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  • History

    Minnesota's Classic Resort since 1929

Carrying on Classic Hospitality

How Madden’s on Gull Lake Continues to thrive after 95 years
Original Roberts Pine Beach Hotel
Original Roberts Pine Beach Hotel

What began in 1929 amid the Great Depression as a Northwoods golf course and modest hotel has evolved into an award-winning, world-class resort. While the $5 per night rates of the 1930s are a relic of the past, the goal has always been the same: to provide the best that Minnesota has to offer. Whether it’s a round of golf on the pristine links at The Classic at Madden’s or a dip in the saltwater pool with a drink in hand, the elevated experiences and personal service guests have come to expect and admire remains.

Brothers Jim and Jack Madden ran the resort together for decades, growing it from just a few rooms and holes of golf to an entire peninsula of lakeside accommodations, outdoor recreation, and world-class dining. The challenges they faced only made them stronger, and after a fire in 1964 destroyed the golf course clubhouse, the Madden’s used the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild even better than before. Jim Madden is quoted saying “we came back from the ashes very well. It may have been the best thing that happened to us.”

John Arnold looks over the remains of the Golf Club after the fire

In the 1990s, ownership passed on to Jim’s daughter, Deb (Madden) Thuringer, and son-in-law, Brian Thuringer, who ran the resort with the same passion and dedication as their predecessors. The couple continued to deliver on the promise of providing the best that Minnesota has to offer, and in 1997, The Classic at Madden’s golf course opened to national acclaim, earning the title of Best New Public Golf Course from Golf Digest. It has since become an icon of Minnesota golf and remains a Golf Digest 5-Star, Top 100 Public Course.

In July of 2015, the height of summer, the resort faced another disaster: a monumental windstorm, with winds up to 65 miles per hour, leveled trees and blew off rooftops on Madden’s west shoreline. A total of 85 guest rooms, a wedding venue, and a meeting space were destroyed. Again, the resort viewed the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild new and improved spaces, and by the following summer construction was complete on new guest units and a wedding venue.

Ben Thuringer stands atop a fallen tree after a massive wind storm destroyed the west shoreline in 2015

Not long after the dust settled from the storm, Brian Thuringer announced his retirement. In 2016, Brian and Deb’s children, Ben Thuringer and Abbey Pieper, stepped into their new roles as owner-operators. Today, they continue the decades-long family tradition of maintaining a world-class resort, while always searching for the next best offerings to provide to guests.

Madden’s is a seasonal resort, operating April through October, leaving the winter months available to complete property upgrades. In addition to routine updates, the past several years have been marked by the construction of The Pavilion event space, an inflatable water park, and a new outdoor saltwater pool and bar.

Madden’s new outdoor Saltwater Pool debuted in 2023

The 2024 season marks Madden’s 95th anniversary, and the resort continues to operate with the philosophy that the best experiences in life are the ones that bring you back—back to a place where you’ve spent every summer growing up and can’t wait to share with your children; back to when you didn’t have a care in the world except for which direction the wind would blow your golf ball; back to simple luxuries of being greeted and assisted by a real person with smile on their face; and most importantly, back together, with friends and family.

Use clues to search throughout the resort for History Hunt plaques in special locations. Scan the QR code on each plaque to learn more about the history of each area, and to find your next clue!

View the First Clue

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