course is astonishingly beautiful, challenges await around every turn with water on 15 holes and over 50 bunkers on the par 72 course. And – the Classic Course is actually only one of four courses at Madden’s Resort.

The Pine Beach East course, Minnesota’s oldest 18-hole resort golf course, dates back to 1926 when it was built by James Dalgleish, attracting golfers from the area to the links on the shores of Gull Lake.

Pine Beach East Course at Madden's
Pine Beach East Course at Madden’s
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located directly behind the Madden Lodge, Pine Beach East offers 5,944 yards of golf on well-manicured, generous fairways and gorgeous greens. A mix of a traditional layout and modern golfing challenges, Pine Beach East is also home to a rare par 6 hole – the 618-yard sixth hole.

Pine Beach East Golf Course, Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Pine Beach East Golf Course, Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the southwest section of the resort, yet another first class golf experience is for the taking at the 18 hole Pine Beach West. Narrow fairways and fast greens put the challenge into this wooded 5,070 yard par 67 course.

For the family outing or a quick warm up, the Social 9 course offers eight par threes and one par four in a relaxing atmosphere.

Hole 17, Classic Golf Course at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Hole 17, Classic Golf Course at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Spa at Madden’s

The Spa at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
The Spa at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A world away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life, the Spa at Madden’s is the perfect place for rejuvenation and pampering. Overlooking peaceful Wilson Bay, the Spa offers a full menu of services including massages, pedicures, manicures, facials, waxing and wraps.

Grab a cup of tea, take a stroll by the lake behind the Spa and admire the J. Kreitz artwork, then indulge in a day of relaxation and watch the stress melt away.

J. Kreitz art near The Spa at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
J. Kreitz art near The Spa at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Dining at Madden’s

Madden's Classic Grill, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden’s Classic Grill, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Madden’s we had the opportunity to visit several of the restaurants. Casual & inviting, each restaurant offered fresh, modern dishes, and exceptional service.

The first evening we dined at the Classic Grill, which delivered all the way around – great food, excellent service and marvelous views. We started off the evening with a couple of martinis and then progressed to salads. The Madden’s house salad is amazing with mixed greens, craisins, walnuts, feta cheese, and honey mustard.  Next up, I had the Walleye and Greg had the scallops and shrimp. As we often do, we each ate half, then swapped plates. Both entrées were delicious and the sear on the scallops was perfect, with a gorgeous caramelized crust on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside. The service was outstanding and the view was spectacular.

Dinner at The Classic Grill, Madden's Resort, Brainerd, Minnesota
Dinner at The Classic Grill at Madden’s
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After sunset, we took a walk around the resort, stopping for a glass of wine at Parfecto Pizza, a fun, casual restaurant featuring pizzas, flatbreads, calzones, and salads with items available for takeout or room delivery.

Finishing our wine, we strolled back to our room to the sounds of frogs, surrounded by the beauty of the Minnesota night.

Evening at Madden's On Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Evening at Madden’s On Gull Lake
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The next morning, we took an early walk around the resort with a stop by Madden Bros. Market for a chai latte and a heavenly donut.

Located in a village of shops across from Madden Inn, Madden Bros. Market is the resort’s version of a general store, with a coffee bar, gift shop, wine shop and practically anything else one may need or want on their vacation from s’more supplies to souvenirs.

Madden Bros. Market, Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Bros. Market, Madden’s on Gull Lake
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madden Bros. Market, Madden's Resort
Madden Bros. Market
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Madden’s also has a variety of other restaurants, including The Restaurant at Madden Inn & Golf Club, the Dining Room at Madden Lodge, the 19th Hole & Pool Deck, The O’Madden Pub, and the Lobby Café.

Madden Inn and Golf Club, Brainerd, Minnesota
Madden Inn and Golf Club
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water activities

Fun on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Fun on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There is no better way to experience the beauty of Gull Lake than from the water. Simply name your sport and Madden’s is there to make it happen. From kayaks, canoes, rowing skulls and paddle boats to water bikes, a banana boat, or stand up paddle boards, it’s on the agenda. If fun on the water includes fishing or a boat ride, fishing boats, a tritoon, pontoons and speedboats are also available at the resort.

Swimming pool at Madden Inn and Golf Club
Swimming pool at Madden Inn and Golf Club
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Prefer a bit of poolside leisure or perhaps some sand between your toes? Madden’s Resort has three indoor pools, one outdoor pool, an outdoor hot, and three beaches.

Beach at Madden's Resort
Beach at Madden’s Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Meetings, conferences, and weddings

Town Hall Conference Center at Madden's, Brainerd, Minnesota
Town Hall Conference Center at Madden’s, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While exploring, we happened upon several beautiful buildings for hosting events and meetings. With its copper covered tower, Madden’s Town Hall Conference Center is large enough to host 700 for meetings, conferences, and trade shows.

Next to the spa, the newly rebuilt Wilson Bay private venue space is a spectacular location for a wedding set against a backdrop of Gull Lake and room to host a reception and dance with a private bar, casual seating areas and fine dining.

Wilson Bay venue seating area, Madden's Resort
Wilson Bay venue seating area, Madden’s Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

5 things we loved about Madden’s

  1. The staff at Madden’s was helpful and friendly and always quick to answer a question or lend a hand.
  2. The golf courses are lush, not overcrowded and exceptionally well-maintained.
  3. The resort is serene, beautiful and epitomizes approachable, lake-side luxury.
  4. The food is outstanding.
  5. There’s so much to do, with activities of every type, or one can simply take a stroll or quietly relax with a glass of wine and watch the sun set.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, Explore Brainerd Lakes and Madden’s on Gull Lake for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden's on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Kim Hull & Caitlin Rick, Madden’s on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media