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Five Must-Visit Courses for Autumn

by JD Latorre

The summer golf season has come to an end, but these fantastic fall destinations are the perfect way to make the most of the remaining golf calendar. 

The majors are over, the days are beginning to shorten and temperatures are starting to cool across the country. The golf season may be winding down, but we’re approaching the peak season for select courses to show their true colors as the leaves start to fall.

Over the next few weeks, golfers across the country can experience layouts bathed in golden autumn hues as the season falls unto full swing, and some of the nation’s top venues are poised for a picturesque finale to the golf calendar.

Here are a few destinations with notable fall foliage that should be on every golfer’s bucket list this time of year.

Destination Kohler

Autumn golf at Destination Kohler was on full display last October when Whistling Straits hosted the 43rd Ryder Cup. The highlight of the week may have been the United States’ dominating performance over the European team, but the gorgeous scenery on the shore of Lake Michigan lit up televisions across the world, attracting thousands of golfers to make the same trip in 2022. But don’t worry, there’s still time for a round or two in the prime fall weather before the bitter Wisconsin winter takes hold in a few months.

Located one hour north of Milwaukee and two hours north of Chicago, Destination Kohler features four Pete Dye-designed courses across its Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run facilities.

The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, where the Ryder Cup was played, perennially ranks among the finest layouts in the world. The Straits has previously played host to three PGA Championships and a U.S. Senior Open. As the first resort course to host a domestic Ryder Cup in nearly 30 years, golfers of all skill levels can try their best to match Bryson DeChambeau’s 418-yard drive on No. 5, or close out a friendly match with a clutch birdie on No. 18.

Just inland of The Straits course sits The Irish. By masterfully routing the course through large dunes, Dye brought a bit of the Emerald Isle to the Badger State. Named “Blind Man’s Bluff,” the 13th hole features a sunken green obscured by a large dune like the famous “Dell Hole” at Lahinch Golf Club. Both memorable and traditional, The Irish provides an excellent opportunity to experience Old World links golf a little closer to home.

Set in a river basin formed by glacial runoff and a short drive from the charming town of Kohler sits The River and Meadow Valleys courses at Blackwolf Run. The Meadow Valleys flows along the natural features of the surrounding terrain, winding through pastures and ravines. Tipping at 7,404 yards, The River is characterized by small landing areas, strategic bunkering and large undulating greens. It’s a classic risk / reward Dye design that GOLF Magazine has called “the nation’s finest public-access course of modern times.”

Accommodations include the iconic American Club, the only Forbes Five-Star hotel in Wisconsin, as well as the newly renovated Inn on Woodlake, which works exceptionally well for buddies’ trips. www.DestinationKohler.com

Giants Ridge

Known for mild summer temperatures and snow-covered forests perfect for skiing in the winter, Northern Minnesota’s beautiful landscape changes with the seasons, and a round of golf at Giants Ridge is the perfect way to experience the fall colors in this part of the country.

Set in the rugged beauty of the Mesabi Iron Range, Giants Ridge boasts two layouts ranked among the best in the Gopher State, The Quarry and The Legend, the latter of which celebrated its silver anniversary in 2022.

As the name implies, The Legend offers a spectacular brand of golf that visitors don’t soon forget. Carved out of the Superior National Forest, The Legend is a true “northwoods” course featuring towering pines, giant fairways and majestic views of Wynne and Sabin Lakes. Golf architect Jeff Brauer designed The Legend in 1997, and six years later returned to build a dramatic layout to complement his first design.

The Quarry sits on the site of a former sand quarry and iron ore mine. Striking raised tees and hazards forged from reclaimed and repurposed mine land set The Quarry apart from other courses. With breathtaking views across the meandering layout, it’s no wonder why Golf Digest ranked The Quarry as the best public golf course in Minnesota.

Located an easy one-hour drive from Duluth and three hours from the Twin Cities, Giants Ridge offers overnight accommodations – from suites and villas to rustic and modern homes – perfect for golf groups and families. GOLF Magazine placed Giants Ridge 11th in the Best Resorts For Families category in the publication’s inaugural ranking of North America’s Top 100 Golf Resorts, and Golf Digest bestowed Giants Ridge its “Editor’s Choice Award” in the “Best Golf Resorts in the Midwest” category. www.giantsridge.com

Firestone Country Club

Once reserved only for PGA Tour pros and the few lucky enough to call themselves members, Firestone Country Club is open for public play through its limited stay-and-play packages and offers guests the opportunity to experience one of the most historic venues in North American golf amidst the beautiful fall weather in northern Ohio.

