Mountain Golf: Okemo Valley Golf Club - Ski Mag

Mountain Golf: Okemo Valley Golf Club

Mountain Golf A 0501

Ludlowe, Vt.

Positioned as Vermont's first "heathland"-style course, Okemo Valley's 6,400-yard, par-70 layout, fully opened last summer, required the purchase of new land by the family-owned resort as well as the cannibalizing of the former nine-hole Fox Run course. No great loss. Fox Run was a fox trot. The new track, designed by Vermont native Steve Durkee, is far more upbeat and appealing. It is also that rarest of creations in today's world of hazard-strewn, eat-your-lunch championship spreads-a genuine resort course designed for fun.

Okemo Valley is planted in bentgrass from tee to green and has wide fairways contoured with dips, ripples and hollows. These landforms, characteristic of Scottish links courses, are normally created by wave and wind action.

Also, the landscape, while treed, is not totally hemmed in by forest, which makes the course receptive to swirling breezes, another key element of the game as it's played in Scotland. Multiple tee boxes ensure that the layout can be enjoyed by golfers at all skill levels, including beginners.

Wedged between the Black River and a sloping mountain ridge, Okemo Valley has gradual, not radical, elevation changes between its lower valley and upper meadowland holes. Unlike many torturous mountain tracks, the course is eminently walkable. Dotted with ponds and splashed with wetlands, this moderately challenging layout offers panoramic views of the rolling Green Mountains and Black River Valley throughout the round.

Among the better holes is the par-four 16th, a sturdy 458-yarder with a fescue-lined fairway that narrows near the green. Slopes near the entrance to the green are designed to feed the ball to the putting surface. The majestic par-three 17th is one of the best one-shotters in Vermont: From an elevated tee, players must carry a pond and its wetlands to find a two-tiered green fronted by a cavernous bunker. The hole, world-class from the back tees at 213 yards, is very attainable from the forward markers at 98 yards.

Okemo Valley boasts an 18-acre outdoor Golf Learning Center that includes a 370-yard driving range, seven target greens, and a complete short-game practice area. In addition, the Okemo Valley Golf Academy, designed "for scratch golfers or golfers starting from scratch," employs video imagery and biomechanical research technology (for example, foot sensors track weight distribution throughout the swing). The complex also features a New England-style clubhouse connected to a Shaker-style barn that houses the club's indoor golf academy. Looking for the perfect 19th hole? The outdoor terrace at Willie Dunn's Grille offers patrons an ideal vantage point from which to view proceedings at the 10th and 18th holes. Call 802-228-1396. For lodging and preferred tee times, call 877-396-4653.

Brian McCallen is a senior editor at GOLF Magazine, SKI's sister publication, and author of "Top 100 Courses You Can Play"( Abrams).