Fall is the indisputably best time for golf in the Northeast, and we’re currently experiencing New York’s perfect-weather wheelhouse: the month of October. No humidity, cooler temperatures, and colorful foliage make every course in the area more fun to play.
To really take advantage of the changing leaves, though, one must travel upstate, and I recently did just that. My husband and I decided to visit Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York—a golf getaway that’s a mere four hours of drive time from the New York metropolitan area.
So, what can you expect when you arrive? First of all, the property is a part of the Oneida Nation Homelands, a gorgeous enclave set amongst wooded areas and wetlands that have been designated as an Audubon International Certified Cooperative Sanctuary. The resort offers a variety of overnight accommodation options: the Inn, the Hotel, the casino Tower, and even an RV park, but if you’re looking for a more upscale experience, you can go, as we did, with a room in the Lodge. And when I say room, I really mean suite, because every room is actually a suite—spacious and well-appointed, including a large balcony. The property is separated from the casino by a five-minute walk via a connected indoor walkway. The spa, “Skana,” is located on the first floor of the Lodge and offers facials, massages and body treatments , as well as a full-service salon.
Once you’ve settled in your room, there are numerous options to explore for dinner and drinks—11 in fact, ranging from quick takeaway bites at the Corner Market’s six casual eateries near the casino floor to multi-course fine dining experiences at TS Steakhouse and Wildflowers.
My husband and I opted to start with a glass of wine at Bar Pino, followed by dinner at the adjacent Italian restaurant, Pino Bianco. The ambiance is warm, the service attentive, and you simply MUST try the house specialty, chicken rigatoni with vodka sauce. Wow! Truly one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.
After dinner, there’s a myriad of entertainment options. In addition to casino gaming, an entire wing of the resort is devoted to housing a multitude of themed nightclubs and lounges, which attract a mix of locals and resort guests. We stopped in at the Tin Rooster just in time to witness the tail end of a line-dancing class with about 16 participants.
If the late-night scene isn’t for you, the Upstate Tavern is a nice option for a nightcap—a cool bar and grill with an impressive local and craft beer selection.
Now, on to the golf!
The resort has five course options: two nine-hole tracks (Pleasant Knolls and Sandstone Hollow) and three of championship-length: Shenandoah, Atunyote and KaIuhyat. First up on our visit was Shenandoah, a Rick Smith design. It’s a tough test that seems to play longer than the yardage indicates. The routing carves beautifully into the surrounding woodland, and you can catch a glimpse of the casino tower on several holes. My favorites were No. 12, a mid-length par 3 over water (187 yards from the tips) and No. 15, a short dog-leg par 4 (354 yards from the tips) that offers a fun risk-reward challenge of clearing the bunker on the left side of the fairway in order to give yourself a shorter approach.
Atunyote is the resort’s most high-profile course, a Tom Fazio layout that hosted the PGA Tour’s Turning Stone Resort championship from 2007-2010. It’s firmer, faster and more wide open than Shenandoah, but has some equally beautiful holes, like No. 9, a 468-yard par 4, framed by a creek on the right side, and No. 18, a visually intimidating 603-yard par 5 with bunkers on the left and water on the right. A fittingly difficult closing hole!
Both Shenandoah and Atunyote also have beautiful clubhouses with the perfect ambiance for pre- and post-round dining. My husband and I had a fantastic visit and we’re already talking about getting back upstate to play the courses we missed this time around. The best part? There’s no better time to take advantage of the crisp weather and plan your visit. October rates start at $169/night for a deluxe room. You can find out more at turningstone.com.