Teeing up the fun this summer and fall
By Sean Chaﬃn
Americans are once again traveling and a nice vacation for some golf and gaming can make for the perfect combination. Whether you’re a 5 handicap or simply enjoy puttering around the course for some outdoor fun, some of the country’s best casinos also oﬀer excellent options to tee it up.
As summer winds down and fall approaches, there is plenty of time left to hit the links. Get some friends together to play 18 by day and then hit the casino by night—what could be better? When booking that next trip, here are a few golf courses and casinos to put on the itinerary.
ATUNYOTE AND SHENENDOAH
Turning Stone Resort Casino Verona, New York
A gambling trip to upstate New York can also include a golfer’s paradise at this luxury resort. The property boasts ﬁve golf courses, which include three championship and two recreational options. Atunyote and Shenendoah are some of the best.
The Atunyote course was designed by the legendary Tom Fazio and hosted both the PGA Professional National Championship and the BC Open in 2006. The course was also home to the Turning Stone Resort Championship from 2007 to 2010. Players can challenge themselves on this high-quality, professional-level venue. Atunyote (the Oneida word for “eagle”) oﬀers an exquisite parkland setting with vast stretches of open space and gently rolling hills. There are scenic water features to challenge players including a stream of small waterfalls and several lakes. Past champions who have taken swings on the course include Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Steve Flesch and Dustin Johnson.
The immaculate and award-winning Shenendoah features 18 pristine holes of PGAlevel golf in a brilliant, serene setting. The course was built to comply with stringent Audubon International standards for environmental preservation. Designer Rick Smith used the natural landscape to create a wooded parkland ambience, open pastures for a links feel, and low, country-style holes. Shenendoah features more than 7,000 yards with professional tourquality conditions, and hosted the PGA National Club Professional Championship in 2006.
Players can also choose to book a tee time on the great Kaluhyat championship course or Pleasant Knolls or Sandstone Hollow recreational courses. Beyond the action on the golf courses, the Golf Dome is another highlight. This two-tiered hitting area features 40 hitting stations to sharpen those club skills. Players can use one of two virtual simulators with 38 diﬀerent courses including St. Andrews, Pebble Beach and Pinehurst. A stay-and-play package oﬀers a great way to hit the links and have some fun in the casino. This Empire State resort is a true golfer’s delight.
Rocky Gap Casino Resort Flintstone, Maryland
Rocky Gap Casino Resort, a AAA Four Diamond Hotel nestled in the Appalachian Mountains with lakeside views, oﬀers luxurious amenities, award-winning restaurants, spaciously distanced outdoor activities, and a high-energy casino experience all set to the natural beauty of Rocky Gap State Park. Located about two hours from Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Pittsburgh with easy access from Exit 50 on I-68, Rocky Gap oﬀers a picturesque retreat for an adventure-ﬁlled getaway, a corporate event or family reunion.
Home to Rocky Gap Casino Resort, Rocky Gap State Park also includes 3,000 acres of land with dozens of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails, plus a 243-acre lake. Throughout much of the year, Rocky Gap Casino Resort is an outdoor playground, with a boathouse on the lake to rent pedal boats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Fishing is another popular activity, as is bird watching. Rocky Gap’s spacious grounds oﬀer oversized chairs and several ﬁrepits for lounging, as well as bocce and cornhole games.
Recently named one of Golfweek’s “Best Casino Courses,” Rocky Gap Golf Course is a 7,000-yard, par-72, 18-hole course with ﬁve tee boxes at each hole to allow players to adjust according to their handicap. The only Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in Maryland, the course also oﬀers a 50-spot driving range, two large putting greens, two chipping areas and a practice bunker. The front nine is carved from mountainous, tree-lined terrain with numerous dramatic elevation changes, while the back nine is spread across expansive, gently rolling meadows. 2021 celebrates the 20th year of the destination golf course. Rocky Gap Golf Course oﬀers competitive membership packages for locals and visitors alike and single and group lessons are also available.
There is plenty of adventure year-round at Rocky Gap’s award-winning casino, where there are thrills to be had playing slot machines as well as at exciting table games. Rocky Gap Casino Resort features 665 slot machines, 17 table games and two casino bars. Table games include bonus craps, roulette, three card poker, Lucky Ladies blackjack, double-deck pitch blackjack, Mississippi stud and ultimate Texas hold ’em. Golden Entertainment, Inc.’s innovative guest loyalty rewards program, True Rewards, is available at Rocky Gap and 140+ other locations.
