Mink Meadows Golf Course on Martha’s Vineyard is a Gem!

If you ask most people how many golf courses are on Martha’s Vineyard I think they would say one. And if they could name that course, it would most likely be “Farm Neck” because Presidents of the United States (Obama and Clinton) have played Farm Neck while vacationing on the vineyard.

There are, in fact, four golf courses on Martha’s Vineyard. They are: Farm Neck Golf Course (semi-private), Vineyard Golf Club (private), Edgartown Golf Course (Private), and Mink Meadows (semi-private).

I played Farm Neck last fall and it was a beautiful 18-hole golf course. It was what one would expect from an ocean course —  a challenging course with beautiful views of the ocean, windy on the ocean holes, relief from the wind on inward holes that are tree lined. The course had its fair share of water hazards and bunkers. The post-round 19th hole atmosphere is great with a wonderful bar and restaurant. If you are vacationing on the vineyard and love golf you must play Farm Neck.

So you may be thinking, isn’t this a course review of Mink Meadows? Yes, it is but I wanted to give a comparison with the more well-known course on the island.  So how is Mink Meadows like Farm Neck? Mink Meadows and Farm Neck are both semi-private and the courses are both in beautiful condition and fun to play but that is where the similarity ends.

Mink Meadow is a 9-hole course with two sets of tees (or alternate tees for a back nine that allows you to play a full 18-hole round). There are no water hazards at Mink Meadows and only one ocean view (but it is a beautiful view).

8th Hole Mink Meadlow

View of the Ocean from the green on hole eight at Mink Meadows

Don’t let the 9-hole setup and no water hazards on this course lull you into a state of ease. It is a challenging course! It can be very windy too! If you drive the ball straight you will have an advantage because the fairways are lined with trees or wispy grass. However, if you do find yourself off the fairway, the grass is not too tall (at least not in June) so you could actually find your ball. The bunkers are strategically place and make you think off the tee. The greens are particularly interesting and even a perfect shot will roll off the green if you don’t know the slope. If you have the pleasure of playing with a member, you can soak up local knowledge about the best approach shots/landing spot on the greens when you play the front nine. And then you have that knowledge for the back nine. Or make sure to ask the Golf Pro for a few tips before you tee off. One tip – on the 9th/18th hole everything rolls right (towards the ocean even though you don’t see the ocean).

The first nine holes are perfect for anyone! Expert golfers will enjoy the challenging greens and beginner/intermediate golfers won’t feel overwhelmed because it is a bit shorter than the back nine. And when you play the alternate tees on the back nine you really do feel like you are playing a different set of holes. It was really amazing to me how different the holes felt off the tees. I played two rounds of nine and two rounds of 18 and enjoyed the course more and more each time.

The atmosphere is another plus! It is relaxed and everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. There is a nice practice range at Mink Meadow but there is a distance limit (165 yards) so if you hit your driver a long way, you won’t be using a driver on the practice range.The pro shop has a nice collection of clothing and snacks (for the turn) but there is not a fancy bar or restaurant. Mink Meadows does have a nice porch so you and your friends could buy a soda and snack in the pro shop and sit outside on the porch, rehash your round or watch the golfers on the 9th hole.

So let’s talk fees. The green fee for 18-holes at Farm Neck (in season, between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.) is $170 (includes cart and range balls). The green fee for 18-holes at Mink Meadow is $100; with “a la carte” fees for cart $18 and small bucket of balls $4.

My recommendation: If you are looking for value (a great course and price), play Mink Meadows. You will have a great time. And if you want a 19th hole “experience” — drive over to Farm Neck after your round and use the bucks you saved on green fees to paid for your meal.

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Golf in the Catskills

There is nothing better than meeting friends for a long weekend of golf. As I drove up Route 23 west, to meet my friends in the Catskills, it was raining and I wondered what the weather would hold for us over the next three days. Later that night a beautiful rainbow illuminated the mountain.

Rainbow in Windham NYI saw the rainbow as a good sign because the first course we were playing was the Rainbow Golf Club in Greenville, New York. The other courses we played were Colonial Country Club in Tannerville, New York and Windham Country Club in Windham New York.  One thing is for sure, the golf courses in the Catskills provide beautiful views of the spectacular mountain landscape.

