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This Year's Dream Course Has a Casino Theme
Gambling and golf have gone together since the betting days of famed golf hustler Titantic Thompson. Fortunately you don’t have to take a chance on losing your shirt with these golf holes; they represent some of the best that reside on courses connected with casinos. So enjoy them and see how many you can play this year, but stay away from the man who says he can beat you playing with only a Dr. Pepper bottle for a “friendly little wager.”
Contraband Bayou, Par 5, 611 yards
Lake Charles, Louisiana
The course was redesigned three years ago, and this hole was chosen as the new opener. It is a much better way to start the round at this course. There is water visible from the tee box, but it is more for appearance than as a hazard. There is plenty of other difficulty, including a fairway bunker on both sides of the landing area that will capture wayward tee shots. Reaching the green will be difficult except for the longest of hitters. Another hazard on the left will get any errant layups. The green has trouble on the left with two bunkers and a lake.
Contact: 866-580-7444, www.llakecharles.com/amenities/golf-course
Firekeeper, Par 4, 480 yards
This hole is part of a six-hole stretch of prairie grass, and the native grass surrounds most of this picturesque long par 4. Don’t get lulled by the scenery or you may find yourself in one of the five fairway bunkers. Stay on the right side of the fairway on the drive to set up your approach shot. Take a little more club on your second shot to ensure clearing the rectangular bunker in front of the green appropriately named “The Coffin” for its size and what it will do to your score. The green narrows from front to back and is guarded by two additional bunkers.
Contact: 785-966-2100, www.firekeepergolf.com
Sequoyah National, Par 5, 532 yards
Whittier, North Carolina
A slightly elevated tee makes reaching this hole in two shots even more possible. The dogleg right layout is framed by trees on both sides of a fairway that slopes significantly from right to left. The fairway squeezes in dramatically the longer the tee shot, so accuracy is a must. The trees clear for the second shot, and the fairway opens up to an elevated green that continues to the right. A medium-sized bunker on the right before the green serves to fool golfers into thinking that the putting surface is closer than it really is and will also gobble up any short second shots.
Contact: 828-497-3000, www.sequoyahnational.com
French Lick (Donald Ross Course), Par 3, 240 yards
French Lick, Indiana
The first par 3 on this classic Donald Ross design is a challenge that will test every level of golfer. The long par 3 is made even longer by being uphill and into the wind, so coming up short is a real possibility. Come up too short and there is a chance the ball will roll down the false front and into one of two bunkers. Shots to the far left will find two additional bunkers. Guard too much to the right and miss the green, and your ball will roll down the slope and present an improbable up-and-down opportunity. The green has a bowl effect, so shots will funnel to the center.
Contact: 888-936-9360, www.frenchlick.com
Cherokee Hills, Par 4, 440 yards
The hardest hole on the golf course tests golfers from the tee to the green. The opening shot is to a tight fairway that is guarded by bunkers on both the left and right sides. Miss the fairway and the second shot will have to find its way through the trees that frame the hole. Golfers will also have to negotiate a creek to get to the green. If not on the fairway, the smarter play might be to lay up to avoid the big number on the scorecard. The green was built on top of a large rock that provides a significant separation from left to right. This will wreak havoc on long putts and make saving par difficult.
Contact: 800-760-6700, www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com/golf/cherokee-hills
Salish Cliffs, Par 3, 168 yards
A legitimate birdie hole that can be taken advantage of but can also be a round killer if not played wisely. Club selection is key on this downhill par 3, and both the elevation change from tee to green and the prevailing wind should factor into your club selection. Going left will find a large greenside bunker, and too much club will put golfers in an almost impossible spot to save par. The green has a steep slope that runs from front to back.
Contact: 360-462-3673, www.salish-cliffs.com
Journey at Pechanga, Par 4, 330 yards
This is a funky little hole that is both scenic and challenging. The tee boxes are slightly elevated, and golfers will see a large oak in the middle of the fairway that doglegs to the left. Use the tree as an aiming spot and go left of the tree for the optimal approach shot. Make sure the ball gets past the oak, because if it doesn’t, the only option on your second shot will be a punch-out past the large obstacle. Even going long right is a better option than being behind the massive tree. The green is oval shaped and small. Missing the green means landing in a bunker or worse.
Contact: 951-770-8210, www.pechanga.com/golf
Circling Raven, Par 4, 386 yards
Tall pine trees frame this course’s signature hole that features a hill on the left hand side of the fairway and three medium-size fairway bunkers on the right. Going left should be okay since a lot of the balls will funnel back in the fairway, although if you venture too far left, the hill will gobble up the tee shot. Too far right is trouble, too, as balls will likely find one of the bunkers. An iron off the tee might be the right play for a more accurate shot. The approach is a fairly easy shot to a large green, but going over the putting surface puts you in the protected wetlands.
Contact: 800-523-2464, www.cdacasino.com/golf
The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Par 4, 396 yards
What a way to finish the front nine. This challenging hole has a generous landing area off the tee for a conservative tee shot. Golfers who want to get a little more aggressive will see the landing area cut in half and protected by a bunker on the left. The second shot is over a pond that borders the entire front of the oval-shaped green. Going long is not an option as a large bunker awaits any errant shots. Once you're safely on the green, enjoy the cascading water that feeds into the pond. It will be a nice sound as you putt for birdie.
