There are two Kentucky State Park Golf Courses on the east side of the state that would make for a terrific weekend golf getaway for guys, gals, or couples. Eagle Ridge at Yatesville Lake State Park and Hidden Cove Golf Course at Grayson Lake State Park will provide two exciting rounds of golf for just about anyone who plays them.
My advice is to play your first round at Hidden Cove. It’s located in Olive Hill, KY, and has won numerous awards over the year including a rating of #4 Best New Affordable Public Courses by Golf Digest in 2004 and a 6th place in KY ranking by the same magazine in 2006. The course offers some good elevation changes and generous Bermuda grass fairways. The Bentgrass greens are incredible and are surrounded by challenging bunkers.
Number 8 is the course’s #1 handicap hole. It’s a 394-yard par 4 that plays nearly completely uphill. A good drive will still leave a long approach shot into a small, well-undulated green with very little trouble around it. A par on this hole is something to be celebrated!
Eagle Ridge, the 18-hole championship golf course at Yatesville Lake State Park in Louisa, KY, is one of the most challenging state park golf courses I have ever played. The course was designed by renowned golf course architects Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest who incorporated the rugged beauty of the region to create a one-of-a-kind golf masterpiece. The ball sits up beautifully on the well-manicured Bermuda fairways and the immaculate Bentgrass greens roll true with a lot of subtle undulations.
The tee-to-green elevation changes are significant with the 14th hole being a prime example. According to the scorecard, the hole plays 300 yards from Tee 2. When checked with a rangefinder, it plays about 250 yards, straight downhill with trees on either side. It’s drivable, even for us short knockers! Before your round, be sure to pick up a “tip sheet” in the pro shop that is filled with valuable information on how to play each hole. I’m not one to follow the crowd, but it really proved to be a valuable, stroke-saving asset.
The Lodge at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Greenup, KY is a great place to bed down for a couple of nights. The Jesse Stuart Lodge has comfortable rooms at a reasonable rate and the Angler’s Cove restaurant has good food as well.
Two other Kentucky State Park courses that are close enough to make a quick, two-day trip are Wasioto Winds Golf Course at Pine Mountain State Resort Park and General Burnside Island Golf Course in Burnside Kentucky. The courses are less than two hours apart. Include a stay at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park and your drive to each course is about an hour.
At Wasioto Winds, the front nine is a lot tighter and requires several target golf shots. It’s especially challenging if you’ve never played the course before. There is a lot of roll and undulation in many of the fairways and several greens too. Over the first several holes, you get the idea that most of the trouble is on the left side. The water short of the green on the left on the first hole is reachable off the tee and the creek all down the left side on the second hole will help you keep the ball right. The 5th hole is a short par 5 – 434 yards from Tee 2 – but requires accuracy off the tee with water and wetlands on either side and an accurate layup shot into a narrow fairway with water left and the mountain on the right. Two good shots will leave a short pitch shot into a green that slopes right to left towards the water.
The back nine is more open and considerably longer than the front – over 400 yards from Tee 2. A lot of the difference in distance is made up on the par 5s, which both play in excess of 500 yards. Wasioto Winds Golf Club offers some beautiful views from the elevated 12th tee box and the front tees of the 13th hole. The front nine is also a little different in that there are three par 5s, 3 par 4s, and 3 par threes.
At General Burnside Island State Park, the golf course is located on an island surrounded by Lake Cumberland in Somerset, KY. Brian Ault, who designed two other Kentucky State Park golf courses – Dale Hollow and Hidden Cove – also designed this spectacular waterfront layout. General Burnside Island Golf Course was recognized by Kentucky Living Magazine in 2016 with a First Place Award for golf courses.
Although the course is situated on an island, the water that surrounds it does not come into play, although it does make for some amazing views! Three of the par 3s are worth mentioning. From Tee 2, the 5th hole plays 185 yards into an offset green with sand in the front right. The 14th hole is one of the signature holes; it plays 172, straight downhill into a tear-shaped green with a bunker front right. The only true water hazard on the course is the pond on the par 3, 16th hole. It plays 172 yards from Tee 2, slightly downhill with water and a beautiful rock wall to the right of the green.
Because the course is landlocked, it’s comparatively short with only one par 4 in excess of 400 yards from the back tees, so longball hitters may be inclined to try and drive a few of the greens. Head Golf Professional Steve Lutz has some profound putting advice; “Because the course is located on an island, all putts break towards the water!”
All four of these courses are currently undergoing bunker renovations and are in the process of switching over to “Better Billy Bunker,” the best-draining bunker system in the golf industry. It may take a while for the installation to be complete but it’s well worth the wait.
For golfers that plan on playing multiple rounds of golf over the year at the Kentucky State Parks, you may want to consider purchasing a Trail Card which gives you access to many courses across the state within the Nation’s Finest Park System. A lot of these courses have been recognized nationally by Golf Digest. The Trail Card can be purchased at any of the Kentucky State Park courses. For more information, visit them online at www.parks.ky.gov and click on the GOLF tab at the top of the page.