Rocky Gap also oﬀers a tranquil spa, salon, ﬁtness center and a spacious indoor swimming pool, open year-round. The Spa at Rocky Gap oﬀers guests a variety of indulgent services, including massages, facials, salon services, manicures, pedicures and waxing services. A popular favorite includes Rocky Gap’s signature spa massage, featuring warm stones and aromatherapy—perfect after a long day of adventure or golf.
Rocky Gap’s exceptional dining includes the resort’s new high-end restaurant, Lakeside Grille. Overlooking the stunning and spacious lake, Lakeside Grille is one of western Maryland’s ﬁnest premier steakhouses. The restaurant specializes in steaks, chops and ﬁsh and features a curated wine list—plus, its crowd-pleasing Maryland crab cakes. Other restaurants include Signatures Bar & Grill, which oﬀers sports viewing, burgers, pizzas, beer and more in a clubhouse atmosphere; and Lobby Lounge + Café, a popular spot for pastries, coﬀee and Boar’s Head sandwiches, as well as a full-service bar. On the Rocks, the resort’s biggest full-service bar, serves specialty cocktails and a wide selection of beers on tap.
Luxury rooms and suites, all of which have been recently renovated, are appointed with top-of-the- line luxury bedding and pillow-top mattresses, and oﬀer breathtaking views of the mountains and the lake. Exceptional amenities include premium cable channels on HDTVs, and refrigerators.
LAKE OF THE ISLES
Foxwoods Resort Casino Mashantucket, Connecticut
Take in breathtaking views of the southeastern Connecticut countryside when heading to Lake of the Isles. Foxwoods is not only one of the Northeast’s premier casino destinations, but also one of the top resorts in the country. That goes for the golf getaways as well. The property oﬀers visitors a premier golﬁng experience. Since opening in 2005, the course has consistently been rated as one of the country’s best.
The award-winning Lake of the Isle features two courses located on 900 acres around a 90-acre lake. The technically challenging 7,300- yard South Course oﬀers a test for golfers of every skill level and features multiple tee locations. The North Course also features a challenging 7,300-yard layout with rolling terrain, island greens and tees, and extraordinary views of the wooded countryside. The course also oﬀers the exclusive beneﬁts of country club membership.
Lake of the Isle includes a 50,000-square-foot rustic clubhouse, 300-person banquet hall, and a lakefront deck to relax and take in the peaceful atmosphere. The lush grounds and exquisite amenities oﬀer the ultimate upscale golf experience or a great location for gatherings and special events like weddings. As a whole, Foxwoods oﬀers an unmatched getaway with great gambling action at the property’s seven casinos, AAA Four-Diamond hotels, ﬁve-star gourmet restaurants, luxury spas, high-end retail shopping, and much more. Complete golf and gaming packages start at just $202. Grab the clubs and golf shoes—a relaxing trip awaits.
SENECA HICKORY STICK GOLF
Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel Niagara Falls, New York
This property oﬀers plenty of luxury and golﬁng competition for a gaming weekend. Hickory Stick is named to reﬂect the presence of rare and protected Shellbark hickory trees in the area, and oﬀers a picturesque layout back-dropped by peaceful lakes and ponds with native plants and grasses surrounded by large, mature trees. The Robert Trent Jones II–designed course features 257 challenging acres with beautiful Scottish-looking heather grass to accentuate fairways and greenside bunkers. The course also oﬀers ﬁve sets of tee boxes for a choice in length and diﬃculty from 5,395 to 7,026 yards. Hickory Stick is open to the public, but has the feel of a country club. From a visit to the exquisite Niagara Falls to gaming to a day at the links, a stay at Seneca is a unique vacation experience.
SWEETGRASS & SAGE RUN GOLF COURSES
Head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for some great gaming and golf. Players will ﬁnd 36 holes of championship-level golf between the Sweetgrass and Sage Run courses. Honoring their tribal orgins, the courses oﬀer an oasis of nature and solitude, the perfect way to relax and enjoy the game. Championship-level play doesn’t have to come at an extra cost either—the Island is proud to oﬀer some of the best golf and hotel packages around. Two-round one-night packages start at just $95 and are completely customizable.
Sweetgrass, which opened in 2007 and jump-started the resort’s extreme success with golf, features interesting challenges via elevation, bunkering and contours. Other natural features appealing to the eye include cascading water, lush foliage, ponds, historic bridges and much more.
The 18-hole, 7,300-yard course features holes that pay homage to Indian legend and highlights include beautifully crafted rockwork and cedar log creations throughout the course, a dramatic natural setting, and even the use of “rescued” historic bridges to oﬀer a unique feel.
