Fall has arrived and with it the best time of year to play. The best courses require a variety of deciduous trees to display autumn’s riotous blaze of color, as well as higher elevations to offer panoramic views of nature’s fleeting splendor.
Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain
Located 70 miles west of Knoxville, this splendid Jack Nicklaus-designed state park course, a fixture on the Tennessee Golf Trail, was extracted from a rocky site at 2,500 feet in the Appalachian highlands. The 6,900-yard layout, carved from a thick forest of oak, maple, and hickory on the nation’s largest timbered plateau, features a dramatic 300-foot elevation change.
French Lick Resort (Pete Dye)
French Lick, Ind.
Carved into a domed treeless site at nearly 1,000 feet above sea level, Pete Dye’s 8,102-yard Hoosier bruiser, site of the Senior PGA Championship in May and one of the Midwest’s most spectacular courses, is marked by rollicking fairways, undulating greens, and a vast array of bunkers. Panoramic 40-mile views across the rolling countryside take the sting out of high scores.
Golf Club at Equinox
Manchester Village, Vt.
The Green Mountain State’s breathtaking display of autumn beauty, in hues ranging from brilliant amber to deep crimson, is on full display from every green, tee, and fairway of this 6,431-yard, par-71 charmer built by Walter Travis in 1926 and updated by Rees Jones 20 years ago. Laid out in a valley walled in by bear-shouldered peaks, the club is located across the street from the historic Equinox Resort.
Linville Golf Club
Routed in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain in the state’s western limits near the Appalachians, this Donald Ross design (1924) is renowned for its slick turtleback greens, tight twisting fairways, and meandering Grandmother’s Creek, which comes into play at 10 holes. Not long on the card at 6,286 yards from the middle tees, but an inspiring test with dazzling views. Accessible to guests of Esseola Lodge.
Mohegan Sun Golf Course
Designed in 1960 by Geoffrey Cornish and originally known as Pautipaug Country Club, this rugged layout in southeastern Connecticut was acquired by nearby Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino several years ago and totally revamped. A hilly course framed by wooded ridges and certified by Audubon International, the well-groomed design is known for its tight doglegs, sloping greens, and 100 species of birds.
Meadows of Dan, Va.
Situated 13 miles from the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Primland’s piece de resistance is the Highland Course, a spectacular layout that crowns the top of a mountain at 3,000 feet. Several of the topsy-turvy, tree-lined holes skirt a deep gorge studded with massive rock pinnacles. From the Buzzard’s Roost lookout, golfers can savor unobstructed views of North Carolina’s rolling Piedmont.
Shattuck Golf Course
Carved from the granite foothills of Mt. Monadnock by Brian Silva, this very challenging layout is a stunner in the fall. Each hole is encased in a dense forest of oak and birch punctuated by bottle-green pines, with expansive wetlands providing their own color. Seemingly modest at 6,764 yards (par 71) from the tips, the Shattuck’s course rating and slope tell the story: 75.0/147.
Built by Robert Trent Jones II as a fair weather amenity for one of Maine’s top ski resorts, this majestic 7,130-yard layout provides the kind of scenery a skier might enjoy from the top of a trail: views across the Sunday River Valley to the Mahoosuc Range, Goose Eye Mountain, and Old Speck, the state’s third-highest peak. Blazing fall foliage in the surrounding hardwood forests creates a dazzling panorama.
Taconic Golf Club
The home club of Williams College, Taconic, situated in the state’s far northwest corner, offers breathtaking views of rounded peaks in the Berkshires and, on a clear day, larger mountains in southern Vermont. The layout’s short, narrow front nine, which dates to 1896, is reprised by a sturdier, more open back nine that ascends to higher ground, treating players to fantastic views of curved ridges ablaze with fall foliage.
Treetops Resort (Rick Smith Signature)
Threaded through rolling woodlands in the scenic Pigeon River valley in northwest Michigan, this superb lay-of-the-land course, built in 1993 by multi-talented swing guru Rick Smith, fully embraces its 300-acre parcel. Several of the holes tumble downhill to broad, sloping fairways framed by tall fescues, bracken fern, and a mixed hardwood forest that glows in the fall.