Turning Stone Resort Casino and Atunyote Golf Course
Verona, New York
I have not played Atunyote Golf Course at Turning Stone, but have heard great things about it from friends who have. The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, is owned by the Oneida Indian Nation, and its Atunyote Golf Club, designed by Tom Fazio, is one of several layouts there. Atunyote was the site of the PGA Tour’s BC Open in 2006.
This golf course has won a slew of awards, including these as recently as 2011: Golf Digest named it as one of “America’s Greatest Public Golf Courses,” and Golfweek ranked it as one of the “Best Tour Courses You Can Play” and “Top 100 Best Resort Courses.”
“We’re on a lot of players’ bucket lists up here,” said director of golf Robert Todd. “We get groups of 12-16 who are coming on our golf package and staying in our properties. We also do a ton of corporate outings for groups — around 235 per year.
“I’d say 80 percent of our players are here to play golf first and foremost, and maybe 15 percent are gamers coming over from the casino. We get a lot of golf groups out of Rochester, Toronto, Ottawa and other cities nearby.”
The resort itself is one of New York’s most visited travel destinations. Roughly 4.5 million visitors come to this complex for gaming, golf, relaxation or to visit its 33,000-square-foot Skana spa. Its casino offers more than 120,000 square feet of gaming space and the two hotels on the property offer a combined 700 rooms.
Grand Traverse Resort and The Bear
Traverse City, Michigan
I played The Bear in Traverse City, maybe 25 years ago on a writer’s trip, and I remember my excitement at playing a “links” course. At that time, links courses that emulated the old seaside courses in Ireland and Scotland were just becoming popular in America.
This course and resort are held in high esteem in a state that knows its golf. For 28 years, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa hosted the Michigan Open. Suitably, we got it on a windy day. Almost every day on this course is somewhat windy, since it sits very near the shore of Lake Michigan. As I recall, I played well on the front then tried in vain to hold it together on the back nine. My fellow writers and I had a time in that wind.
This resort does not actually have a casino — its sister property, the nearby Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel, does. Shuttles run constantly between the two, carrying any guests at Grand Traverse who want to try their luck to Turtle Creek.
“We’re very interested in groups here,” said Mike DeAgostino, the resort’s spokesperson. “Seventy percent of our occupancy comes from conferences, weddings, and leisure groups from companies like Tauck. Golfers here have realized there is a lot to do besides play golf — they’ll visit a brewpub or winery while they’re here.”
“We’ll do 17,500 rounds here this year, and 2,500 of those will be from groups using our golf packages,” said Tom McGee, the resort’s director of golf. “About 1,100 rounds will come directly from the casino at Turtle Creek — we keep close track of that.”
Sandia Resort and Casino and Sandia Golf Club
Albuquerque, New Mexico
If desert golf is more to your liking, you might consider Sandia Resort and Casino and Sandia Golf Club outside of Albuquerque. Anyone who has been to this southwestern city knows how the scenic Sandia Mountains frame its landscape. Deep blue skies and desert hues are the area’s trademarks, and the elegantly comfortable Sandia Resort features a pueblo architectural style to take advantage of both.
If you are lucky enough to be at Sandia for an outdoor concert or event, you’ll be mesmerized by the sky and stars at this resort’s 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. The casino is also big — 140,000 square feet — and offers plenty of non-smoking space.
The golf here isn’t bad either.
Completed seven years ago, the Sandia Golf Club plays the longest of any track in New Mexico from the tips — almost 7,800 yards. But there are plenty of options to play it shorter than that.
“The clubhouse’s covered outdoor patio overlooking the Sandia Mountains is the perfect place for a group to sit back after a round and wait for others to finish,” said Mike Cordell, a friend who has played a couple of corporate outings here. “Just to kick back when you’re done in that Southwestern climate with a cold beverage makes for the perfect end to a day on the course.”