After driving through large ornate metal gates and meandering two miles through rolling woods, the large wood siding clubhouse of the classy Atunyote Golf Club emerges. I find some of the plushest, most elegant yet affordable golf courses on Indian reservations.
Turning Stone Resort Casino is a resort owned and operated by the Oneida Indian Nation (OIN) in Verona, New York. Conceived as an enterprise to aid in the economic development of the Oneida Indian Nation, the facility opened in 1993. It includes golf, an RV park, an amusement arcade, restaurants, spas, a casino and a concert area.
The addition of the world class golf was a major factor in vaulting this sleepy mid-size resort casino into the what it is today. Turning Stone Resort has evolved into a major tourist destination and is one of the top vacation destinations in the state of New York. The staff provides an unmatched level of service. An almost endless variety of activities are available with a plethora of lodging option and twenty dining options.
A year-round Golf Dome offers an indoor practice area with 40 driving range hitting stations arranged in a double-deck structure. Standing seven stories high, it stretches 110 yards long by 80 yards wide it includes 17,000 feet of short game practice area. Two simulators, three greens, two bunkers, fairway and elevation changes of eight feet enable amazing practice sessions.
Within the Golf Dome, is a 5000 square foot Golf Superstore with every golf product imaginable including golf fitting technology.
Atunyote Golf Club, on tribal land, is the finest golf course at Turning Stone Resort. Atunyote is the Oneida word for “eagle”. These graceful birds soar over the wetlands and nest in several wooded areas on the course. Opened in 204 as a tour-quality championship course, it hosted the Turning Stone Resort Championship, a PGA Tour event, from 2007 through 2010. Turning Stone Resort includes five golf courses. Atunyote Golf Club ranks as the #3 and Kaluhyat ranks as #7 in Golf Magazines ranking of the best public courses in the state of New York. Kaluhyat, the Oneida word for “other side of the sky” is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr design known as the shotmakers course rewarding accuracy more than length. A third eighteen hole course is Shenendoah, a wooded parkland course designed by Rick Smith. It was the host of the PGA National Club Professional Championship. Two different 9-hole courses are also available.
It’s the only resort in the Northeast with two courses on Golf Digest Top 100 Greatest Public Courses. It also makes Golf Magazine’s Gold Premier Resorts list.
Atunyote Golf Club
From the impressive clubhouse, you can see most of the Atunyote Golf course. The longest of Turning Stone Resort’s three championship courses, this Tom Fazio design is both challenging and playable. Mr. Fazio is known for moving dirt and this course was no exception. He moved mountains of soil, developed water features and tranquil waterfalls on many holes and planted over 1000 young trees. The course features a diverse setting of wetlands, native fescue grasses, sweeping landscapes and deep wooded areas. Expansive open fairways meander through gently rolling hills to create a peaceful golfing elegance. Beware of the tall wispy grasses beyond the wide fairways though.
Not only is the golf course impeccably manicured, but the complex explodes with bright colorful flower beds in just the right places. Greens are flawless and the white sand bunkers were some of the best you’ll find. Gorgeous scenery and beautifully sculpted holes feels surreal. Can I say that the aura feels somewhat like Augusta National, at a public casino course!
One of the finest and largest practice facilities you will ever find sports manicured grass hitting areas. A dramatic short game area allows for shots up to 50 yards to real greens. They consistently rank on Golf Range Association of America’s (GRAA) list of Top 50 Public Facility Golf Ranges. A four-sided clock tower surrounded by a circular stone wall filled with flowers overlooks golfers in the middle of the large practice green.
The OIN takes its environmental stewardship of the land seriously. The course has received many environmental awards including designation as an Audubon International Certified Cooperative Sanctuary. Impressive colorful metal hole signs show layout and yardages on one sign and a detailed description of resident fowl on another. Besides eagles, many other species of birds make Atunyote their home. The club doesn everything it can to encourage this and the results are special.
One hole that stands out is the 494-yard par 5 twelfth. Bounded on the entire right side with water, placement of the second shot must be precise. The green is tucked behind a bunker with water making it tough to gauge the proper distance.
Then the medium length par 4 thirteenth extends along the same water penalizes all wayward shots that push right. After a no water straight four-hole loop of fourteen through seventeen, the monster par 5 eighteenth runs back along the same body of water to the clubhouse.
The farthest point from the clubhouse is the ride between hole fifteen green and hole sixteen teeing area. Yet, despite its distance, they line the path with the same stone as elsewhere with a hundred yards of thick colored flowers planted above.
On the par 3 sixteenth, you tee off over a large swath of wildflowers and tall grasses that partially obscure the green.
Look for the deep blue “antique car looking” beverage cart. Under the front hood is ice cold brews. They encourage players to use the impressive locker room facilities. A gated entrance, first class facilities & service, a challenging layout, extensive landscaping with colorful flowers and impeccable conditioning give Atunyote Golf Club an upscale country club feeling.
Explore other Northeast golf course profiles from Quintessential Golf Magazine.