Home » Travel Feature

On the Road in Kentucky: It's down on the farm and up to a strip mine summit

By David R. Holland, Contributor

LEXINGTON, KY - It's an ominous clue.

Just above the 18th green at the Pete Dye-designed Peninsula Golf Club, the unsuspecting golfer will find the headstone of "Bogie" in a family farm cemetery - if you stumble across it before your round it could serve as a Rod Serling-like premonition - the greens here are tricky and deadly to a scorecard.

"Next to Valhalla, we think we have the best bent-grass greens in the state," said Peninsula's Greg Johnson of this 6,647-yard, par-72 gem layed out on land that used to be tilled for tobacco, corn and hay.

Golf in Kentucky - it's down on the farm, up on a strip mine and routed through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. It's classic and pleasing to the eye. And it is very affordable.

Take a golf journey from Lexington along highways lined with the white fences of thoroughbred stables to places like Widow's Watch Golf Club in Nicholasville, to Eagle Trace Golf Club in Morehead, to the old-style track in the mountains of Paintsville Country Club, or to the unique StoneCrest Golf Club in Prestonsburg, which reclaimed land from an old coal strip mine.

You might retrace the steps of Daniel Boone, see the Red River Gorge or Cumberland Falls, or drive along Kentucky's Country Music Highway to Butcher Hollow, birthplace of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. The Judds, Naomi and daughters Wynonna and Ashley, hailed from Ashland.

And the Hatfields and McCoys fussed here.

For more than 300 years the land just west of the Appalachians deterred Easterners from coming to this fertile land, but in the late 1700s they started to venture through the Cumberland Gap. The rest is Kentucky history.

Here's a capsule look at some of the golf courses promoted by the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association (www.tourseky.com).

StoneCrest Golf Club in Prestonsburg

StoneCrest Golf Course, designed by Chris Chrisman, with consultation from PGA Tour player and Kentuckian Russ Cochran, measures 7,011 yards at par 72. Opened in 2001, it follows the ridge top that surrounds a huge pit where coal was mined. Bent-grass fairways, tees and greens make this unique, scenic golf course a steal at $35 on weekends.

More than 180,000 truck loads of top soil were hauled up here from the Big Sandy River to replace what was stripped off the mountain top. The course includes some 50 sand traps, dramatic elevation changes, five ponds and views of 50 miles or more just next door to one of Kentucky's favorite parks - Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.

Paintsville Country Club, Paintsville

Just down the road from Butcher Hollow, Paintsville Country Club has been hosting golfers since the 1920s. It's a short 6,048 yards at par 70, but you will be challenged by Big Sandy River carries on two holes, the rolling hills, tree-lined fairways and downhill lies on some holes. A historic swinging bridge, just wide enough for your golf cart, spans the river and sways as you go.

The front nine features tight fairways and small old-fashioned greens, while the back nine, added in the 1950s, is wide open and flat. No. 10's fade tee shot over the river is somewhat blind and requires a 180-yard carry over tall old trees. The front nine just might remind you of olden days, with some tees just steps from greens and fairways shared by golfers going in opposite directions.

Widow's Watch Golf Club in Nicholasville

When you see the clubhouse at Widow's Watch and the 1700s-styled rock walls lining Harrodsburg Road, you will definitely go back in time.

The Widow's Watch House was built in the mid-1800s by John Steele in an Eclectic Italianate style topped off by a watch tower. Here at the highest elevation between Lexington and the Kentucky River, Steele could observe his workers on the Woodlawn Farm raising wheat and hemp along with mules and sheep. The bottom floor of the house was renovated in 1998 for $400,000 and the owners hope someday the top floors will be re-done and used as a Bed & Breakfast.

The golf course is a Keith Foster-Barry Sarafin conglomeration that is molded from 300 acres on rolling land and heavily wooded. Bent grass flows from tee to green on this 6,949-yard, par 72.

Since its grand opening in 1999, Widow's Watch has hosted the Teardrop Tour and the PGA Junior National Series. It's also the official golf club for the Kentucky Wildcat football coaches and the nearby Hilton Suites.

Affordability is premium here, where you can play 18 holes including cart for only $28 after 2 p.m. seven days a week.

Peninsula Golf Club, Lancaster

From the church-pew bunkers on the 392-yard first hole to the rolling farm terrain and Lake Herrington, Peninsula Golf Club, opened in 1997, will challenge you with Bermuda fairways and contoured bent-grass greens that can Stimp out a 9.5.

Pete Dye placed more than 60 bunkers throughout the layout that's ranked in the Top Ten in the state and all the putting surfaces are surrounded by approaches which include his trademark "collection areas" for mis-guided iron efforts.

Peninsula is a favorite for groups of 16 to 48 who can be here in only two hours from the bridge in Cincinnati and can spend the weekend in the guest's duplexes on a Stay and Play Package ($87 to $105 per person, per day). Again it is affordable. Green fees are $17 on weekdays, $23 on weekends and you pay $10 for the cart.

