Away Game: Atlantic City
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If you prefer modern layouts, Vineyard Golf at Renault, west of Atlantic City, gets points for creativity and playability. It's part of a resort and winery, and its big Tuscany-style hotel gives the impression that the course has been there for decades. Actually, the par-72, 7,213-yard course has been open only since 2004. Renault is a big course sprawled over 225 acres. Many holes offer risk/reward options with water coming into play on seven holes and hazards designed to make aiming at the premium part of the fairway or green a gutsy play. The most unforgettable hole is the nasty, dogleg-left seventh. You have to play over the vineyard off the tee to a narrow landing area. Trust me on this: Wine grapes are not good to eat.
The back nine is hillier and more memorable in terms of shots, including the downhill 12th, guarded by water and sand right of the green, and the double-dogleg, par-5 18th.
You're probably wondering about the wine. Well, let's just say that if you've sampled the best from Napa, Tuscany and Bordeaux, Renault's selection might not make it past the spit bucket. Still, the novelty of drinking New Jersey wine is worth it for the story. In fact, that's the real charm of a golf trip to Atlantic City: the stories. I'm not going to go all Bruce Springsteen on you here, but AC is a piece of Americana. From the decaying inner city, to the outdated boardwalk casinos, to Lucy, the six-story elephant that has become a landmark, there are few golf destinations that offer the charm, history and, yes, cheese factor of AC.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGEROLL THE DICE
Looking for a gambling experience similar to Vegas? The most popular casino is the Borgata on the north end of town. But the casinos along the boardwalk in the center of town are great for sunsets and people watching. Try Caesars first.
You can eat at any number of big-chain restaurants in the casinos, but for a real experience, head out on Black Horse Pike to the Library III. The steaks are good and affordable, and the scene in the lounge is worth any wait for a table (think the Regal Beagle from "Three's Company").
If you're looking for scene locations from HBO's hit show "Boardwalk Empire," you'll have to travel to the boroughs of New York City. But if you want a taste of Prohibition life, head to the Knife & Fork Inn (right) or the Irish Pub (and ask to see the bootlegger's trap door).