Skip to main content

Turn to Turning Stone for golf gambling

VERONA, N.Y. – The PGA Tour Fall Series, or Second Season, starts this week with the Turning Stone Resort Championship in Verona, N.Y. And perhaps that’s appropriate, as fall-like temperatures (showers and temperatures in the 40s and 50s) are expected in Central New York for much of the weekend.
Charles Howell III hits to 11th hole at Atunyote.
Charles Howell III plays his tee shot at the 11th hole during the third round of the 2008 Turning Stone Resort Championship.

The good news is that spectators can find shelter nearby in the form of museums -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, and International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota are both within 60 miles – and, of course, the Turning Stone Resort Casino, for which the tournament is named. The casino features 80 table games from Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker and Roulette to Baccarat and Texas Hold’em, a state-of-the-art Poker Room, and 2,400 Instant Multi-Game ® machines. You can gamble around the clock or, if you choose, take in a comedy show or concert at the Event Center. Among the performers scheduled to appear this fall are Trace Adkins, Stevie Wonder, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rob Thomas.

While the casino is the big attraction in Verona, located some 30 miles east of Syracuse and 115 miles west of Albany, the golf is some of the best you'll find in the Northeast. Turning Stone Resort boasts three championship golf courses, including Atunyote Golf Club – host of the Turning Stone Resort Championship – a par-3 course and player-friendly nine-hole course. Outside of Bethpage State Park on Long Island and its five courses, there’s no bigger golf facility in New York. When you add in the casino, the museums, and other local attractions, which include the Adirondack Mountains, Finger Lakes and Saratoga Springs, you have the makings of a premier golf destination.

Atunyote Golf Club
Atunyote, pronounced uh-DUNE-yote, is hosting a PGA Tour event for the fourth consecutive year, and third as the Turning Stone Resort Championship. As part of the Oneida Indian Nation, it is the first regularly scheduled Tour event held on American Indian land.
It's Casino Month in the Courses & Travel section, where we'll uncover the best casino/golf experiences from around the U.S.

- Verona, N.Y.
- French Lick, Ind.
- Las Vegas
- Biloxi, Miss.

Atunyote is the Oneida word for “eagle,” and at 7,482 yards from the championship tees (6,998 from the blue tees), the soaring hitters definitely have an advantage on this Tom Fazio-designed course, voted one of the “Best 21 Casino Courses in the USA” by Golfweek magazine. From the moment you drive through the iron-crafted main gate, which features wildlife from turtles to fish to birds, it's hard to imagine you're only three miles from a major casino and resort. Everything about the course, from the New England-style clubhouse to the short-game practice area to the personal attention you get from the staff, feels private. You won't find a course marred by hundreds of divots, either, or slow play. Only 4,200 rounds were played on Atunyote in 2008, says Robert Todd, Turning Stone’s director of golf, and there are no tee times allowed after 2 p.m.

As for the course itself, the fairways are fairly spacious, but you must navigate several streams, waterfalls and other water hazards that meander throughout the course, and the undulating greens and steep-faced bunkers which are the trademarks of a Fazio-designed course.

The 230-yard, par-3 11th hole is a perfect example: Part of the Tour’s Kodak Challenge series, it played as the most difficult hole (3.229 stroke average) at last year’s Turning Stone Resort Championship. From the tee, you must hold a very narrow green which slopes downhill and to the right, towards a brook. Any shot that misses the green to the right, even by the slightest of margins, is bound to find the water; miss left and you’re faced with a near impossible pitch shot to a green sloping away from you toward the brook.

Water looms to the right on holes 12 and 13 as well, so slicers beware. A small waterfall stands guard just to the right of the 13th green, leaving you with a nerve-wracking approach shot, especially if you find one of the four fairway bunkers off the tee. It's not a long par 4 at 416 yards (395 from the white tees), but it plays considerably longer because the fairway gets considerably more narrow the closer you get to the green, and positioning is vital. Of the 14 driving holes at last year’s championship, this one averaged the shortest drives (279 yards) and produced the second-highest scores (4.191 stroke average).

