Three years ago, the Turning Stone Resort and Casino put a big bet down on golf. The Oneida Indian Nation, owners of a casino and 17,000 acres thirty miles east of Syracuse, New York, put their chips all in with a $308 million expansion plan. They would ultimately build three golf courses, a stone and cedar clubhouse, a golf academy, two driving ranges, a ninety-eight-suite luxury lodge, a 287-room hotel tower, a spa and a five-thousand-seat events center—all in the hopes of luring golfers, and ultimately the PGA Tour, to the less-traveled regions of the state.
History will determine if the Turning Stone resort is a grand golf venture or an act of financial hubris. But with the opening this summer of the last of the resort's three courses, it's clearly a strong addition to the Northeast's menu of golf resorts.
The most recent—and perhaps finest—of the courses is the Tom Fazio-designed Atunyote Golf Club, a bold and brawny 7,314-yard parkland layout that opened this July. For Fazio, Atunyote was a rare opportunity: The tribe allowed him to hand-pick the land for the course from miles of rolling farmland. "It was a designer's dream," Fazio told T+L GOLF. "And the land we selected, with a unique variety of elevations, allowed us to meander ravines through the property and carve a very distinctive course."
In typical Fazio style, everything is oversize, from the spacious fairways to the contoured bent-grass greens to the dramatic, white-sand, steep-faced bunkers. All the sight lines are elegant and clean, the gorges and carries dramatic. Equally grand is the level of service golfers receive here for their all-inclusive fees.
Challenges of a subtler sort reside at the Kaluhyat Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout that opened in 2003. A brilliantly strategic 7,105-yard layout through wetlands, hills and narrow alleys of tall pines, Kaluhyat is a 146-slope chessboard checkered in shades of green. Its holes unwind through links-like fescue with a thrilling variety, and almost a hundred bunkers lend navigational hints to the many disguised landing areas. The smartest investment a golfer can make here is the five-dollar yardage book—and an extra sleeve of balls.
Turning Stone's original course, Shenendoah Golf Club, is a pleasing 7,129-yard hybrid of links and parkland styles. Designed by Rick Smith in 2000, its slope of 142 is wrought not from its forgiving fairways or accessible approaches but by a collection of almost comically slick and sloping greens. Rarely in life do golfers walk proudly away from three-putts; a round at Shenendoah is one of those times.
After these rounds, satiated golfers may opt to forgo the casino's neon wares for the refined restaurant and amenities at the new Lodge at Turning Stone. For each who does, Turning Stone's gamble will have paid off all the more.
Room Reservations: 800-771-7711. Greens Fees: $150-$200 (Atunyote); $80-$125 (Kaluhyat and Shenendoah). Tee Times: 315-829-4653 or visit turning-stone.com.