Sometimes you just want to get away from the city that never sleeps to a place where you can grind it out for four or five hours, have a couple of cold ones and get some sleep. If you're a golfer, that means a road trip, and fortunately, once you get out of the congestion of the New York metro area, these kinds of experiences aren't terribly far away.
The choices are many, from the serenity of the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania to the Jersey Shore; the golf experiences are as varied as the terrain. And, of course, so are the price points.
Here, then, are some suggestions if you're in New York looking to pack the car with your sticks and hit the road to play a little golf.
Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg, N.J.
Just an hour or so northwest of New York City is Crystal Springs Golf Resort, which -- in addition to its waterpark, two spas, 12 restaurants, zip lines and three hotels -- has six golf courses. All inclusive, to say the least. The resort also offers foot golf, and if you're looking to improve your game, you can check into the David Leadbetter Academy there.
Crystal Springs' golf courses are designed by some of the best in the business -- Robert von Hagge, Robert Trent Jones Sr., George Fazio and Roger Rulewich, all located within a five-mile radius. The crown jewel of the lot is Rulewich's Ballyowen Golf Club, listed among the top 100 public courses in the country. Surrounded by rolling farmland and craggy knolls, overlooking the spirited Walkill River, the course is links style with hardly any trees.
Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore
It's not quite Las Vegas, but Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore have more than 20 golf courses -- many of them quite affordable -- that you can pair with casinos, hotels and restaurants. You could start with historic Atlantic City Country Club, which has a terrific display of its history in its clubhouse. The 6,600-yard course also has great views of Atlantic City and the Shore.
Other stellar layouts in the area include Ballamor Golf Club and Vineyard Golf Club at Renault Resort, both in Egg Harbor Township; Blue Heron Pines Golf Club (which is owned and operated by Ron Jaworski Golf); Cape May National Golf Club; and Scotland Run Golf Club, a links-style layout that was built in and around an old sand quarry.
Another historic resort you might want to check out on the Shore is the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway on the New Jersey Shore, near Atlantic City. There are two courses there, but the Donald Ross-designed Bay Course, home of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, is the best known and has the water views.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
About three hours due north of New York City, Saratoga Springs is best known for horse racing, but it's also a charming town with some pretty good public golf options. One of them is actually a state park. Saratoga Springs Spa Golf Course, just minutes from the Saratoga Race Park, is set among the pines of the historic Saratoga Spa State Park and has been rated as one of the best values in the country. There's also a nine-hole, par-3 course, excellent practice facilities and Catherine's in the Park Restaurant, which overlooks Victoria Pool.
You can pair that experience with Saratoga National Golf Club, a beautiful Roger Rulewich design that's certainly a little more upscale than Saratoga Springs Spa. Opened in 2001, the course can be stretched to nearly 7,300 yards. The facility offers golf packages with the Saratoga Hilton. A third -- and certainly not least -- option is the semiprivate McGregor Links Country Club located just outside Saratoga Springs in the town of Wilton. Opened in 1921, the course has hosted the New York State Amateur seven times.
Turning Stone Resort, Verona, N.Y
If you're looking for a pretty cool golf escape, here's a suggestion: Travel to central New York and check out Turning Stone Resort and Casino, former home of the Turning Stone Resort Championship on the PGA Tour. It's about four hours away, but the resort is home to three excellent golf courses that aren't your typical resort golf layouts.
Rick Smith designed the Shenandoah Golf Course, which has a pretty cool wetlands/links look. Robert Trent Jones designed the most difficult of the three courses, Kaluhyat Golf Course. And Tom Fazio crafted the tour course, Atunyote Golf Course, which ironically is probably the most playable of the three. More recently, the resort added its TaylorMade Tuned Performance Center, located in its climate-controlled Sportsplex Golf Dome. Pair that with staying at the resort -- which offers luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, entertainment and casino gaming -- and you can put together a heck of a three- or four-day golf package.
A little closer than Turning Stone and sort of on the way is Cooperstown -- known, of course, as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. You can easily spend a whole day at the Hall, but bring your sticks because there are several good golf courses in the area. Among the best is Leatherstocking Golf Course, a 1909 design by Devereux Emmet.
With two great finishing holes -- a par 3 over water and par 5 with an island tee and the fairway along the lake -- it's pretty unforgettable. You can stay at the Otesaga Resort Hotel or the Cooper Inn. Other courses in the area include century-old Oneanta Country Club and a couple of nice nine-holers, Edgewood and Butternut Valley Golf and Recreation.
Shawnee Inn, Shawnee on the Delaware, Pa.
Just 90 minutes away from the Big Apple in the Poconos Mountains is The Shawnee Inn, a historic retreat for those looking to escape both Philadelphia and New York. The resort goes back to 1912 when it was known as the Buckwood Inn, and over the years, old-school celebrities such as Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball have stayed here.
You can fish, kayak, hike, roast marshmallows or just plain relax. It's also the home to an A.W. Tillinghast golf course, although a few decades ago nine holes designed by another architect were added to bring the resort up to 27 holes. Nevertheless, it's old-style golf set against the Delaware River and fall colors of the hills in the background. It's just cold enough to don slacks and sweaters and light a fire at night. And there are a lot of good holes.
There is, of course, lots of great golf in Connecticut, so take your pick. If you like coastal golf, check out Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton, a little more than two hours north of New York City. It offers great views of the Thames River and the Long Island Sound looking from the 16th and 17th holes. You might even see a navy warship or nuclear sub in the water. Founded in 1898, the course was originally a four-hole layout until 1916; Donald Ross redesigned and later rerouted three of the holes. In 1997, three holes were built to overlook the water.
Not far from Shennecossett in Mashantucket is Foxwoods Resort Casino, which offers golf at the Rees Jones-designed North Course at Lake of Isles (there's a South Course, too, but it's private). With five sets of the tees, a 90-acre lake and scenic woodlands, it's a national top 100 public course. Best of all, there are several more good public courses in the area, including Pequot Golf Club, designed in 1958 by the Wendell Ross. Jack Nicklaus still owns the course record there at 65.