To paraphrase author Greg Anderson, we should live for the journey and not the destination. But if you’re traveling along the Kentucky State Park system’s golf trail, you can do both.
The park system has 19 courses, including thirteen 18-hole tracks and eight courses that are part of the system’s Signature Series. Many of the courses are tucked away in rural areas, with no housing developments on the fairways and often miles from major interstates.
Dan Strohmeier, the state parks’ director of golf, calls this off-the-beaten-path situation both a negative and positive. Yes, it does take some driving to get to some of the courses, but that’s part of the appeal.
“You have beautiful and scenic drives to the courses,” Strohmeier says. “And then when you get there, you have natural settings, with some of them around incredible lakes. You get the same things at higher-end resorts thanks to Mother Nature, without the spas.”
The newest addition to the system’s Signature Series is the General Burnside Island course, which reopened in 2008 after a complete redesign. Sitting on a 400-acre island, the course offers plenty of views of Lake Cumberland, particularly from No. 6, with its huge boulders dotting the landscape.
But Dale Hollow remains the most popular Signature Series course for state park visitors, Strohmeier says. Brian Ault, who redesigned General Burnside, incorporated hills, ridges, and rock formations into Dale Hollow. No. 15, its signature hole, is a 194-yard par 3, which features a natural rock wall sloping down into a ravine short of the green.
In 2007, Dale Hollow opened a new pro shop and driving range, perfect for warming up after a long drive. “This is a pretty demanding course, especially to drive two hours and get out on the first tee without loosening up,” says Bruce Bottom, Dale Hollow’s PGA professional.
Strohmeier says he has no favorite among the state’s golf courses, but Bottom is a little less diplomatic. Besides Dale Hollow, Bottom says he prefers Hidden Cove at Grayson Lake and Eagle Ridge at Yatesville Lake. “Eagle Ridge is probably the hardest course in North America,” Bottom says. “Putting a course on a mountain like that—it’s worth the trip.”
Wasioto Winds at Pine Mountain is another nationally recognized facility in Kentucky’s stable of award-winning golf courses. The first to receive Signature Series designation in 2001, Wasioto Winds is a links-style layout that sits at the base of the park. Although the course is primarily flat, there is one elevated tee box—No. 12, a par 4 that features a “Beware of Poisonous Snakes” sign.
The mountaintop woodlands that surround the course offer incredible backdrops as golfers play their way past water hazard after water hazard. “It’s hard—there’s a lot of water,” says park manager Stephen Eastin, referring to the 13 holes with water in play. “But I think we have some of the best greens in the state.”
Bottom says the Kentucky State Parks courses stack up well against more well-known courses in Myrtle Beach, Florida, and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama. Strohmeier agrees. “Our top courses, I would put up against about any,” Strohmeier says. “They’ve been nationally recognized, they’re affordable, and they’re very, very good.”
The highest priced greens fee is $32 for 18 holes, and a golf cart is $12.75 per person for 18 holes.
Kentucky offers two golf packages for park visitors. Chip Shot includes overnight lodging and 18 holes of golf with a cart. Tee’s and Zzz’s includes overnight lodging, breakfast and dinner, and 18 holes of golf with a cart. Prices range from $59 to $79 for the Chip Shot package and $89 to $109 for the Tee’s and Zzz’s package, depending on the time of year.
SIGNATURE SERIES COURSES
Boots Randolph at Lake Barkley, Cadiz
• 6,751 yards, par 72
• opened 1972
Dale Hollow, Burkesville
• 7,023 yards, par 72
• opened 2003
Eagle Ridge at Yatesville Lake, Louisa
• 6,630 yards, par 71
• opened 2003
General Burnside, Burnside
• 6,394 yards, par 71
• redesigned and opened in 2008
Hidden Cove at Grayson Lake, Olive Hill
• 7,155 yards, par 72
• opened 2003
Kentucky Dam Village, Gilbertsville
• 6,694 yards, par 72
• opened 1950
Mineral Mound, Eddyville
• 6,561 yards, par 72
• opened 2003
Wasioto Winds at Pine Mountain, Pineville
• 7,137 yards, par 72
• opened 2001
For more information or to locate any of the 19 courses, go to www.parks.ky.gov/golftrail.
