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We are hard at work on more long form reviews while the snow flies here in the Big Apple, but to keep your nose and toes warm, here’s three more great places that won’t break the bank, but will maximize your golf excitement. At a mere $60 in high season (and some top out at a mere $40), they are all among the country’s best bargains.

9540 Old Stage Rd.
Toano, VA

Architect: Mike Strantz
Par – 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 8/12
Cost – Peak $60-$70, Reduced $35-$59
Yearly Memberships – $3,000 initiation
plus $150/mo single, $225/mo family – unlimited golf + amenities
Conditioning – ****
Value – ****1/2

Located a mere fifteen miles from Royal New Kent, Stonehouse’s parkland style design has a completely different feel from its linksy, hurly-burly sister. Nevertheless, the course is unmistakably a Strantz design. Wide driving areas are masked from the tee box by knolls and approach shots must be accurate to find the correct tier on the oversized greens. The course begins as a serene nature walk with your clubs, but builds to a bold crescendo. There is no shortage of drama, especially at the finish. The green on the 185 yard par 3 seventeenth hangs precipitously on the edge of a seventy foot cliff. The eighteenth, a 440 yard par four features a semi-blind tee shot and a stunning green complex. The approach must carry 150 yards over a brush-choked chasm – as world-class a finish as any course could offer. Impeccably manicured and less than $60 even in high season (and at $35 frequently during the year), Stonehouse is a bargain all day long. Head Pro Andy Bemis is also head pro at RNK and is a terrific teaching pro.


Keezletown, VA

Architect: Russell Breeden and Jeffrey Forbes
Par – 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 9/12
Cost – $45
Yearly Memberships – $890 single, add spouse $390, add child $250
Conditioning – ****
Value – ****

Wonderfully inexpensive and artfully designed Packsaddle Ridge is built on an enormous, rolling 566 acre plot of land. Holes tumble up, down and around the base of Massanutten Mountain. Nevertheless, fairways are spandex-tight slivers and approaches are played to narrow greens featuring devilish collection areas and a variety of penal hazards. Errant players will moan that “there’s 566 acres of land, but there’s nowhere to hit the ball!” Holes 1-7 are among the tightest targets of any course recommended by AWITP and players who spray will be frustrated, by rock choked rough areas or woods, so club down and play safe. The only design features that should be softened are the rock strewn area between the 1st and 2d fairway (to be re-designed we hear) and two brutally long and uphill par threes, 7 and 12. Missing the 12th green will result in a 60 yard blind uphill chip. The finish offers broader landing areas and more risk-reward options. A second 18 is planned to open by 2006.

1520 Conklin Road
Conklin, NY

Architects: Marty Brown, Rick Brown & Rick Rickard
Par – 72
Excitement Quotient – 8/12
Difficulty – 3/12
Conditioning – *****
Cost – $55 peak, $45 reduced
Yearly memberships – No
Value – ****1/2

Conklin Players Club is also set in the same lovely southern tier vale as Hiawatha Landing, but is a polar opposite in design. Conklin is a mountain course playing up, down and around steep hills and features impeccable conditioning. Perfectly manicured verdant fairways tumble up, down and around the mountains. In the fall, the vale of the Southern Tier bursts aflame with red, gold, orange and purple leaves. The October full harvest moon rising over the 15th fairway is unbelievable.

Besides being gorgeous, Conklin is short and wide, so experts and amateurs alike can have a career day. Conklin showcases a little of everything that makes up a good golf course design and an enjoyable course for all levels of player – some water, some sand, holes that are easily negotiable in length and pristine conditioning. More a shotmaker’s course than a power layout, players will find they need the driver sparingly and strategically all day.

The incredible back nine begins with the course’s signature hole, a short par three played to an enormous island green with a backdrop of a flower bed trimmed and landscaped to replicate the course logo. Located less than fifteen minutes from Hiawatha Landing, the two make for an unforgettable 36 hole day.

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