Eagle Trace Golf Club in Morehead

Opened in 1995, Eagle Trace is part of a housing community, that includes bent grass tee to green and measures 6,902 yards at par 72. David Pfaff designed this sometimes tight, tree-lined routing that features some water and sand.

Take out the camera for the signature hole, No. 12, a beautiful 164-yard, par 3 requiring a downhill tee shot through a chute of trees to a sloping green. If you miss the green here you will have a tough recovery.

Try and find a golf course this nice in Arizona for $17 weekday green fees and $23 on the weekends. Carts are $10 extra.

The Kentucky Men's State Amateur (1998) and the Women's State Amateur (1999) were hosted here.

Where to Play

Peninsula Golf Resort
200 Clubhouse Drive
Lancaster, KY 40444
Telephone: 877-249-4747 or 859-548-5055
Green Fees: $17 to $23
Website: www.peninsulagolf.com

Widow's Watch Golf Course
6000 Harrodsburg Road
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Telephone: 859-223-4516
Toll-Free: 866-223-4516
Green Fees: $30 weekdays, $38 weekends, includes cart
Website: www.widowswatch.com

StoneCrest Golf Course
918 Club House Drive
Prestonsburg, KY 41653
Telephone: 606-886-6777
Green Fees: $30-$35
Website: www.stonecrestprestonsburg.com

Paintsville Country Club
1107 Golf Course Road
Paintsville, KY 41240
Telephone: 606-789-4234
Green Fees: $16-$19

Eagle Trace Golf Course
1275 Eagle Drive
Morehead, KY 40351
Telephone: 606-783-9973
Green Fees: $15 to $20
Website: www.eagletrace.com

Where to Stay

Corner House Bed & Breakfast
228 Richmond Avenue
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Telephone: 877-571-5777 or 606-881-5229
Email: kmpedigo@world.att.net
Website: www.cornerhouse.com
Contact: Karen Pedigo, Innkeeper

You will love Karen's home cooking. If you've never experienced biscuits and sausage gravy you might just want to move to the south.

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
75 Theatre Court
Prestonsburg, KY 41653-9799
Telephone: 606-886-2711
Website: www.kystateparks.com
Contact: Mark McLemore, Park Manager

Comfort Inn & Suites
2650 KY 801 North
Morehead, KY 40351
Telephone: 606-780-7378

A trip back into history

Visit Camp Nelson, a Union Army Supply Depot, training and enlistment camp, African American refugee camp and hospital.

Camp Nelson Heritage Park
105 Court Row
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Telephone: 859-881-9126
Website: www.campnelson.org
Contact: Mary Kozak, Coordinator

Country Music in Eastern Kentucky

Southern and Eastern Kentucky is one of the most musically prolific areas in the nation. Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Judds and Jeanne Ritchie are just a few of the music stars that have roots here. Renfro Valley draws hundreds of thousands of music fans each year to the Kentucky Opry and the new Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg. It is a state-of-the-art performance and music training institute. Log on to www.macarts.com or call 888-MAC-ARTS.

Loretta Lynn's Butcher Hollow Home

Take a tour of Butcher Hollow, birthplace of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. Drop by Webb's Grocery Store and ask for Herman Webb, Loretta's brother. Admission is $5. Just seven miles from Paintsville. Or contact Paintsville Tourism at 800-542-5790.

Where to Eat

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
75 Theatre Court
Prestonsburg, KY 41653-9799
Telephone: 606-886-2711
Website: www.kystateparks.com

The buffet-styled resort restaurant is very popular and on many Sundays after church you better get there early or you will face a long wait just for the chance to taste the home cooking.

Hero's Restaurant & Bar
220 N. Plaza Drive
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Telephone: 859-881-4376

Three Suns Restaurant
502 North Main Street
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Telephone: 859-881-8225

Other Helpful Sites

Morehead Tourism Commission
150 East First Street
Morehead, KY 40351
Telephone: 606-784-6221,
Website: www.moreheadchamber.com

Paintsville Tourism Commission
Post Office Box 809
304 Main Street
Paintsville, KY 41240
Telephone: 800-542-5790 or 606-789-1469
Contact: Jim Williams, Executive Director at tourpvil@foothills.net

Prestonsburg Tourism Commission
113 South Central Avenue
Prestonsburg, KY 41653
Telephone: 606-886-1341
Website: www.prestonsburgky.org
Contact: Carmalee Cramer, Executive Director

Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association
2292 South Highway 27
Somerset, KY 42501
Telephone: 606-677-6099
Toll-Free: 877-868-7735
Website: www.tourseky.com

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
Liberty Golf Packages
Dates: April 1, 2018 - October 31, 2018
2 Night Stay in a Two-Bedroom Condo 2 Rounds of Golf at Harbor Links
Price range: $205