You can tell summer is around the corner by those bright red, “I just ate my weight in strawberries while picking” smiles on kids across the Commonwealth. Lip hues change as the sun ripens blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Indeed, Kentucky has a slew of berry producers. Many offer U-pick.
A Bracken County native, Jody Stanley grew up on a 220-acre family farm, lived in northern Indiana for a number of years, and returned with her husband, Dewey, to the homestead as a fourth-generation owner in 2003. Three of her four grown children live on the farm, but the 3-1/2 acres of blueberry bushes are Mom and Dad’s babies.
While Jody was living in the Hoosier State, a neighbor invited her to go blueberry picking in Michigan.
“When I admitted that my only blueberry experience was Betty Crocker muffin mix with blueberries in a can, she politely told me those weren’t real blueberries,” says Jody. “When we began to pick, I popped one in my mouth and found out exactly what she meant. I picked 70 to 100 pounds every year. We’d eat them, freeze them, and share them with neighbors.”
Once back in Kentucky, she realized that, unlike Michigan’s farm after farm of berries, her home state had smaller, scattered blueberry farms and envisioned establishing U-pick bushes on her hilly property. Jody’s dream is now reality.
In addition, the Stanleys offer summertime school and group tours that give an overview of the blueberry operation. Berry plants are for sale, as are two value-added products, Blue Peach Salsa and Wild Berry Apple Butter.
If your mouth is still watering, head about 10 miles down the road to Germantown to gather blackberries for Blackberry Dumplings. That’s Bracken Berry Farm owner Rusty Monahon’s favorite berry recipe. His dad Ronnie, wife Sherry, and kids Ryan, 13, and Lyndsey, 8, all help tend their fourth-generation spread and harvest those luscious blackberries, as well as veggies and Bracken County honey to sell at seasonal farmers’ markets.
Of what was once his great-grandfather’s property, Monahon now owns 10 acres, one
of which is covered with bushes of “thornless” berries, available pre-picked or U-pick.
“We started the berries eight years ago at the suggestion of David Appleman, our county Extension agent,” says Monahon. “I remembered my grandparents picking wild blackberries and decided to go with those.
“It’s kind of surprising, but in northern Kentucky, blackberries outsell raspberries. I think it’s a cultural thing. People in this area are used to the wild ones. Besides, they’re so versatile. You can make wine or cobbler, or just serve them with ice cream.”
His family also sells to several oh-so-lucky area restaurants.
Check the farm’s Web site for a few of Sherry’s scrumptious recipes.
Larry and Jenny Martin of Bluegrass Blueberries in Edmonton “grow and ship thousands of blueberry bushes year-round,” offering more than 30 varieties. Larry is also the president of Kentucky Blueberry Growers Association (www.blueberrygrowers.com), which he and his wife formed. Selling the plants is the core of their business, but by virtue of having 7 acres of bushes, they also sell pre-picked or U-pick berries during the season. And they are always “happy to give advice or to just plain talk blueberries.”
What’s Ripe When
Kentucky’s average in-state harvest dates are:
Strawberries: May 17-June 15
Blueberries: June 15-July 30
Raspberries: June 20-July 3
Blackberries: (thorny) June 30-July 20 (thornless) July 15-August 15
Fall raspberries: August 1-August 15
SAMPLING OF AGRITOURISM U-PICKS
8080 Subtle Road, Edmonton, 42129
Purchase blueberry bushes for planting
Bracken Berry Farm
4020 Woodward Rd., Germantown 41044
Brackenridge Berry Farm
1090 Belmont Rd., Brooksville 41004
1396 Pinckard Pike, Versailles 40383
Strawberries, red and yellow raspberries, blackberries
Charles Neal’s Blackberries
1040 Hopewell Rd., Harrodsburg 40330
Semi-seedless and seeded blackberries
Dennison’s Roadside Market
5824 S. Jackson Hwy., Horse Cave 42749
1020 Vigo Rd., Shelbyville 40065
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, tayberries (a red raspberry-blackberry cross)
Spring Hollow Farms Herb Cottage and Berries
383 Happyville Rd., Greensburg 42723
Blueberries, red and black raspberries, blackberries
The Berry Farm
2966 Hudson Rd., Fulton 42041
Wilson’s Cedar Point Farm
66 Garfield Tarter Rd., Nancy 42544
For more information about other U-picks, go to the Kentucky Agritourism Web site at www.kentuckyfarmsarefun.com.
Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.