Perhaps singer Jesse Winchester, an American ex-pat who lived in Montreal for many years, said it best in his 1970 composition, Yankee Lady.
“I lived with the decent folks
In the hills of old Vermont
Where what you do all day
Depends on what you want”
Now the world at large is a much different place 42 years later but that is often true more outside of Vermont than inside. The Green Mountain State has possibly changed the least in that time due, in part, to the state government taking control of real estate development in the very same year and the resident’s desire to just keep it the way it is.
The mellow, laid back lifestyle still exists in the sparsely populated state where visitors are treated to clean air, rushing streams, fertile farm valleys, soaring mountains and a slow paced existence.
Vermont is known for its maple syrup, cheddar cheese, Holstein cows and winter sports but it is most famous for its colorful display known as fall foliage season. This glorious time of year attracts visitors from all over the world to witness nature’s spectacular multihued extravaganza.
Again, Winchester captured the essence in a few short words:
“An autumn walk on a country road
And a million flaming trees”
Foliage season in Vermont runs from mid- September to late October north to south and perhaps the best way to witness the fall colors and breathe the crisp fall air is to tee it up at some of the great golf resorts Vermont has to offer.
The best place to start your Vermont visit is Burlington, on the shores of Lake Champlain. It has direct highway access from Quebec and an international airport. It is also a hoppin’ and boppin’ college town with a thriving downtown full of shops, restaurants and brew pubs.
Visitors to Burlington can play one the state’s best, the private Vermont National Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus design, by taking accommodations at The Essex Resort & Spa, Sheraton Burlington, Burlington Harbor Marriott or Green Mountain Suites. The brawny layout, built on a former dairy farm will test your game especially when the winds blow off the lake.
Twenty five miles east of Burlington off I-89 is Stowe, as close to a European alpine resort area as there is in Vermont. In fact, the von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame settled in the area after World War II and still operates the Trapp Family Lodge on a 2,400 acre hilltop.
The Stowe Mountain Resort which runs the ski area on Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak, offers two distinct golf experiences. The Stowe Country Club, is a very playable 1960’s era William Mitchell design located in the village while the Stowe Mountain Golf Club, a 2007 Bob Cupp design, is a spectacular mountain layout with jaw dropping views rising and falling off of Spruce Peak, the sister mountain to Mount Mansfield. The luxurious Spruce Peak Lodge offers stay and play options.
Further north up Route 100 is the Jay Peak Resort. Long known as a winter destination for the hardcore skier reveling in its 400 inch annual snowfall and offering barebones amenities, Jay Peak has been transformed into a true four season resort under the ownership of the Stenger family.
They have added a new hotel, condos, a waterpark, and an indoor ice arena but the centerpiece is the Jay Peak Golf Course. Designed by Montrealer and four time Canadian Senior Amateur champion, Graham Cooke, Jay Peak takes full advantage of the natural landscapes rolling topography, giant maples and rushing streams to create a challenge and a visual delight for any golfer.
If you parlez vous Francaise, then you will be very comfortable at Jay Peak which is fully bi-lingual. In fact most of the chatter at the 19th hole is in French.
A bit south of I-89 is another giant ski area, Sugarbush, that features some great golf at the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed Sugarbush Golf Club, a par 71 beauty of a mountain course. Located in the heart of the Mad River Valley, Sugarbush has all sorts of stay-and-play packages and many off course activities.
In the central part of Vermont a must play is Green Mountain National Golf Club in the resort town of Killington. The Gene Bates designed GMNGC is town owned but you would never think of it as a municipal course. It is regularly included in national golf magazines ratings for best in the state.
Down off the eastern slope of the Green Mountains into the Ottaquechee River Valley is the classic New England village of Woodstock. At the heart of Woodstock is the Woodstock Inn and Resort. With 142 superbly appointed guest rooms The Woodstock Inn is quintessential Vermont charm.
The Woodstock Inn and Resort Golf Club offers a 6,000 yard, par 70 Trent Jones design that plays around and over the rushing Kedron Brook. Hurricane Irene did a number on the golf course in August of 2011 but it is up and running better than ever now. Guests can also access the private 36 hole Quechee Club. The Lakeland and Highland courses are classic Geoffrey Cornish gems. Cornish was a native of Manitoba who got his start working for Stanley Thompson at Capilano in Vancouver and Highland Links in Cape Breton. Nine holes on the Lakeland are under renovation after the ravages of Irene but the other 27 are good to go.
The Equinox, a AAA Five Diamond resort has been receiving visitors since 1769, prior to the United States independence from Britain. Today it has been updated and modernized but has not lost its old world appeal.
The 6,423 yard, par 71 Golf Club at Equinox was originally designed by Walter Travis in the 1920’s and was renovated by Rees Jones in 1992. The Equinox is a wonderfully romantic destination and the golf course is great for couples.
Stratton Mountain Resort is up in the Green Mountains and offers activities all year for the entire family. The ski mountain is one of the most popular in the state and the golf is just superb. Offering 27 holes of Cornish designed golf, Stratton is a classy and relaxing place to be during Vermont’s amazing fall foliage season.
By: Wayne Mills