My friends, who are great planners, emailed me a list of golf courses before our trip. I was the one that suggested we play the Rainbow Golf Club because the website had a photo of a beautiful island green. Well, it did have an island green but it certainly was not like the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. The Rainbow Club island green looked beautiful on the website but in reality the water surrounding the hole was cloudy and full of algae (or some green vegetation). Even though the hole was visually disappointing it was still an island green. I am happy to report we all made it over the water. Overall, the Rainbow course was fun and very reasonable in price ($35 w/cart). However, if I rank the courses we played, for me, I would put Rainbow in third place.

Colonial was a 9-hole course. As my friend described it, the course had “lots of moguls” (which seems fitting given the Catskills is famous for ski resorts.) My favorite hole was the 6th, par 3, 134 yards.  It was just a fun hole because it was an elevated tee (and I love elevated tees). We played the hole around six p.m. so it was very beautiful in the gloaming. I would rank Colonial second because of the beautiful views. I really didn’t mind the uneven lies in the fairway (probably because I wasn’t playing that well anyway so I wasn’t concerned about my score.)

6th Hole, Par 3, Colonial

6th Hole, Par 3, Colonial

The Windham Golf Club was the final course of the weekend. The course was a short drive from the Albergo Allegria Bed and Breakfast were we stayed for the weekend. If you go to the Catskills, I highly recommend you stay in Windham.

It was a beautiful day for golf and it was very exciting when we were told the owner of the course recently spend 2 million on improvements. It was a great course for women because if you were striking the ball well you could reach the greens in regulation. That is not always true with a lot of modern courses which can be very long for women. There was only one hole that was strangely long. The 8th hole was a 163 yard par 3 and given that the average women hits her driver in the air 150 yards, it seemed unfair to most women.

The big negative for the Windham was that the course had no signs. Yes, no signs. A well marked course is important to the enjoyment of the game from many reasons, including keeping players moving along because they know where to go and what yardage to play.  And with a course, like Windham, that is in a tourist town it seemed very odd for the course not to have signs. The young man in the Pro shop said the signs were coming but a groundsmen on a tractor told us the “owner doesn’t like the look of signs so he doubts there will ever be signs installed.” We managed to get around fairly well. Also, I guess we were just lucky that various grounds crew were working near by when we had a question on a hole location. The course was in great condition but they really do need to add signs to the holes.

My biggest pet peeve is slow play. My friends and I may be women but we play fast.  At the Windham course we were to tee off before a foursome of men but the scorecards they gave us did not have ladies yardage so one of my friends had to go back to the pro shop (it was the first time I have ever seen a separate scorecard for women).

To make a long story short the men went off the first tee while my friend got scorecards.  We did not mind because they said they played the course all the time. We thought “great, we can follow them since the course has no signs.” By the third hole were we so frustrated because the group in front was painfully slow. We were hitting to within 100 yards of the green and just watching them.  By the fourth hole they asked if we want to play through because “we were only three players.” We gratefully accepted. I am so glad we played through. By the 12th hole, they were two holes behind us. We were enjoying our lunch in the pub room when we saw the group behind us on the 18th green (40 minutes after we finished our round.)  The folks behind them must have been going crazy. If we were behind them the whole time, I might have actually stopped playing and asked for my money back at the pro shop. Here are my questions. Where was the ranger? Why were they allowed to fall so far behind our group? Yes, we played fast but still the group should have not fallen so far behind us. They were certainly playing much longer than what is acceptable for each hole. Anyway, I am thankful we played fast and enjoyed the final round of our golf weekend.

The courses we played would not be considered high-end. All were priced reasonably.  The only time I felt the price of something was too high was Mulligan’s Pub at the Windham country club. A burger was $12 (other burgers were $14 and some entrees went as high as $23.99) and they did not provide free refills on soda or ice tea. My guess, the owner has to recoup the $2 million in improvements somewhere. The food was good but skip the pub and go in town for lunch.

Even with “no signs” and an expensive food, I would rank the Windham course as the top course we played. It gets the top spot because of the fairness of the course for women, the great condition of the course, and the beautiful mountain views. However, if I had been behind the slow group for 18 holes, it might have been the down fall of the course. I hope they add signs and rangers to make sure pace of play does not impact the experience of golfers visiting Windham Country Club.

