Bring an appetite—and your clubs—to these savory summer festivals

Is barbecue the perfect food for golf?For famished golfers on a buddy trip, almost any meal will do after a round—as long as there’s cold beer to wash it down. Still, the link between golf and flame-grilled meat is a historical one. The term “barbecue circuit” once referred to the dozens of annual golf tournaments held in small towns across Texas and adjoining states. At the Saturday night dinner dances during those events, the menus varied only in the subtle differences of the grillers’ sauces. These days, the barbecue circuit is something entirely different: a series of hugely popular festivals that celebrate the magical effect that smoke and fire exert on hunks of meat, from ribs and pulled pork to brisket and chicken. These jamborees alone can be a lot of fun, but it’s time to return one ingredient to the marinade: golf.


Stokin’ The Fire BBQ Festival

Birmingham, Alabama

August 22–23

This festival of consumption ( has a charitable purpose: to revitalize a city landmark, the decommissioned Sloss Furnaces. The event gets so many entries for its cook-off that organizers can give away $20,000 in prize money and still support the steel-mill museum. Contestants grill brisket and chicken as well as pork ribs, shoulder and butt.


FarmLinks Golf Club

An agronomic laboratory, this Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry design an hour southeast of Birmingham uses a variety of grasses and is kept in excellent shape. $125; 256-208-7600,

Ridge Course at Oxmoor Valley

This stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is laced with creeks and marked by steep elevation changes. $43–$64; 205-942-1177,

Ross Bridge

The flagship course of the Trail, this long layout—8,191 yards from the tips—stretches across expansive rolling hills. $80–$115; 205-949-3085,


Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa

Although you may be embarrassed by the barbecue sauce on your shirt, check into this lavish resort located twenty minutes outside Birmingham. It offers sweeping views of the golf course, and the amenities include a European-style spa. From $209 per night; 205-916- 7677,

Other Activities

Birmingham Barons

See a game of the Chicago White Sox’s AA affiliate, the team Michael Jordan played on during his stint in professional baseball. Their home schedule runs through August 22.

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival

On September 26–28, Birmingham will hold its nationally recognized annual showcase of independent films.


Rib America Festival

Indianapolis, Indiana

August 29–September 1

Live music is a big part of this Labor Day weekend celebration ( This year’s lineup includes classic rockers Peter Frampton and Blue Öyster Cult. Past headliners Hootie and the Blowfish always made sure to arrive early—less for sound checks than for feedings of the hearty fare, including ribs, pulled chicken and pork, and roasted sweet corn.


Brickyard Crossing

Four holes of this Pete Dye layout lie inside the giant oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Golfers must steer around pot bunkers and the former track wall. $90; 317-492-6572,

The Fort Golf Course

Another Dye design, the Fort is a hilly visual treat with well-sloped greens in a quiet, bucolic setting. $61; 317-543-9597,

Prairie View Golf Club

Robert Trent Jones Jr. transformed a dull grassland site here into a lush course with five man-made lakes. $90; 317-816-3100,


Crowne Plaza at Union Station

As part of your immersion into authentic Indianapolis, stay at this hotel, known for its twenty-six rooms in actual Pullman train cars. The centrally located Romanesque Revival building—still an active train station—is on the National Register of Historic Places. From $170 per night; 877-227- 6963,

Other Activities

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

While you’re in town, visit the 250,000-seat stadium surrounding the legendary 2.5-mile oval. Its popular grounds tour includes a spin through the speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum, located in the infield of the racetrack.


Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off

Sparks, Nevada

August 27–September 1

A few stats hint at the enormity of this event (, which takes place just outside Reno. The festival runs for six days, and roughly half a million people attended last year, devouring a hundred tons of ribs. Joey Chestnut, a celebrity on the eating-contest circuit, gained top honors in 2007 by putting away seven pounds in twelve minutes.


Championship Course at Incline Village

Golf in Lake Tahoe, thirty-five miles south of Reno, is an exhilarating experience. At this Robert Trent Jones Sr. classic, you can look up from your ball and admire the deep blue water and the distant mountains. Just try to keep it out of the tall aspens and pines. The Mountain Course, by Trent Jones Jr., is less taxing. $164–$174; 866-925-4653,

Old Greenwood Golf Course

The conditions are impeccable at this scenic, pine-studded Jack Nicklaus Signature course in nearby Truckee, California. $185; 800-754-3070,


Resort at Squaw Creek

Although you can find lodging in downtown Sparks, it’s far more enjoyable to stay in Lake Tahoe. This resort has views you can gaze upon for hours. From $259 per night; 800-327- 3353,

Other Activities

Eldorado Hotel Casino

Reno, the self-billed Biggest Little City in the World, has a lot going for it, including a thriving arts scene, but gaming remains an integral part of the local fabric. The recently renovated Eldorado is one of its finest casinos.

Grand Sierra Resort and Casino

Another Reno hot spot, this is the largest casino in northern Nevada.