Golf Getaway: Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont
A Vermont gem, “heathland golf” combines great views with challenging courses
Okema Valley Golf Club
Okemo Mountain Resort may be better known for its fine ski resort in Ludlow, Vermont, but the company also operates two good golf courses, as well as some fine golf-season accommodations and plenty of non-winter activities for the entire family.
The premier golf course in Ludlow is Okemo Valley Golf Club, which styles itself a “heathland” course, or somewhat of a cross between links and parkland. Regardless of how you define the term, in this case it describes one of the most exciting golf courses you’ll find in the Northeast.
The 6,400-yard par-70 course offers an excellent mix of long and short, tight and expansive, uphill and downhill holes. Many of the region’s mountain courses are notable for tight, tree-lined fairways, but not Okemo. There are places where trees are in play, but most of the holes are defined by fescue-covered moguls and hillsides and well-placed fairway bunkers. Rating from the tips is 71.1 with a 130 slope. There are four sets of tees, the shortest at 5,105 yards.
The opening hole, a 398-yard par four, sets the tone. There are bunkers at 270 from the tee to the right, a heavily contoured green protected by four tough bunkers greenside, as well as a couple of tall trees that encroach from the right to punish an overdone fade off the tee. It’s pretty typical of the challenges you’ll face throughout the round. Refreshingly, they are different on just about every hole.
Water affects your strategy on six holes, especially the 213-yard 17th hole, a daunting one-shotter that’s all carry. Speaking of par threes, Okemo has a total of five of them, all fairly long holes — although the 186-yard eighth plays ridiculously (three clubs’ worth) downhill.
It wouldn’t be golf in Vermont, of course, without such elevation changes. The 397-yard ninth hole plays downhill, too, and the dogleg right dictates a hybrid or something much less than a driver off the tee. The signature 16th hole, a 458-yard par four, has a generous landing area for your downhill drive followed by a tight, treacherous approach, also downhill, to a green perfectly framed against some glorious scenery.
Okemo Valley is also a great place to work on your game. An expansive range lets you hit off both grass and mats, and there’s a dedicated short-game area with a spacious green and big practice bunker. The separate practice green is large enough to accommodate plenty of players at the same time. If you really want to get better, there’s also an excellent staff of PGA professionals on hand.
One of my favorite features at Okemo Valley is the four-hole Family Fore Course. The holes measure 60 to 100 yards and are available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons at an affordable hourly rate. While on the subject of rates, even at peak season they are quite reasonable given the quality of the golf experience at Okemo. The top weekend morning rate is only $94 with cart, and you can walk for as little as $62 at other times.
Okemo also operates Tater Hill Golf Club in nearby North Windham, Vermont, about a 30-minute drive from Ludlow. The 6,400-yard par-71 course has a 71.4 rating and 129 slope, just challenging enough to give you some fun without being a pushover. Tater Hill plays pretty wide open, although there are enough doglegs and other features to make you think twice before pulling a driver on every tee. The back nine, with three par threes and three par fives, is the more interesting of the two. All the fives are reachable, and the 501-yard 15th hole offers a spectacular view off the tee and an exciting downhill tee shot.
Conditions at Tater Hill are quite good, belying the bargain rates: $71 for a peak-season weekend morning round with cart, and as low as $40 walking at other times.
There are numerous options for accommodations within a short drive of the golf courses. The Jackson Gore Inn and nearby Adams and Bixby Houses are the newest properties and offer the widest variety of amenities, including indoor/outdoor pools, retail, tennis and basketball courts, and on-site dining options.
Okemo offers stay-and-play golf packages that start at $120 per person-per day, and cover play on both Okemo and Tater Hill.