Perhaps there were other courses in the area that might be more high-end but high-end does not equate to fun. Playing with your best friends on a beautiful day on a course that is challenging but fair is what makes golf fun!

Next stop, North Carolina. Come back to my blog at the end of June to find out where I played!

La Cantera Glof Club, Resort Course – Long for the Ladies

San Antonio, Texas in April. I thought, how lucky can I be to get to go on a business trip (with golf) in April. I packed my bags and left behind the long cold winter of 2014 on the east coast. When I landed in San Antonio, Texas it was in the 50’s — what? The weather channel said mid-70’s to 80’s was normal. I was confident the next day would be better.  Boy, I was wrong. Cold and rainy for the first day of golf on the Palmer Course.

View of Palmer Course Club House from the 1st Hole Tee box.

View of Palmer Course club house and 18th hole from the 1st hole tee box

The starter said the Palmer Course was a hard course but my playing partners and I all felt it wasn’t bad considering it was rainy and cold. We played better than anticipated given it was the first round of the season. At the end of the day, we didn’t have a drink at the 19th hole to talk about how much fun we had during our round of golf. Nope. All anyone wanted to do was go back to their own hotel room and take a hot shower to try and warm their bones.

A few days later it was a bit warmer and The Resort Course, at La Cantera was the site of a 2-person scramble. By now I had a “wicked bad” (for all my New England friends) cold with a fever and sore throat. The morning was still cold by was sunny; and everyone said it would warm-up.

Again, the starter said The Resort Course was a hard course. The PGA Tour played the Texas Open on the Resort Course from 1995 to 2009. At the turn, there are stones engraved with winner’s names from the tournament.

At the Turn, there are a number of large rocks with the winners from the Texas Open

At the turn, Texas Open winner’s name on every large rock – Justin Leonard from 2000

All the women that I played with felt the course was very long for us (even from the forward tees) but it was also a very windy day and a lot of times we were hitting into the wind. I am not the longest hitter off the tee but my second shots and short game fit nicely with my partner, who did hit it long of the tee.

I love the internet today because you can see a whole course, hole by hole. The Resort Course has a good 360 view. There are two holes that I had memorable shots on — Number 5 and number 12. Hole 5 is a 432 Par 5 with a dogleg to the right for the approach shot (or over the trees to the green). My partner said she did not have “the shot in her bag to go over the trees” but I felt I could do it. My pro had shown me how to do that shot last summer. Well, I am proud to say I did it! I grabbed my 4 hybrid, put the ball slightly forward in my stance, a slight forward press in my hands and my swing thought was to swing down on the ball. I watched my ball sail over the trees. When we got to the green (130 yards away) there was my ball. All golfers know it takes just one great shot during a so/so or bad round that makes a golfer want to keep playing. That was the shot of the day for me. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo!

The other fun shot was on the 12th hole, a par 288 yard par 4. The approach shot onto the green is over a hazard. I think the course designer wanted a visual that would intimidate golfers (you know, get in your head — “ugh, I have to carry that stuff?”) Below is the view of the shot I had to make it onto the green. The flag is hard to see but sits just to the right of the trees in front of the bunker on the left.

La Cantera Resort Course, Hole 12,

La Cantera Resort Course, Hole 12, Par 4 – Approach Shot

All my playing partners missed the green (short and in the junk). It really surprised me because they all had great shots until this approach shot. I hit my ball onto the green and was very happy. My partner said that I was “smart” because I went for the shorter distance over the junk by going for the middle-right side of the green. They all went for the flag. Another shot that made me feel good about my game. That’s the trick, think only about your good shots.

We had a fun time and to my surprise my team came in 2nd place in the 2-person scramble, high handicap flight. Did I forget to mention I am a high handicap. It is hard to be a low handicap when you can’t drive the hole in regulation (but I am working on my length.) I learned something about my game in that scramble. I may be a high handicap but I am a great scramble partner because I have a good short game and sometimes hit great approach shots.

The bottom line — La Canter Resort is beautiful, the courses are hard but not so hard that you shouldn’t give them a try if you are in San Antonio.  The yardage on the scorecard is deceiving because the front tees seem to be reasonable.  But what makes it long for ladies is the wind and some of the carries. My only advice – just don’t get my luck and have the weather be cold and rainy because you might come away with another experience — a “wicked bad” cold.