Pick of the Month: Okemo Valley Golf Club, Ludlow, Vermont. Not every course worth playing has a well-known designer label attached. At the family owned Okemo Mountain Resort, little-known architect Steve Durkee, a Vermont native, joined a team of resourceful Yankees to build a worthy layout in the beautiful Black River Valley. Unusual for this neck of the woods, the 6,400-yard, par-70 course, opened in 2000, is fairly level and free of blind shots. Holes proceed from the valley to upper meadowland, offering views of Okemo Mountain and other rounded peaks. While the perimeter of the course is thickly wooded, groves of trees dot the interior, with tall, fescue-covered mounds separating the holes.
Superbly maintained, this walker-friendly spread may appear short on the card (the longest hole is a scant 535 yards from the tips), but the risk-reward scenarios and swirling mountain winds keep better players honest. Highlights include the par-4 15th, which plays from the high point of the course to an enormous, sweeping green, and the majestic 213-yard 17th, where the tee shot must carry a lily pond to find a raised, well-bunkered green set in a bowl. The 430-yard 18th, with a small pond on the slicer's side, leads to a handsome clubhouse and the stone verandah of Willie Dunn's Grille. In all, the first few sets of tees -- 6,104, 5,726 and 5,105 yards -- offer what many resorts promise but few deliver: a pleasurable outing for the average golfer.
The course is one of the best in Vermont, and Okemo Valley's Golf Academy, an indoor-outdoor learning facility, is its equal. The school's PowerLINK 3-D system uses sensors and video to create a three-dimensional model of a student's swing. This program, based on biomechanics and pioneered by academy director Michael Bentley, provides invaluable feedback. In addition to two-day weekend and three-day midweek programs, a limited number of sessions this summer are available for women only. Reservations or brochure: 877-396-4653.
The green fee at Okemo Valley is $66 for walkers, $85 with cart. "Tee for Two" packages, including mountainside lodging at Okemo Mountain Resort, start at $100 per person, per night from September 1 to October 30. Programs for foursomes are also available. Prices jump during the peak fall-foliage season. 800-786-5366; www.okemo.com.