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Great golf a safe bet at many casino courses

Chances to see a timber wolf, admire towering mountains and enjoy a green oasis in the desert can all occur at various casinos’ golf courses. With the plentiful cash coming in from nearby gamers, casinos can often afford to keep up their adjacent golf courses like public courses might not be able to do. The result is award-winning courses with fantastic landscapes for those who want the indoor excitement of a casino and the outside peace of great golf.

Fort McDowell Casino’s We-Ko-Pa
Golf Club
Fort McDowell, New Mexico

In the middle of the desolate Sonoran Desert, the bright green grass of the Fort McDowell Casino and Hotel’s We-Ko-Pa Golf Club defies its dry environment with two 18-hole courses ranked among the nation’s top 50 by Golf Magazine.

The courses follow a path along the natural contours of land free from residential and commercial use, lending dramatic views of the surrounding far-reaching desert and mountains.

Because the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation owns the surrounding land, the course does not show out-of-bounds stakes; only bunkers and the desert itself challenge errant shots. Both courses rent Speedcarts for those wanting aid with clubs while walking the course.

To get out of the desert sun, the Fort McDowell Casino holds monthly promotional tournaments, weekend entertainment and a range of casino games, such as live keno, live bingo, table games and 775 slot machines.

Visitors can book a room in the 250-room Native American-themed hotel minutes from Scottsdale and enjoy Fort McDowell’s heated outdoor pool, the Amethyst Day Spa, trail rides and a rocky ride through the desert sand on the Yavapai  Jeep Tour Experience.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel’s Sequoyah National Golf Course
Cherokee, North Carolina

Rising in the background, Clingmans Dome and the Snowbird Mountain range make it hard for golfers to concentrate on their next shot with such a dramatic view at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel’s new Sequoyah National Golf Club. The 18-hole course opened in September.

“The course overlooks the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so the scenery is beautiful,” said Allyson Freedland, public relations associate for the casino. “Since the park is right there, you’ve got biking, fishing, tubing and all kinds of outdoor recreation available. The Smoky Mountains is a great destination, and in conjunction with Harrah’s, you’ve got it all.”

The course’s clubhouse sits atop a hill for panoramic views of the surroundings, which are popular for bird watching. All guests at Harrah’s Cherokee can play a round at the Sequoyah with privileged access.

But the golf course is not the only project on which Harrah’s Cherokee has been working. A $633 million expansion will make the 37-acre property a huge entertainment destination with a 533-room third hotel tower, a 150,000-square-foot gaming floor and a variety of new restaurants and retail outlets by 2012.

Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel’s Circling Raven Golf Club
Worley, Idaho

With unexpected guests like moose and elk occasionally popping into view, players at Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel’s Circling Raven golf course can regularly count on visually stimulating views of untouched wilderness in northwest Idaho. The 640-acre course paints a stunning picture framed with mountains and lined with wetlands, grasslands and woodlands.

Since 2004, the 18-hole Circling Raven has presented challenging golf along with carts, global positioning system (GPS) service and use of the 25-acre practice facility included in the price.

Visitors can glimpse birches, poplars and pines from all over the resort, including the 202-room hotel and the clubhouse’s Twisted Earth Grill.

What started as a small bingo operation by the Coeur d’Alene tribe has undergone six expansions to end up with more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and one of the top-ranked golf courses in the nation. More than 1,600 video gaming machines, table games, bingo and off-track betting stands give gamers many opportunities to wager, and the hotel amenities — the pool, the Jacuzzi and the spa — offer other leisurely entertainment and relaxation.

Pearl River Resort’s Dancing Rabbit
Choctaw, Mississippi

Guests can take their pick of two golf courses at the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, as well as which casino will be luckiest for them, at Pearl River Resort’s Silver Star Hotel and Casino, and Golden Moon Hotel and Casino. The well-manicured look reminiscent of a Southern plantation translates wonderfully into a golf course, with the Azaleas course and the Oaks course surrounded with blooming flowers, azaleas, towering oaks and dogwoods.

The 36-hole facility runs through a meandering stream known as “the creek where rabbits dance” by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who own the resort. Major golf and travel publications have long recognized the artistic quality of the courses, with their expansive bunkers and five different sets of tees to accommodate every level of play.

“The reputation of Dancing Rabbit is such that it is a hard-to-beat, word-of-mouth message that attracts thousands of guests who not only love golf but also all the attractions of our two hotel casinos,” said Miko Beasley Denson, chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. “We take pride in providing our guests with the finest possible gaming and recreational experiences.”

The two casinos offer 118 table games, more than 1,000 hotel rooms and 13 distinctive restaurants.

Fortune Bay Resort Casino’s Wilderness of Fortune Bay Course
Tower, Minnesota

Playing golf surrounded by high granite ridges, evergreen forests and wildlife such as timber wolves, porcupines and white-tailed deer proves you can experience true wilderness within walking distance of a modern casino.

The Fortune Bay Golf Course at Fortune Bay Resort Casino has kept its remote feel by working with the picturesque scenery on the shores of Lake Vermillion and its exposed rock ledges to create an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary course.

“From the first year we were open, we were recognized in major golf publications like Golf Week, Golf Digest and other top-ranking magazines throughout the country,” said Tom Beaudry, general manager of the course. “We’ve seen bear, deer, moose and timber wolves on the course before. It’s very majestic.”

The 18-hole course features a GPS system, split-fairway risk-and-reward options and deep-pot bunkers for added challenges. The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, who built the course in 2004, continue the Northern lodge theme inside the casino with a rock fireplace, a stuffed moose head and other rustic details.

Guests can enjoy the Minnesota North Woods before or after trying the casino’s 750 slots, blackjack tables, poker tables and bingo offerings. Live entertainment, four dining options and the Heritage Museum about the Boise Forte tribe ensure plenty of activities despite the secluded setting.