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Marriott Resort - Griffin Gate

Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa

By Art Stricklin

This Bluegrass outpost in the Commonwealth of Kentucky has always been the home of champions, both the four-legged variety at nearby Kenneland Race Park, and the two-legged kind at the home of the powerhouse Kentucky men's basketball team.

But some recent renovations at local favorite golf course, Griffin Gate, have added some championship golf to the full travel and sports menu in Lexington.

Griffin Gate Golf Club, part of the popular Griffin Gate Marriott and Spa Resort, near the Gateway to Horse County, recently called on Rees Jones, the son of original architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr., to execute a million-dollar bunker and course renovation program, lifting the golfing options here on par with other local sport and travel offerings.

"It's been a rewarding expense upgrading Griffin Gate," said Jones, known as the Open Doctor, for his major championship work nationwide. "The Rees Jones team and Marriott golf has brought this golf course into the 21st Century."

Griffin Gate was opened in 1981 and has matured into one of the most popular resort courses in the area, with plenty of water on the front nine and parts of the back along with dozens of mature hardwoods on the back with chances for glory or perhaps gory on almost every hole on the par 72 layout.

What Jones and his team did was install the acclaimed Better Billy Bunker method to all of the bunkers which were also replaced, reshaped or reduced to fit the modern players' game at Griffin Gate. As a result, the total square footage of bunkers was reduced from 133,000 square foot to 80,000, with the traps which remained toughened and enhanced.

"This area has always been known great golf, great views and great history," said Griffin Gate Director of Golf. Donald Hobbs "As a result of Jones' renovation we greatly enhanced a golf course already known for competitive play, beauty and environmentally friendly appeal."

Kentucky has plenty of top golf options including Lexington's Kearney Hills, a former Champions Tour site, and Valhalla Golf Course in nearby Louisville, the home of the most recent U.S. Ryder Cup victory and several PGA Championships, which also used the Better Billy Bunker system.

In addition to the extensive project, the Griffin Gate golf renovations include eliminating encroaching grasses around the greens, redefining fairway lines and creating chipping areas around several greens.

Thankfully Jones' work didn't change many of the challenging and interesting holes at Griffin Gate, most notably the par 5 10th hole. It features water cutting across the fairway off the tee and continuing up the left side of the fairway all the way to the green which forces a scary and watery approach shot.

The par 4 16th hole has a double fairway with trees along the left side with a chance for a shortcut and more trees and a longer distance to the right.

Griffin Gate is already ranked as the No. 2 course in the Marriott System in course conditions and this latest improvement will only push it higher.

When golf is finished for the day, there are the three most famous B's the Lexington area is known for, Bluegrass bloodlines, Bourbon and Basketball.

Keeneland, located 15 minutes from Griffin's Gate, hosted the prestigious Breeders Cup in 2015. It's a living horse history museum with the walls in the massive facility filled with dozens of old photos and cartoons from the many famous, horses, jockeys and owners who have visited this bluegrass, blue blood temple.

You can spend a few bucks to enjoy the scenery in the grandstands and much more for a private box with lunches and drinks as the so-called Sport of Kings passes by.

Bourbon has been around these parts as long as Kentucky has been producing the hard adult drinks. Famous distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Makers Mark have interesting and fact filled visits of their facilities which, of course, includes a free sample at the end of the tour.

If you here in the late fall, winter or early spring, than the hottest ticket in town is to see the Eight-Time National Champion Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington . While the players change from year to year, the success ratio never seems too, much to the delight of a packed arena of 20,000 blue-clad faithful who hang on every basket and win.

Come for the drinks, stay for the horses, swing by the gym and tee it up on the links. A weekend might not be nearly enough in Lexington, but it's a pleasant surprise worth finding for travelers looking for the next hidden gem.

For more information, go to or call 859-288-6193

Revised: 05/15/2016 - Article Viewed 35,887 Times - View Course Profile

About: Art Stricklin

Art Stricklin Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.

On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.

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