The prairie links-style course meanders to wide-open vistas where many greens and ﬂags can be seen in the distance. Golfers will experience some of the game’s most fun greens to putt on this course, while the signature hole features an island green… only ﬁtting, right? The 15th hole is a 168- yard, par-3 that brings an intimidation factor as golfers attempt to hit the green, which is only accessible by one of those previously mentioned reclaimed bridges.
Sage Run joins the celebrated Sweetgrass course at the resort for the Hannahville Indian Community and oﬀers a contrasting style and design. The land at Sage Run is 180 degrees in contrast from its sister course, Sweetgrass.
Sage Run, ranked among Golf Digest’s America’s Best New Courses, rolls through beautiful Upper Peninsula hardwoods and open vistas with very dramatic views. A natural drumlin, or elongated ridge formed by glacial ice long ago, is the primary feature of Sage Run. A variety of golf holes travel oﬀ and around the hills oﬀering a scenic variety of shots and creating a fun thrill ride for golfers.
The challenging combination of long holes with creative short par fours lined with fescue grasses and strategic bunkering will challenge golfers of all abilities.
Island Resort & Casino, the two courses’ headquarters, is a full-service resort where you’ll ﬁnd everything you need to enjoy a getaway in beautiful Michigan and you won’t even have to leave the property. Lay down your clubs for a while and enjoy some ﬁne dining, live entertainment, a massage at the Drift Spa or take advantage of the on-site TwinSpires Sportsbook inside T. McC’s Sports Bar. After a restful night’s sleep in a spacious guest room, you’ll be ready for another sunny day on the links. Discover everything the Island Resort & Casino has to oﬀer, including the best golf courses in Upper Michigan.
Plan your golf getaway today at www.IslandResortGolf.com.
MOUNT AIRY GOLF CLUB
Mount Airy Casino Resort Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania
No trip to the Poconos would be complete without some time on this dynamic course. Bask in the marvelous scenery featuring mountains, ponds, streams, and even stone bridges as you work to hit par that next hole. Numerous hazards and elevation changes test golfers of all skill levels. Opened in 1980, Mount Airy was designed by architect Hal Purdy and has been named one of the “Best 18 Holes in America” by Sports Illustrated. A trip to Mount Airy is a unique experience with the course modeled after golf’s most legendary holes from championship courses around the country.
Some of those include holes from brilliant venues like Pebble Beach, Oakland Hills, Merion and Augusta National. These holes are reinterpreted and redesigned right in the mountains of the Keystone State. The course features 6,500 yards of stunning fairways and course conditions one might ﬁnd at a private country club. The course was certiﬁed in 2018 by Audubon International. Management takes pride in being stewards for environmental sustainability, protecting the environment while preserving the natural heritage of the game.
The clubhouse also comes with numerous amenities for a day out on the tee box. Order a cocktail at the full-service bar or grab a meal after that golf round at the restaurant. Add to the vibe by enjoying a drink or lunch on the outdoor patio overlooking a beautiful pond with views of the casino. There are also locker rooms, shower facilities, and a fully stocked pro shop with most of golf’s major brands. Mount Airy has it all— a trip to the mountains, great golf, and plenty of gaming fun in the casino.
For more information, visit mountairycasino.com/golf.
SANDIA GOLF CLUB
Sandia Casino Resort Alburquerque, NM
Head to the Land of Enchantment to work on that perfect golf swing and plunk a few dollars down in the casino. The property overlooks the majestic Sandia Mountains and is owned and operated by the Pueblo of Sandia tribe and features a full-scale casino experience and AAA Four Diamond hotel. Sandia Golf Club oﬀers scenic views of the high desert landscape.
The 18-hole championship course oﬀers 7,772 yards to challenge golfers. Players will marvel at the landscape, which features grassy knolls, crystalline waterfalls, and lush native vegetation. The course has the distinction of being the longest in New Mexico and challenges all ranges of players— from beginners to pros. Sandia has received numerous awards since opening in 2005 including being named one of the “Top 25 Casino Golf Courses in America” by Golfweek.
Those looking to warm up or adjust that swing will ﬁnd a great facility in the full-size driving range, which comes equipped with a double-tier tee area. Working on your short game? The 10,000- square-foot putting and chipping practice green and bunker oﬀer plenty of space to practice. The 16,000-square-foot clubhouse may also be worth the golf trip in itself. Settle in for some Southwest charm at Sandia Grill for a classic New Mexico Burger.
After a fun day on the course, maybe a nice cocktail or beer is in order for some relaxation on the 3,000-square-foot outdoor covered patio overlooking the 18th green. Book that ﬂight to get started making some New Mexico memories.
Sean Chaﬃn is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and senior writer for Casino Player and Strictly Slots magazines. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions or email him at seanchaﬃn@sbcglobal.net for story assignments.