Not far from where Daniel Boone entered the Cumberland Gap in the early 1770s, paving the way for westward expansion by hardy pioneers, Kentucky has opened Wasioto (pronounced wah-see-OH-tuh) Winds, the first of several new top-notch courses planned for its state park system. The golf course is contained within Pine Mountain State Resort Park in the rural southeast corner of the state 125 miles from Lexington. Occupying a western spur of the Appalachians, the 1,519-acre park is renowned for its old-growth forest, rare wildflowers, and native birds. Joining the hikers and campers this summer are golfers who can appreciate the delights of a beautiful, affordable, walker-friendly course.
|Wasioto Winds is the first of several new courses planned for the state park system. L.C. Lambrecht|
The year-old facility, says architect Michael Hurdzan, is a “wonderful adaptive re-use of the land.” A relatively flat design spread across a flood plain and walled in by a long, wooded ridge called the Devil’s Backbone, the layout’s retention ponds were dug to reduce the threat of flooding. The fill excavated for the ponds was used to raise the golf features above the 10-year flood mark. Wasioto, by the way, is a Shawnee Indian word meaning “valley of the deer,” and speaks to Boone’s observation that there was so much wildlife in these parts, the forest looked like it was moving.
Water is the dominant theme at Wasioto Winds. Three lakes, several streams, and 21 acres of wetlands put water in play at 13 holes. Five sets of tees range from 7,037 to 4,058 yards (par 72); selecting the right set for your ability level is the key to enjoyment, especially when a breeze funnels through the mountains.
A strategic test that plays a little easier than it looks, the layout’s sporty front nine forms the central core around which the longer, tougher back nine is wrapped. This mountain links “set in a little holler” builds in interest as the round progresses. The par-four 12th is a superior natural hole where players mount an elevated tee and, from the high point of the course, enjoy a fine panorama of converging hills and distant knobs. Thickets of rhododendron, azalea, and mountain laurel blanket the forest floor. The par-three 13th, which stretches to 258 yards from a perched slot cut deep in the woods, calls for a prodigious tee shot over a gurgling stream to a subtly contoured green.
Green fee is $25 on weekdays, $30 on weekends. Accommodations are available in Evans Lodge, rustic cottages, and log cabins. Golf shop: 606-337-1066. Web site: www.kystateparks.com.