On May 6, 20 race horses will spend two minutes carrying twenty men around a track in front of 150,000 spectators, with more than $100 million riding on the outcome. Welcome to the 132nd Kentucky Derby. On Derby weekend Louisville is as tourist-thick as Times Square and as wild as a college keg party. The race will be over before you can finish a mint julep, so enjoy a circuit of the other tracks in town.
6,569-6,769 yards, par 72
Greens fees: $25-$42
The 27-hole Quail Chase facility was designed by David Pfaff and is one of the best public-access courses in Kentucky–which might explain why it’s often crowded with locals. Stretched out over gently sloping terrain, it weaves through thickets of Scotch pine, maple, oak and dogwood trees, with McNeely Lake as a backdrop. Ask any of those locals and they’ll tell you that the East Course is the best of the loops.
7,134 yards, par 72
Greens fees: $14
Back in the 1960s, Gary Player received a racehorse as the prize for winning a tournament at Seneca. You can have your own shot at glory, too. On the Tuesday before the Derby, Seneca hosts a million-dollar hole-in-one contest. So far no one has ever made the ace.
Like Churchill Downs, Seneca is long, flat and difficult. The toughest hole is No. 14, a 438-yard brute that club pro Kevin Greenwell says “plays into the wind no matter which way the wind is blowing.” Our tip: Put your blinkers on!
7,169 yards, par 72
Greens fees: $59
The entertainment at this course at Caesars’ Indiana resort 40 minutes from Louisville extends beyond the pleasant layout–you’ll enjoy a chuckle at every tee when you read the Roman names appended to each hole, like Gladiator’s Address, Centurion’s Carry and Labor of Hercules. The 419-yard seventh hole, which doglegs right through the woods and has a heavily canted green, is considered the most intimidating hole. With a name like Caesar’s Revenge, how could it be otherwise?
7,068 yards, par 72
Greens fees: $65-$70
Twelve miles from downtown Louisville, just across the state line into southern Indiana, is Covered Bridge, the home course of Fuzzy Zoeller. Nos. 9 and 18 are mirrorimage par 5s and are separated only by the width of the lake that guards the left side of No. 9 and the right side of No. 18. Mess up the first time and you’ll have a shot at redemption later.
How to get Derby tix
[LIST “Standing-room tickets ($40) can be purchased on race day but lines are long. You can write and request any available seat (tip: don’t ask for one near the finish line) to Churchill Downs, Special Events Department, 700 Central Ave., Louisville, KY 40208. Seats cost from $70 to $600.”]
Where to stay
[LIST “Galt House is walking distance from most attractions. Rooms from $125. 800-THE-GALT, galthouse.com“] [LIST “Caesars Indiana is cheaper on Derby weekend than city hotels. Rooms from $84. 866-766-2671, caesarsindiana.com“]
Where to eat
[LIST “The Oak Room, the five-diamond restaurant at the Seelbach Hilton. 502-807-3463”] [LIST “Try Louisville’s famous Hot Brown sandwich at J. Grahams Cafe & Bar. 502-583-1234”]
What to see
[LIST “Louisville Slugger Museum Home to the world’s largest baseball bat and a must for baseball fans. 877-775-8443, sluggermuseum.org“] [LIST “Makers Mark Distillery Daily tours show how whiskey is made, including dipping bottles in the famed red wax. 270-865-2099”] [LIST “Bourbon lovers should also visit the Jim Beam Distillery, 25 miles from Louisville. Sample the bourbon, though by law they can only serve you two. 502-543-9877”]