Turning a weekend into fun golf and gaming at Turning Stone

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Atunyote clubhouse
The Atunyote clubhouse

Turning Stone in Verona, just east of Syracuse, is a destination unto itself. Rising like Atlantis out of the rural landscape of forests, blue Harvestor silos, red barns and grazing cows ' and did I mention sheep ' theres not really much else out there, but even if you dont play games ' any game ' checking into Turning Stone is like entering another world, which is uncharacteristic of central New York.
 
Although gaming and golf may sound like an oxymoron, clearly its a formula that works here where you have more to bet on besides black jack, slots and poker. You have golf on arguably three of New York's top golf courses: Kaluhyat (ga-LU-yut); Atunyote (uh-DUNE-yote) and Shenendoah. Theres also a no-slouch par 3 course, Sandstone Hollow, that is kind to beginners and impresses even big hitters.
 
Happily coexisting along with casino action and designer golf courses are major entertainment complexes, shopping, dining options and the Ska:na spa.
 
Golf
Kaluhyat and Shenendoah share a handsome clubhouse which is within walking distance of the hotel and the Lodge, while Atunyote, 2 miles from Turning Stone, and Sandstone Hollow each have their own facility.
 
Kaluhyat, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and playing 7,105 yards from the tips (five tee boxes), uses everything in Jones arsenal: sizable elevation changes, narrow chutes to navigate from tees to wide sweeping links-like fairways, many large bunkers, forced carries, dog legs and six lakes. (Green fees $120-$150)
 
Atunyote (the Eagle), 2 miles from Turning Stone, a Tom Fazio gem playing 7,315 yards from the back tees, is more parkland in style with a number of lakes, vast bunkers, rock formations and rolling landscape. It is also the most expensive to play ($225-$250) with its own clubhouse, caddies and a gated entry. Prices go up just before the PGA Tour event, but after that, you can enjoy some great fall golf.
 
Shenendoah, designed by Rick Smith and playing more than 7,100 yards, is popular with corporate groups. Like Atunyote, it is more links-style in character 'especially on the back nine ' with grasses, wide sweeps of fairways and behemoth bunkers. This is also not an easy track, but is less punishing than Kaluhyat. (Green fees $120-$150)
 
Sandstone Hollow also designed by Rick Smith, gets high marks from even low handicappers who find the layout challenging and fun and with green fees just $35 plus $10 for a cart per person, its a good deal.
 
Turning Stone has one of the finest practice areas in the country with multiple greens, bunkers, and a large driving range. The on-site Dave Pelz Scoring Game School offers one and three-day sessions throughout the season.
 
Accommodations
Rooms located over the Casino and the 19-story Tower are fairly large and beds and linens get high marks ' the large walk-in showers with two swivel shower heads add to the experience. For those seeking more space and luxury, The Lodge features suite accommodations with views of the courses. Some corner suites also have outdoor hot tubs.
 
Spa
Ska:na is one of the best spa facilities in the state with a huge Roman-style coed mineral pool, 12 treatment rooms, a VIP suite and a full range of services and treatments like the Ritual of the Standing Stones and a Sage and White Pine Hot Towel massage.
 
Dining
There are 11 places to eat and drink. I love the soft elegance of Pino Bianco, a fine Italian-style restaurant serving dishes like fresh trout almandine and lamb oreganata rack of lamb. Brazil is showcased at Rodizio where gauchos slice meats at your table with flair.
 
Turning Stone doesnt yet have a liquor license. The good news is you can bring your own. One evening we sat on the patio behind the Lodge overlooking the gardens and Chris, our server, brought us glasses, a bottle opener and a bucket of ice. We opened our Sterling Sauvignon Blanc, ordered a light dinner and watched the sun go down. Perfect.
 
On my first visit to Turning Stone, I saw some little guy wearing red sneakers, a golf cap and a tee shirt over his ample belly reading Sock it to Me. He was dragging a case of beer on luggage wheels through the lobby. Got to love it.
 
Packages
Golf Vacation Package: Play all three championship courses and enjoy a two-night stay ($635); Hotel PGA Package: Accommodation for one or two nights, free admissions to the tournament (from $235); Autumn Retreat: two nights accommodations at The Lodge, guided hike in the Adirondacks with lunch, and spa treatment. ($785 for two).
www.turningstone.com
 

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson is an award-winning freelance travel, lifestyle, golf and guidebook author based in the northeast.
 

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