Another interesting feature on Atunyote is the red, English-style phone booth which sits behind the white tee box on No. 9. Flown in from England, you can use this booth to call in a burger or sandwich for the turn, although bets are restricted to the casino.

Kaluhyat Golf Club
Turning Stone Casino Resort
Verona, N.Y.

Getting there: Take I-90 (NYS Thruway) to Exit 33 (Verona), turn left onto Rt. 365 and left into Resort; one hour, 45 minutes from Albany, 35 minutes from Syracuse

Prices: Atunyote ($225 Resort Guest, $250 Public Guest); Kaluyhat & Shenendoah ($120, $150); Sandstone Hollow & Pleasant Knolls ($10, $15 for nine holes; $20, $25 for 18)

Did you know: Atunyote Golf Club is host of the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge, a fundraiser to help raise awareness about obesity and diabetes among American Indian youth. Tiger Woods won the most recent skins game event in August with a total of $230,000.

The second of Turning Stone’s three championship courses, and the qualifying site for the Turning Stone Resort Championship, Kaluhyat (pronounced ga-LU-yut) is the most difficult of the Turning Stone courses. From the black championship tees (7,105 yards), it has a slope rating of 150 (the maximum is 155), as compared to 140 at Atunyote.

Kaluhyat is the Oneida word for “other side of the sky,” and it has several holes that seemingly fall out of the sky. One such hole is the par-5, 593-yard 11th hole (621 yards from the tips). From the elevated tees, the first shot plays significantly downhill, but the remainder of this dogleg-left hole reverses direction and climbs several stories up to the green. For the longest hitters, it takes two mammoth shots to reach the green in two, and for the average hitter it requires three well-struck balls to reach the green. You do not want to come up short on your approach shot, as the last 60 yards are the steepest part of the journey. Fail to get up on top of the hill, and you'll be left with a difficult 40-yard pitch shot up a very slippery slope.

Accuracy and good ball-striking skills are a necessity at Kaluhyat. Almost all of the tee shots require you carry the wetlands or some high fescue grass, and it's critical you keep the ball in play. You'll want to hit a 3-wood or hybrid on many of the par 4s to keep yourself in the short grass, and to also curve your ball. Very few holes on this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. championship design play straightaway, and don't expect to find too many flat lies in the fairways, either. Kaluhyat, which was chosen by Golf Magazine as one of its 'Top 10 New Courses You Can Play' in 2003, has a lot of humps, bumps and slopes to its fairways.

Shenendoah Golf Club

This wooded parkland course (7,129 yards from the tips, 6,328 from the white tees), was host to the 2006 PGA National Club Professional Championship, and is the most heavily played of the three championship courses. Designed by Rick Smith, it was selected as one of 'America's 100 Greatest Public Courses' by Golf Digest in 2007, and is a 'Designated Certified Signature Sanctuary' by Audobon International.

You'll spot all kinds of wildlife in the marshlands and open pastures of Shenendoah, from blue herons and red-tailed hawks to whitetail deer, great-horned owls and raccoons. Among the different types of trees you'll find are sugar maple, white ash, tamaracks, hickory, white pine and red maple.

Smith also designed Sandstone Hollow, a nine-hole, par-3 course voted among the top 25 par-3 courses in the U.S. by Golf Event magazine. At $10 (public guests pay $15), it's the best bargain at Turning Stone, especially if you're not enjoying too much success at the craps tables – or you're in a hurry to get back to them. Each hole is surrounded by wild fescue grasses and wetlands, providing a challenging test for a par-3 course.

The other nine-hole course is Pleasant Knolls, which plays to a par of 36 and measures 3,393 yards from the blue tees and a player-friendly 2,710 yards from the whites. Resort guests play $10 for nine holes or $20 for 18, while the general public can tee it up for $5 more.