Originally designed by Bert Way and re-designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the famed South Course has long been a notable venue for championship golf. In addition to being the site of the Senior Players Championship on the PGA Tour Champions, the South Course has hosted three major championships and witnessed victories by the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlory during its time as host of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

Legends like Palmer, Nicklaus and Trevino have all walked the South Course’s hallowed fairways – and cursed them. “The King” made a triple bogey at the par-5 16th hole of the South Course. After the round, Palmer referred to the hole as “The Monster.” The name stuck and a plaque on a bridge near the 16th green honors The King and his three victories at Firestone.

Perhaps the most scenic of the three courses at Firestone, the North Course is a splendid Robert Trent Jones design that opened for member play in 1969. Marked by numerous lakes and streams, the North Course has played host to both the American Golf Classic and World Series of Golf. Now is the perfect time of year to take in the beautiful surrounds that make the North Course one of the top modern golf destinations in America.

Formerly known as the West Course, the Fazio Course completes the trio of acclaimed courses that make up Firestone Country Club. Redesigned by namesake Tom Fazio in 2001, the Fazio Course is a links-style design boasting striking views of the club and surrounding landscape. Its 18 holes wrap around the perimeter of the South Course and is the home of the Ohio Senior Open. 

The Fazio Course recently underwent a bunker enhancement project that removed 18 of the sand traps and renovated the remaining 51. Other renovations included improved drainage and the introduction of Best Signature 720, a beautiful white sand used on the most exclusive clubs in the U.S.

To pay homage to more than 50 years of incredible golf history, the clubhouse includes 30 dormitory-style rooms each featuring a view of all three golf courses. For a resort experience at Firestone, there are 57 golf villa rooms sprinkled throughout the property. www.firestonecountryclub.com 330.644.8441

Omni Mount Washington Resort

When you think about regions that are known for their fall colors, New England immediately comes to mind, and for good reason. Since the earliest days of the New World, the beautiful region has taken center stage as the quintessential fall destination in the United States. The Omni Resort at Mount Washington provides the perfect way to experience the changing of the seasons and enjoy a round or two while you’re at it.

Perched among the hilltops of northern New Hampshire, the hotel and its pair of golf courses offer the perfect view of the surrounding woodlands. The Mount Washington Course was originally designed by the renowned Donald Ross in 1915, and following a restoration by noted golf course architect Brian Silva, was restored to Ross’s original plans. The par-72 layout measures just over 7,000 yards and has been voted Golfweek’s “Best Course You Can Play in New Hampshire” every year since its reopening in 2008.

At 107 years old, it’s hard to imagine that the Mount Washington Course is actually the newest course at the resort, but alongside the winding Ammonoosuc River sits the nine-hole Mount Pleasant Course. First opened in 1895, the 3,200-yard track was restored and upgraded in 1989 with a little help from a pair of golfing legends, Gene Sarazen and Ken Venturi.

With a signature spa, casual dining facilities, nine high-flying ziplines and overnight accommodations at the luxurious four-star hotel, the Omni Resort at Mount Washington is the perfect fall retreat. Before too long, the hillsides at Omni Mount Washington will convert to ski slopes for the winter, but for a few more weeks, golfers can enjoy the best autumn golf New England has to offer. https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington 603.278.1000

Pound Ridge Golf Club

Just an hour away from the bright lights of the Big Apple, Pound Ridge Golf Club is the perfect place to escape the urban jungle and enjoy the scenery of New York State this fall.  Opened in 2008, Pound Ridge has quickly become a preeminent destination for golfers from across the country.

Crafted by Pete, his son Perry (of Dye Designs) and long-time construction manager/lead shaper Michael Langkau, Pound Ridge is a wall-to-wall bentgrass facility hewn from 172 acres of magnificent cliffs, streams and wooded hills. Dramatic rock formations and boulders were left onsite by the Dye team, creating one of the most visually stunning settings for golf in the United States. More than 14,000-linear-feet of rock walls frame a strikingly natural property graced with thousands of trees, subtle wetlands and severely-sloped hills.

Contoured fairways wind through hardwood forests and fescue mounds leading to open meadows crowned by picturesque green complexes. The par-72, 7,165-yard layout features some of the highest points in the region with a number of tee boxes offering expansive vistas of the surrounding countryside.

Notable holes include: the par-5, 13th, home to “Pete’s Rock,” a giant boulder that rests in the middle of the fairway; and the par-3 15th hole, dubbed “Headstone,” which is flanked on the right by a large rock outcropping that protrudes into the elongated, 9,000-square-foot green. www.poundridgegolf.com  914.764.5771