Golfweek's Best New U.S. Courses
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The valleys on either side of the Teton Pass – which connects the county seats of Jackson, Wyo., and Driggs, Idaho – afford visitors some of the most scenic mountain vistas in America. The Tetons seem to erupt from the earth, creating a striking juxtaposition between the mountains and the lowlands.
But the very nature of the pancake-flat valleys in Teton County, Wyo., and Teton County, Idaho, place a premium on the imaginations of course architects. They don’t so much have to “find” golf holes but rather conjure them.
That’s precisely what David McLay Kidd and Tom Fazio did at Huntsman Springs and Shooting Star, respectively. Those two courses occupy the second and third spots on Golfweek’s Best New Courses list, trailing only Old Macdonald, the heralded fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort.
Kidd still is best known for building the first course at Bandon Dunes, but he calls Huntsman Springs “the pinnacle of my career so far,” because it required him to completely re-imagine a featureless landscape. From an engineering standpoint, the job involved drawing nearby wetlands back up into the course, adding water features and elevation. In doing so, Kidd created an abundance of strategic options, particularly off the tee. Throughout, Kidd’s signature is evident. More than any other prominent modern architect, he seems to take pleasure in flouting convention.
At Shooting Star, adjacent to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, owner John Resor knew he needed to deliver “the wow factor” to counter existing real-estate projects in the Jackson market. He called on Fazio, golf architecture’s surest thing. Fazio’s team moved 1.6 million cubic yards of dirt to animate the site, cutting in streams along 13 of 18 holes to add definition.
“We essentially exposed the natural groundwater,” said Mike Kramer, a former Fazio design associate who is Shooting Star’s membership director.
Both courses, which anchor ambitious real-estate developments, resulted from homecomings of sorts.
Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. was born in Blackfoot, Idaho, and for years has returned to the area for fly-fishing. On those trips, he became intrigued by little-known Driggs, which had untapped assets that he thought were comparable to those in Jackson, a popular resort and second-home destination.
For Resor, it’s even more personal. His family has ranched the land near Grand Teton National Park since 1929, and he returned to Jackson in 1988 to oversee real-estate operations on the family’s property.
Like Huntsman, Resor’s new project seems to be off to a good start. Based on early returns, Shooting Star and Huntsman Springs are strong candidates to make the top 100 of Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses list, which will be released in March.