Contact: 218-753-8917, www.golfthewilderness.com
Inn of the Mountain Gods, Par 4, 354 yards
Mescalero , New Mexico
This is a classic risk/reward hole that will tempt the long hitters but can yield disastrous results if not played perfectly. The hole features an island landing area in the middle of a lake; golfers must decide if they are going to lay up to the island or try and clear it to get closer to the green. It is about 280 yards of carry to make it to the other side. Stay left, though, because too far right and you will find the water that guards the right side of the green. The more conservative play is to hit a shot about 170 yards from the tee, leaving an approach shot of just under 150 yards.
Contact: 800-545-9011, www.innofthemountaingods.com
Lake of Isles (North Course), Par 3, 196 yards
North Stonington, Connecticut
Water surrounds the left side of this hole, but there is also a small pond on the right side that can’t be ignored. Teeing off from the back tees will present an additional challenge as trees on the left obscure a golfer’s sight and in some instances will require a right-to-left shot to navigate around them. A tee shot to the right side of the green is the best strategy for this hole since it will keep balls dry, and the natural slope of the green will funnel shots closer to the hole, especially for a lower left pin. Too far right, however, and you'll find the greenside bunker — or worse, the water.
Contact: 888-475-3746, www.lakeofisles.com
Atlantic City Country Club, Par 3, 134 yards
Northfield, New Jersey
Play the hole where the term "birdie" originated in 1903; a plaque commemorates the occasion. Getting your own birdie is very possible on this short, very straightforward hole. There are large bunkers on both sides of the slightly elevated green and no room for error, but unless there is a mistake in club selection, golfers should be able to find the putting surface. The green is large and slopes from back to front. Take dead aim and try and get a birdie on the same hole that Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope and Sam Snead once played.
Contact: 609-236-4411, www.accountryclub.com
Fallen Oak, Par 5, 575 yards
This one's not reachable in two shots for very many golfers because of the length and elevation increase. The opening shot is helped along by an elevated tee, but the hole gets more difficult as you go. The hole doglegs to the left with a generous landing area, and cutting the corner is possible to take away more yardage for the second shot. Take plenty of club on the second shot, because it plays uphill approximately 40 feet, but also make sure the third shot is a wedge to get the ball close. The green is also elevated and features a 10-foot deep bunker guarding the front.
Contact: 877-805-4657, www.fallenoak.com
Turning Stone Atunyote, Par 4, 385 yards
Verona, New York
Though it is the shortest par 4 on the golf course, Tom Fazio designed it with plenty of hazards to keep a golfer on his or her toes. The first is the creek that runs up the entire left side of the hole and expands into a beautiful lake complete with a distracting waterfall at the green. Any shot left will find the water. There is a large tree on the right side that will snare any tee shot that goes too far in that direction. Another clever hazard is the bunker on the right side that appears to be closer to the green than it is. The putting surface is filled with subtle contours.
Contact: 800-771-7711, www.turningstone.com
Southern Dunes, Par 4, 496 yards
Truly a beast of a hole. Not only is it long but it is also uphill, and getting there in two shots will definitely be a challenge. The spot to aim for is the first visible fairway bunker, but be careful, because taking too much off this dogleg-left hole could find one of two hidden sand traps. The fairway slopes from right to left and will channel balls to an area that will set up a nice second shot. The approach shot should favor the right side, because if a shot is missed it will avoid the large bunker on the left guarding the green. There is a smaller bunker on the right to avoid as well.
Contact: 480-367-8949, www.golfsoutherndunes.com
Edgewood, Par 5, 564 yards
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Running toward the famous lake with stunning views of the mountains, this downhill hole is reachable in two shots. Don’t be fooled by the yardage; you are up in elevation and the ball will carry much further, so getting to the hole in two is a distinct possibility. This is a tight fairway, though, and tall pine trees line both sides (there's one in the middle of the fairway, too), so accuracy is a must. Go after the green with caution because of the many bunkers surrounding the putting surface. But be sure to enjoy one of the prettiest holes in all of golf.
Contact: 775-588-3566, www.edgewoodtahoe.com
Sweetgrass, Par 4, 427 yards
Playing from the back tees will bring the water into play, and using the rock in the fairway as a guide will help tee shots not only stay dry but also avoid the large fairway bunker. This is one of the few holes on the course that has trees incorporated into the design. The rock comes into play on the approach shot and should be avoided, as should the four bunkers that guard the green. The putting surface is long and slopes from back to front. This hole is titled "Wisdom," and it will take plenty of it to get a birdie — not to mention skill.
Contact: 800-682-6040 ext. 2251, www.sweetgrassgolfclub.com
Bali Hai, Par 4, 486 yards
Las Vegas, Nevada
Situated on one of only two courses on the Strip, hole, called "Kuda Bay," is a great finishing hole that combines beauty and brawn. The longest par 4 on the course demands a strong drive, and even though the fairway is tight, playing a second shot from an adjoining fairway is possible, so let ‘er rip. The only hazard off the tee is a bunker on the left side. It is the approach shot that is fraught with peril. There is a waste bunker on the right side and a bunker on the left side that makes the green appear closer than it is. The biggest hazard on this hole is the large lake on the right side, where there's also a bunker.
Contact: 888-427-6678, www.balihaigolfclub.com
— John Reger, vegasgolfmag.com