Turning Stone Resort in central New York: A golf destination for all seasons

VERONA, N.Y. -- Turning Stone Resort and Casino, located 30 miles east of Syracuse, is loaded with so many amenities that you can stay several days and never play the same golf course twice, never dine in the same restaurant twice, be entertained around the clock, and hit golf balls year round.

Situated on more than 3,400 acres, the thing that sets Turning Stone apart is its award-winning golf facilities, which include:

  • A Golf Dome, with 40 hitting stations and a TaylorMade Tuned Performance Center, a mega Golf Superstore and two golf simulators.

Dining and nightlife at Turning Stone Resort

Among the many places to eat, drink and be merry include the Wildflowers boutique restaurant in the Lodge, TS Steakhouse atop the Tower, Pino (serving excellent Italian fare) and Peach Blossom for those who crave Asian cuisine. There is the retro-swank Turquoise Tiger and the country-style Tin Rooster (serving rib-sticking country fare) in the new Exit 33 complex, along with the high-energy Gig, where you can dance your way into a lower dress size.

With entertainment acts like TJ Sacco, Terry Lee Goffee (a Johnny Cash tribute), Rebound, and Hotel California (a bow to the Eagles), it might seem Turning Stone actually turns the vibe up a notch when the weather turns chilly, but hey, these things go on all year long.

Spas as Turning Stone Resort

At the Skana or Ahsi spas, you can look forward to shedding whatever angst you came in with. The warm pools and coed Mineral pool in Skana, the bubbling hot spa, the sound of soft music and water falling somewhere, all contribute to a soothing sense of well being.

A variety of treatments are offered, including hot towel massage, sage stone massage, arnica muscle repair, scrubs like the strawberry sugar scrub, collagen eye mask, wraps and seasonal services such as the Maize and Rosehip facial or pumpkin pie manicure and pedicure. Arrive early to take advantage of the water balancing rituals and plan to linger after your treatment to savor the peaceful vibe.

Gaming at Turning Stone Resort

Occupying 125,000 square feet, the floor of the Las Vegas-style casino is abuzz day and night with numerous gaming options like black jack, keno, craps, roulette, poker, bingo and slots.

Golf at Turning Stone Resort

Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed the Kaluhyat Course at Turning Stone Resort in New York.

Ray Halbritter, Nation Enterprises' CEO, and the Oneida Nation spared no change when they created the golf facilities. The resort's three championship courses have been justifiably rated as among the best golf courses in New York as well as the country. One of only two resorts in the state to be included on Golf Digest's Best Golf Resorts in America and awarded Golf Magazine's GOLD Premier Resorts Golf Medal (2016-17), Turning Stone's courses have hosted many prestigious events since Shenendoah opened in 2000, including the PGA Professional Championship, the PGA Tour's B.C. Open and several other premiere tournaments.

Graced by wetlands, exuberant flowers, shrubs, grasses, ponds and woods, we have seen no other courses that better deserve the Audubon International Certified Signature Sanctuary designation. Except for the hum of an occasional mower, you hear only bird sounds and the rustle of wind-tossed leaves.

Maintenance is impeccable and ongoing. While we were playing, a crew came up, cut out a long rectangle of sod that was barely yellowing and immediately replaced it with new grass. The only shaggy stuff we saw was in the wild areas, where it was meant to be.

Turning Stone's Shenendoah Course was already solid before Rick Smith was asked to come in and reconfigure the layout so the Nation could add a new high-end outlet mall on the grounds occupied by holes 7-9. Smith made a lot of changes, including rerouting existing holes and building new ones. For example, the third hole became a new par 3; the fourth hole, formerly the old 14th, was lengthened from a par 4 to a par 5; the 12th hole was created as a short par 3; and the 17th hole morphed into two holes (16 and 17). The stunning finishing hole over wetlands remained untouched.

Playing it right after it reopened in the fall of 2016, it was in remarkably good shape. Unless you were a regular at the old Shenendoah, you would be hard pressed to figure out what had been done except for the tell-tail signs of new sodding and seeding.

Shenendoah is a spectacular course worthy of inclusion in the best "top course" lists. It has a wonderful natural aspect evoking British links layouts with wetlands, grasses, wildlife, water and sweeping open vistas with a backdrop of dark green hills. With fast, undulating roll-up greens characterized by a lot of movement, this is a course where local wisdom suggests if you don't sink your putt, it is better to be below the hole.

Turning Stone's Atunyote Course is designer Tom Fazio at his finest. Of the three big courses at Turning Stone, this is the special-occasion deal. With green fees at $200 (versus $120 for the other two biggies), its location is apart from the main campus. Impressive security gates resembling intertwining branches and a long, winding drive leading to a grand clubhouse, Atunyote, by design, gets less play than the others.

Each hole is a finely sculptured piece of art, rolling gently over hills, around lakes and along bubbling streams. Most of the course is mowed into a rich green carpet spreading out parkland fashion, while immaculate greens are gently undulating and true. Fringed by tall stands of mature trees with much younger trees planted throughout the course, you are reminded that as good as Atunyote is now, as the newer trees continue to grow, this layout will only get better.

Paying homage to native wildlife, each hole is named after a regional bird. Playing here on an unusually warm October day, an enormous flock of geese were parked on the wetlands along the fairways. Even a passing cart would not get them to take flight. Smart geese. Why not linger in this oasis of beauty before heading out on their arduous journey south?

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Turning Stone's Kaluhyat Course is a muscular layout with forced carries, tight fairways, dramatic ups and downs and six lakes. For those looking for plenty of challenge on a "Top 100 Resort Course" (Golf Digest); for those who excel at target golf and are good at course management, this just may be their favorite track. On the other hand, others may find it too much of a bear. Still, most find it fair.

Whether you are staying in the Hotel, Tower, Inn or the elegantly low-key Lodge with its art-filled lobby, Turning Stone is a place where you can eat and drink, be entertained, shop, play tennis, swim, tone up in the Tower Fitness Club, try your luck in the casino, and play golf even when it's zero degrees outside. Miles Blundell, director of golf operations, calls it, "central New York's home for winter golf."

It's no wonder Turning Stone is one of the top five tourist destinations in New York.

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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Turning Stone Resort in central New York: A golf destination for all seasons