Leaf-peepers have touted the state of Vermont's appeal as an autumnal treat for years, but let's face it anyone who has lost a ball in the middle of a fairway knows that leaves are a golfer's enemy. So why not just skip the fall and go now? You won't find any bucket-list trophy courses, but there are definitely some sporty resort layouts that won't break the bank.
\nThough fresh from a million-dollar makeover, the Equinox still exudes the Colonial character befitting a resort that dates to 1769. Its 83-year-old Walter Travis course has also aged gracefully, thanks to a 1992 Rees Jones makeover and vastly improved conditioning over the past few years. The boldly bunkered (if overly mounded) layout offers a much stiffer challenge than its puny back-tee yardage would imply. Thanks to a topsy-turvy back nine, along with the storybook New England vista of a white church steeple rising up through the trees, the Equinox is a treat. Pass the syrup.
\nTwenty minutes east of Manchester, this 27-hole Geoffrey Cornish design played host to an LPGA event from 1990 to 1995. It's a wild, spirited romp. Stratton's three nines Lake, Mountain and Forest are interchangeably strong and testing, but the newer Forest is tighter. This is true mountain golf, with awkward slopes, blind shots and forced carries, though the greens are bland. The Mountain's gargantuan 621-yard 5th skips around and over a pair of creeks and will blow your mind as well as your ball supply.
\nWoodstock is the quintessential New England town a Currier & Ives print come to life. As seductive as its charms can be, its namesake golf course doesn't quite measure up. It may be as bucolic as a Norman Rockwell painting, but it's nowhere near as soothing. Many of the tiny greens are fronted by rushing water, while 80 bunkers and forest-framed fairways further shrink landing areas on this 1961 Robert Trent Jones Sr. redesign. If you're clever with layup drives and feathered wedges, you might go low. Scenery lovers will thrive; spray hitters should look elsewhere.
\nOne glance at the scorecard would suggest that Okemo Valley is so short that it just has to be cramped and quirky, right? Not so fast. Tucked into Vermont's Black River Valley, this nine-year-old Steve Durkee design is a fairly level track that thankfully keeps blind shots and goofy lies to a minimum. Nevertheless, the finishing stretch which consists of two brutal par-3s and a trio of stout, attractive par-4s still provides a test worthy of a much longer layout.
\nJust west of Woodstock, in central Vermont's Killington Ski Resort area, is this 1997 Gene Bates creation, which tosses in the usual ingredients for mountain golf: rock outcroppings, dense woods, steep drops, funky stances and compelling backdrops. The good news is, it all works. The nines are a bit disjointed the front bursts with long, hard par-4s, while the back is full of placement and positioning tasks but handsome visuals abound throughout.\n