Golfers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky need to look no further than their state park system when looking for challenging and affordable golf opportunities. There are three state parks in the southwestern part of the state that could be packaged together as part of a Kentucky State Parks golf outing. Each of these parks has a bevy of lodging and dining options as well as plenty of things to do for the entire family.
Lake Barkley State Resort Park Golf Course in Cadiz, Kentucky is not a course you will find by accident but once you get there you’ll be glad you made the trip. Located in an area referred to as the Land Between the Lakes, the Lake Barkley Lodge is in a class all its own. Designed by Edward Durell Stone, the lodge is constructed from Western Cedar, Douglas Fir, and over 3 and a half acres of glass. For those wanting more space, there are 13 cottages available.
Lake Barkley State Resort Park is home to an 18-hole championship golf course named after Boots Randolph, the great saxophone legend from Paducah, KY. The Boots Randolph Golf Course was designed by Larry Packard and recently underwent a complete greens renovation, the first course renovation in more than 20 years. The course plays along the valley floor and as a result, it’s relatively flat with no blind shots. Most of the fairways are tree-lined, but not with dense strands of trees. You’ll most likely find your ball but will most likely have to maneuver around a tree. There’s a creek that meanders throughout the property and comes into play on about 9 holes, sometimes more than once. The greens are well bunkered and are the most memorable aspect of the course. They all have a lot of undulation and a considerable amount of slope, many have multiple tiers and all are fast.
Number 18 is one of the most challenging holes on the course; if I were to name it, I’d call it “Twice Across the Creek.” You’ll need to hit across it with your tee shot, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you hit it over 260 yards or push it right. The creek crosses the fairway a second time just inside the 150 marker and the green is slightly elevated and well protected. At 395 yards from Tee 2, it takes two well-struck shots. Par is a good score here.
The Kentucky Dam Village Golf Course was designed by Perry Maxwell whose other designs include Southern Hills C.C. in Tulsa, OK, and Colonial C.C. in Fort Worth, TX – home to golf legend Ben Hogan. KDV is full of rolling hills, lush fairways, and well-undulated greens. There are several blind tee shots and a couple of blind approaches if you’re not in the proper position for such a shot. All 18 greens are elevated – some requiring at least one extra club.
There are several memorable holes at KDV but none more so than the stretch from Number 7 to 10. Seven is a 130-yard par 3 over the only water on the course. The hole plays significantly downhill and is easily the most photographed on the course. Number 8 is a short 447-yard par 5 with a blind tee shot and a green that can be reached in two with back-to-back good shots. Number 9 is a 287-yard risk/reward par 4 with a very large tree on the right side that needs to be carried if you’re going for the green. The hole is best played with a hybrid or long iron short of the trap on the left and then an uphill pitch shot into the green. Number 10 is probably the most challenging hole on the golf course. It’s the longest par 4 on the course, playing 436 yards from an elevated tee box. A good drive will still require a long second shot uphill into an elevated green. Par is a good score here.
Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park offers several lodging opportunities. You can stay in the 72-room Village Inn Lodge or one of 61 cottages. For larger groups, there’s the 14-room Village Green Inn, located next to the golf course. This 3-diamond resort also offers camping, boating, dining, and 1700 acres of breathtaking recreational opportunities.
Ask anyone familiar with the golf courses at the Kentucky State Parks and they will tell you that the best is a toss-up between Kentucky Dam Village and Dale Hollow. As a first time player of the Kentucky State Park golf courses, I submit that Mineral Mound be added to the mix.
The Mineral Mound Golf Course is located within Mineral Mound State Park. Several holes play along the shores of Lake Barkley in Lyon County, Kentucky. Mineral Mound is named after the mansion of Willis B. Machen, which formerly stood on the property. The course opened in 2003 and was designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry and in 2009, Mineral Mound was ranked by Golf Digest Magazine #5 as the “Best Courses You Can Play.”
At 6,521 yards from the back tees, the length is not going to overpower anyone, however, a course rating of 72.7 and a slope of 130 are telltale signs that the course is no pushover. Tee 2 at 5,964 yards and a slope of 125 will give most golfers all they can handle. Mineral Mound Golf Course may be best played without a driver. Park Manager, Chris Cary, agrees: “Long off the tee can get you in a lot of trouble; you need to leave it in the bag on many of the holes.” Elevation changes and beautiful vistas are as commonplace as the deer you will see during your round. Stand on the green and look back up the fairway you just played; odds are you’ll see a deer or two! Views of Lake Barkley dot the landscape as you make your way around the front side, giving way to beautifully forested holes on the back.
Number 13 is truly a memorable hole, a 3-shot par 5 that I would name “Uphill Climb.” The hole plays 510 yards and starts from an elevated tee box and goes up from there with a narrow landing area. Things don’t get any easier on your layup shot and BTW you still can’t see the green.
Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park has a special course; it’s not located anywhere near the other three courses but if you’re an avid golfer, it’s worth a visit. From the back tees, Dale Hollow plays 7,023 yards with a course rating of 72.9 and a slope of 126, so it’s considerably longer than the others. Like Mineral Mound there’s a considerable amount of elevation change and if you catch the course at the right time in the fall, the views are second to none. I found that Tee 3 at 6,021 yards (69.1/128) provided a great test of golf.
The key to Dale Hollow is to hit the ball so that you can see it when it lands. Missing the fairway or trying to cut corners can result in lost balls or at least a long look in the woods. There isn’t a lot of water on the course – it only comes into play on two holes and once you get out on the course. You’re not going to see a lot of other players except maybe the group in front of you occasionally. A couple of bunkers – on #1 and #12 – are under construction as new Billy Bunkering is installed. When I found them, the Zoysia fairways were like hitting off of carpet and the greens held well and a lot of undulation to them.
Dale Hollow has several memorable holes so I deferred to Head Golf Professional Ron Roberts who is retiring on November 1st. Although Number 14 is a dramatic looking hole – you can see it while waiting to tee off on Number 1 – Ron’s favorite is the par 3, 15th. From Tee 3, the hole plays 160 yards and is all carry over a valley from which there is no recovering a lost ball. The green is a lot wider than it is deep but what makes the hole is all of the stonework in front of the green which Ron says was trucked in to create the look of the hole. It’s as beautiful as it is challenging.
This is just one of the thirteen golf courses that are part of the Kentucky State Parks. They are all beautiful, well maintained, and staffed by friendly, knowledgeable staff. Most offer overnight accommodations as well as restaurants that serve great food in abundant portions.