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Top-10 casino golf resort 'must-haves'

23 December 2013

It's a foregone conclusion that gamblers love to golf and golfers love to gamble.

Naturally, Las Vegas is the first destination that comes to mind when you want to combine the two for a guys' trip. But if you've "been there, done that" in Sin City, or you're looking for a spot where the weather isn't scorching and rates don't burn through your wallet, there are plenty of options.

Selecting the perfect golf-and-gamble location can be tricky. Some have great golf, but sub-par casinos. Others make you feel like you're at the Bellagio when playing roulette, but the golf course isn't much better than the muni down the street from your house.

As you begin planning your 2014 Golf and Gamble Trip, check out the list of amenities and services below that will make your next excursion more than memorable. These items are spread across the country at resorts in Mississippi, Washington, Idaho and Michigan. They are easy to get to and, most importantly, won't deplete your bankroll before you even step off the plane.

10. Live entertainment

At some point during the trip you need to get away from the blackjack table and off the golf course. And while the "club scene" can get old, live entertainment does not. Checking the property's website weeks in advance can land you unexpected tickets and free opportunities.

For instance, don't forget that Mississippi - in addition to being the third-largest gaming destination in North America - is the birthplace of blues, rock 'n' roll and country music. Check out the Tunica scene ( for a regular line up of headliners. The Academy of Country Music also recognized Michigan's Island Resort & Casino as one of the best in the country to draw top-named talent –- from comedian Ron White to the Bare-Naked Ladies and REO Speedwagon.

If music isn't in your wheel house, try Little Creek Casino Resort, which is about an hour from Seattle and sits adjacent to the award-winning Salish Cliffs Golf Club. The resort offers regular boxing cards inside the Skookum Creek Event Center. On Jan. 24, "ESPN Friday Night Fights" returns with a headliner fight that will feature former world champion Kendall Holt.

9. Man-friendly spa

A guys' trip means your body is going to get beat up. Rising early, staying up too late and playing a minimum of 18 holes a day will take its toll, no matter how young and chipper you think you are. Spa Ssakwa'q'n (pronounced "SOCK-wah-kin") at Coeur D'Alene Casino Resort Hotel in the northern Idaho panhandle caters to golfers and, believe it or not, nearly 40 percent of its customers are male.

While you can't go wrong with a signature massage to help eliminate some of those toxins, our advice is to be daring and try the Circling Raven Golf Pedicure, which hydrates, soaks, exfoliates and culminates with a foot massage. The name of the pedicure is in honor of the critically acclaimed golf course next door, the serene Circling Raven Golf Club, which has perennially been named a top-100 course in America since opening 10 years ago. Spa Ssakwa'q'n also has a co-ed, open air pool, cedar saunas and a Vichy shower.

8. Poker room

When you want a break from trying to beat the house edge, you need to have the option of an on-site poker room. Not only does Mississippi’s Gulf Coast offer nearly 20 excellent golf courses all within close proximity, but it also boasts more than a dozen casinos. MGM Resorts International's Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, located directly on the ocean, boasts a newly designed smoke-free poker room with high ceilings and an open floor plan. Home of the annual Gulf Coast Poker Championship, the poker room has 16 tables with a variety of popular games and everything from low stakes to a high-stakes area.

Staying at "The Beau" also gains golfers exclusive access to the estimable Fallen Oak, the annual host to the PGA Champion Tour's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, which will be played March 20-23, 2014 and has been won by major champions Fred Couples and Tom Lehman in recent years. Bonus tip: Don't miss the famous Bloody Mary's at the Fallen Oak 19th hole. You can thank us later.

7. Sports bar

Chances are, no matter what time of year you book your golf-and-gaming trip, there will be a game that your group wants to watch. Knowing that's the case, you need a venue that understands how important this game is to the guys, not some tiny bar with a TV lacking high def or a decent selection of food and adult beverages.

Packers and Tiger fans will love the semi-circular Island Resort Bar near Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris, Michigan, which offers local craft brews and 11 big screens with a guaranteed seat. Wings, local cheese curds (trust us) and affordable mixed drinks are a big draw here.

On Biloxi's Back Bay, just down the street from Beau Rivage, you'll find the recently renovated Palace Casino Resort, the only smoke-free casino on the Gulf Coast. Among the resort's new amenities is the Contact Lounge Sports Bar, which features huge HDTVs, video poker at the bar, an array of craft, imported and domestic beers and the sinful, but scrumptious, Waffle Fry Nachos. The Palace also offers value-laden stay-and-play packages with The Preserve Golf Club, a pristine 18-hole layout that encompasses 245 acres and is surrounded by 1,800 acres of dedicated nature preserve.

