Kentucky often evokes images of fast horses, natural beauty and sipping mint juleps under the shade of an old oak; but golf, maybe not so much. Visitors to the Lexington area are often surprised by the many quality golf courses in and around the “Horse Capital of the World.” They’re even more pleasantly surprised at their affordability.
I’m a lifelong resident of Kentucky and my appreciation for many local courses just continues to grow with the passage of time. Here are a few of my favorites.
Kearney Hill Golf Links, just north of Lexington, remains my favorite layout in the Bluegrass and happens to be the oldest of the courses listed here. With few trees, large greens and a relatively flat landscape, this Pete Dye beauty is a nice homage to Scottish links style golf. Though it stretches out to over 7000 yards at the tips, the tee layouts are the best I’ve seen allowing for as challenging a round or a fun day on the course with your buddies. It’s also a muni so it won’t burn a hole in your wallet and it’s well taken care of. If you can only play one while you’re in town, make it this one. www.lexingtonky.gov/golf
A few miles east of Lexington on Interstate 64 is Mount Sterling and Aussie Golfer Graham Marsh’s first stateside golf design. This visual stunner is almost the polar opposite of Kearney Hill’s gently rolling layout as Marsh let the drastic elevation changes of the property dictate the flow of the holes. The placement of some tee boxes high above fairways and greens coupled with some some flattish holes makes for an exciting day of golf. Marsh didn’t skimp on the sand either with plenty of bunkers to define bothe fairways and greens. Worth the drive from Lexington. www.oldsilo.com
Houston Oaks, in Paris, is also a short drive from Lexington and the drive along the very scenic Paris Pike is worth the trip. The course, designed by Jack Ridge, is for the most part a bombers paradise with a few tighter holes here and there. As is the case with just about all the courses in the Bluegrass, this former horse farm is very easy on the eyes too. This mostly forgiving layout is a great place to work on your driving skills and great tee placements let you select the difficulty of a round. www.houstonoaksgc.com
Another Pete Dye layout a little south of Lexington, Peninsula Golf Resort is way off the main drag and caters to group gatherings with stay and play villas. Perched high on a bluff over Lake Harrington, wind can sometimes be a factor but this open layout has a lot of forgiveness and quite a few shortish par fours to break up some of the more difficult holes. This is a great place to get away from it all with a bunch of friends or a nice quiet round by yourself and everything in between. www.peninsulagolf.com
Man’O’War Golf Center is one of the best practice facilities to be found anywhere but the real kicker is, it’s just about a half mile from Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport. A great place to hang out before or after your flight.