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Combine quality golf with fall "leaf-peeping" on your next family vacation

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Finally, the blast furnace of summer has turned down a few notches and a nice, dry chill has hit your weekends like fine champagne.

Vermont Fall
Vermont boasts some of the most stunning fall foliage in the country.
Vermont FallGatlinburg, Tennessee - FallLake Tahoe - Trees

Your family wants to venture out and breathe in the excitement a new season brings: Your wife wants to take a fall drive and see all the leaves exploding into dazzling color.

You just want to play golf.

Don't argue, you can do both. Here are some road trips we recommend to see nature's fall glory while getting in some quality rounds.

Green Mountains, Vermont

This is classic New England doing what it does best: showing off its seasonal scenery. Vermont is considered the creme de la creme by "leaf peepers," partly because the state is so small that they're never more than two hours away from prime, leaf-viewing territory.

Route 100 is roughly 140 miles long, from Stowe in the north to Wilmington in the south. A bonus is the pastoral New England countryside, with its covered bridges and weathered, rustic barns.

Golf courses:

Ekwanok Country Club, Manchester: Opened in 1900, this is one of the top courses in the state, and a great example of one of the first American courses where architecture was taken seriously. It's 6,566 yards with bentgrass greens.

Green Mountain National, Sherburne: Located in the heart of central Vermont. Though the semi-private course is in the mountains, its fairways are gently sloped with large landing areas. You can see ancient rock formations carved from glaciers.

Others: The Quechee Golf Club, Quechee; Okemo Valley Golf Club in Ludlow.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Take the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, also known as the White Mountains Trail. It takes about three hours to drive the route, which guides you through the "Old Man in the Mountains" in Franconia Notch.

This is a terrific place to see the changing ways of maple, beech and birch trees. Beware, this is a very popular route and can get crowded.

Golf courses:

Lake Winnipesaukee in New Durham: A private course, so you'll need to know someone or have a reciprocal arrangement with your own club. Situated on 700 mountain acres and more than 7,000 yards long.

Baker Hill Golf Club in Newbury: A Rees Jones design with bentgrass greens. The course is on 260 acres of farmland, overlooking Lake Sunapee with excellent views of Mount Sunapee.

Others: Lake Sunapee Golf Club, New London; Montcalm Golf Club, Enfield.

Northern Arizona

Take Lake Mary Road out of Flagstaff, Ariz. and continue down through the forest and the little towns of Pine, Strawberry and Payson.

Toward the end of the drive, you'll head down through cactus to Mesa and Phoenix.

Better to get your fill of golf at the start and end of this trip. Both Flagstaff and Phoenix are chock-full of quality golf courses.

Golf courses:

Monument at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale: This is the one course you may want to splurge on - swallow your pride and credit score as you plunk down nearly $300 in green fees.

"This Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish design combines stark, desert obstacles with greens so plush you almost think it has to be some kind of artificial turf," according to TravelGolf.com Senior Writer Chris Baldwin.

While there, you might as well play the Pinnacle course at Troon North. On No. 18, you're actually shooting up at Pinnacle Peak.

Others: We-Ko-Pa, Las Sendas, Painted Mountain Golf Club, Longbow Golf Club.

For Arizona tee times and golf package information, call 800-767-3574.

Lake Tahoe

You women might want to consider an all-gals, fall hike with Call of the Wild Adventure Travel for Women in Lake Tahoe, combined with yoga. Men may want to hang around because there will be plenty of women.

If you want to strike out on your own, take Highway 88 over Carson Pass to the Sierra Madre Mountains; you'll drive through ghost towns and old mining camps and the 8,650-foot pass.

Golf courses:

Coyote Moon Golf Course: Located on the road heading up to Tahoe Donner, the course has impressive elevation changes, large rock outcroppings and was built for golf not real estate, a rarity in the area.

Edgewood Tahoe has great lake views on the back nine, as well as Heavenly Valley.

Others: D'Andrea Golf Club; ArrowCreek Country Club; Genoa Lakes Golf Club; Old Greenwood and Redhawk Golf Club.

Amish Country, Ohio

Take the Amish Country Byway to see how the Amish live, just don't get too close and pester them with stupid golf questions; they don't play golf.

You'll also see stunning fall foliage driving through forests of big oak and cherry trees. The views are free out here, and the green fees aren't that much more expensive.

Golf courses:

Berkshire Hills Country Club in Chesterland: A public course built on the site of a former farm that specialized in breeding Guernsey cattle. It has reasonable green fees.

Rolling Green Golf Club in Huntsburg: Has peak season weekend green fees of $20. It's 6,641 yards from the tips with a slope rating of 120. Designed by Richard LaConte, it opened in 1967.

Others: Chardon Lakes Golf Course and Pleasant Hill Golf Course in Chardon; Punderson Manor Resort and Conference Center in Newbury

Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive

The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed as if the builders consulted motorists first and asked: "Excuse me, how would you like us to build this parkway?"

It's about 500 miles long, from Front Royal, Va., to Cherokee, N.C., and that takes in a huge part of the Smoky Mountains, including Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

The Smoky Mountains, the southern area of the Appalachians, are covered with deciduous trees, and are this very minute exhibiting most of the vibrant colors of the spectrum. The advantage here is that fall in the Smokies lingers longer, giving "leaf-peepers" more time to enjoy.

Golf courses:

The Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course: Actually located in Pigeon Forge, it is owned by the city of Gatlinburg, home of Ripley's Believe It or Not and every other tourist attraction in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

You can stand on most fairways on this public course and fall over if you aren't careful. Most of the fairways could double as ski slopes in the winter - they bend, twist, rock and roll like Elvis hopped up on vodka.

The Laurel Valley Golf Course: Advertises itself as "off the beaten path," and it is true that Townsend doesn't have the gaudy tourist lures of either of the twin-tourist fortresses of nearby Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

Up the hill and then back down in the valley is the Laurel Valley course, a beautiful little layout that offers ringside seats to the old smoky mountains.

Others: Egwani Farms, Patriot Hills, Clinchview, Baneberry Golf Resort.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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