6. Cigar Bar

If you already burned through your stash on the golf course, have no fear, especially when you're staying at the aforementioned Little Creek Casino Resort. The Skookum Spirit Cigar & Wine Lounge is the perfect spot for a smoke and a scotch with its cozy leather chairs and multiple TVs.

The humidor is stocked with more than 70 premium cigars and on Wednesday through Saturday the host tobacconist is on hand to offer suggestions or answer questions. Don't miss the "Create Your Own Bourbon Tasting" daily special in which you can sample three bourbons of your choice for just $6.

5. 19th hole

There's nothing more anticlimactic than finishing off a fun-filled round of golf and then finding out there's not a decent spot to head in, grab a round of brews and figure out who owes dough and how much.

The majestic clubhouse at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, the celebrated 36-hole amenity of Pearl River Casino Resort (which includes the Silver Star Hotel & Casino and the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino) in Philadelphia, Mississippi, has every post-round need you can imagine. There are spacious men's and women's locker rooms and the white veranda deck that wraps around the entire building is perfect for sharing a few drinks and laughs. Upstairs there are eight clubhouse guest rooms with king-size beds and whirlpool baths, which makes Dancing Rabbit a convenient stay-and-play destination. No lugging your clubs back to your room after golf and in the morning an easy walk downstairs gets you to breakfast and the putting green.

At night, clubhouse guests receive private use of lighted golf carts for the three-minute drive to the Pearl River Resort where the Silver Star Hotel & Casino and Golden Moon Hotel & Casino await. Together these two properties offer more than 5,000 slot machines, 115 table games and 14 poker tables, as well as 1,000 guest room and 16 restaurants.

4. Quality accommodations

Let's face it. With 24-hour gaming downstairs and a top-notch golf course just a 3-wood away, you're not going to be spending too much time in your room. But when you are at home base you want a quality room that has all of the amenities of home, and more.

On Mississippi's Gulf Coast, the guest rooms at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi are hip and happening, with free Wi-Fi, 42-inch flat screen TVs, dual sinks in the bathroom and a rainfall shower.

The Hard Rock offers multiple golf stay-and-play packages with nationally ranked courses like Shell Landing, The Bridges, The Oaks and Grand Bear that are all within easy driving distance.

3. Perks

Show me the money -- incentives to visit the casino and enjoy the property's dining outlets are often added perks to a golf-and-gaming package. Bring 12 or more guys on the trip, and you might want to upgrade to private steak dinners on the patio, access to the VIP lounge, upgraded rooms and boxed lunches on your cart.

That means a reservation at a casino hotel that has preferred access to area courses can also include promotional dollars to try out slots or other games, before parking at the blackjack table for a little midnight run. Don't hesitate to call in your tee time, and ask.

2. Stay-and-play value

One of the main reasons NOT to head to Vegas for your next golf-and-gamble trip is the price point. Believe it. There are plenty of casino golf resorts not in Las Vegas that provide a Vegas-style gaming and offer exceptional golf at a reasonable price.

In the Upper Peninsula, three top Golfweek-rated courses saw great value in banding together and offering one heck of a hand: the Perfect 4-Some golf package. Stay at the Island Resort & Casino for two nights, play three nights of golf and enjoy all the resort offers for under $200.

At the Coeur D'Alene Casino Resort in Idaho, stay-and-play rates start at just $209 per night and include one night in the opulent Spa Tower rooms and a round of golf for two at Circling Raven.

1. Nationally acclaimed golf course

There are more than 10,000 public-access courses in the U.S. with a variety of price points and designs. Why not treat yourself to one of the Top-100 in the country this year? You don't even have to splurge in order to do so.

All of the casino resorts mentioned above feature nationally acclaimed courses that you'll never tire of playing multiple rounds on consecutive days. Golfweek just released its new "Best Casino Golf Course Rankings" last week and Mississippi had six courses in the Top-50 (Fallen Oak, The Preserve, Grand Bear, Dancing Rabbit (Azalea and Oaks), The Bridges). Circling Raven, Salish Cliffs and Sweetgrass also landed on the list.

The bottom line: Visiting these suggested casino resorts guarantees a world-class experience on both the gaming floor and the golf course. No gambling required.

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