VERONA, N.Y. - Many golfers have been known to bring gambling to the course. The Oneida Nation has brought the golf course to a gambling center.
The Shenendoah Golf Club, with its pro shop situated about a 9-iron away from the back entrance to the Turning Stone Casino Resort, opened May 25, 2000. The Oneida Nation has lofty aspirations for its new showcase course.
Within three months of its opening, the Shenendoah Golf Club hosted the Telergy Celebrity Classic, an eight-player skins game, featuring PGA pros Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Rocco Mediate, Joey Sindelar, Jeff Sluman, Wayne Levi, and Tom Sherrer. The event included a Pro-Am the day after the skins game. A more significant connection with the PGA Tour is one of the goals at Shenendoah.
Located between Syracuse and Utica, about a mile off the New York State Thruway, the course is open to the public. Casino guests, both overnighters and Diamond Card-carrying gamblers, play at a reduced rate.
For such a young course at a northern location, the greens are exceptionally fast. They play hard too, making it tougher for some players to get close to the pin. Of course, getting close to the pin requires getting to the green first. And, that is not such a breeze.
The white tees play 6,328 yards with a course rating of 70.9 and a slope of 135. The black tees play all the way back to 7,129 yards and allow the course to match Pebble Beach's course rating of 142 from there. There are three other sets of tees: blue, 6,685 yards; gold, 5,839 yards, and red, 5,185 yards. Length is a serious factor on a three-hole stretch early on the back nine.
The par-4s at 11 through 13 play 448, 494, and 420 yards from the black tees. Even from the white tees the stretch starts with a 360-yard uphill hole, followed by a 448-yard monster and a 391-yard hole. Factor in the bunker positioning around the green and many players will simply have to treat the 12th as a par-5.
The third (402 from the white, 452 from the black) is another well-bunkered and lengthy par-4 that ranks among the course's toughest holes. Bigger hitters may want to roll the dice and take aim at cutting off the dogleg to shorten the 312-yard, par-4 fourth hole. For those going over the corner on the dogleg left, there is even room to miss the green left and chip back.
The 304-yard 15th offers much more punishment for gamblers with wetlands left of the green and three long bunkers covering the left edge of the fairway for about the last 100 yards. Without trying to go right at the green, big hitters can go for distance and aim for the small landing area that could produce an up-and-down opportunity from the right front.
Nationally recognized golf instructor Rick Smith, who also designed Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., provided the design for Shenendoah. Smith, named one of the top 100 teachers by Golf Digest and one of the top 50 by Golf Magazine, has one of his three golf schools at Turning Stone.
Audobon International bestowed its highest ranking, Audobon International Certified Signature Sanctuary Status, on Shenendoah for its environmental sensitivity. There are 17 courses in the country which have received the award. Shenendoah is the first in New York State and the first operated by an Indian Nation.
The course is named after Chief Oskanondonha, later known as Shenendoah, who encouraged the Oneidas to fight on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Shenendoah signed two important Iroquois treaties with the federal government that still affect Oneidas today, according to Ray Halbritter, CEO of Turning Stone Casino.
In protecting the land that it was built on, the course winds along seven miles of cart path. An otherwise comfortable walk is made tougher by some lengthy treks from green to tee, especially between 6 and 7, 9 and 10, and 14 and 15. Walking is allowed, but the rate is the same as for players taking carts.
The basically level terrain, with gentle rolling hills, means players can usually see what is in front of them. Often that means targets defined by bunkers. There are 69 sand traps, more than half of which are fairway traps.
Turning Stone Casino Resort
5218 Patrick Road
Verona, NY 13478
Golf Club: 315-829-4653
18 holes: $95, $75 for casino guests 9 holes: $60, $50 for casino guests After 2 p.m. $65, $60 for casino guests
Turning Stone Casino Resort guests have two distinctly different options for golf on the property. Shenendoah Golf Club represents a championship test of the highest caliber. Sandstone Hollow presents a challenge, but one of an entirely different kind.
The nine-hole, par-3 course is small in stature, but not in quality. It features holes that would fit comfortably on the layout of its larger and more prestigious neighbor. Its construction was handled by the same designer (Rick Smith) and architect (Warren J. Henderson) as Shenendoah.
From the white tees, there are eight holes between 116 and 151 yards, plus an uphill 88-yard hole played to the most severe of Sandstone Hollow's large, fast greens.
The greens are protected by the same bunker arrangements that can be found at Shenendoah.
The course plays 1,175 yards from the white tees. From the black tees, it is 1,482 yards, including the 234-yard third hole. The red tees set the course up at 912 yards, with six holes of more than 100 yards and three others at 58, 84, and 92 yards.
Rounds of 18 holes and cart at both Shenendoah and Sandstone Hollow are part of the "Up to the Tee" golf package that includes a night at the Resort hotel and a breakfast for a rate of $168/person based on double occupancy.
Sandstone Hollow can fit the newer golfer or someone trying to get in a little extra work on his irons and short game.
The course can be the site of some fun side action. Although it can be played quickly, it still offers plenty of challenges to keep the short round interesting.
Turning Stone Casino also owns the nine-hole Pleasant Knolls Golf Course off site in nearby Oneida. The course is much more open with far less trouble than Shenendoah. Considered more of a match for the recreational golfer, Pleasant Knolls has tees that play to lengths of 3,393, 3,268 or 2,710 yards for nine holes.(TR)