The Jack Nicklaus-designed Painted Valley golf course debuted in 2007, five years after Pete Dye’s Canyon course became the first of the two 18-hole layouts to open for play at the Promontory Club. Up to another three 18-hole courses have been planned for this venue and it’s rumoured that a Tom Weiskopf design could be next to make an appearance.
The Nicklaus course measures a mammoth 8,000 yards in length, which at mountain altitude, is still the equivalent of around 7,300 yards at sea level… so, not for nothing is this course known as the most difficult in the state of Utah.
The scale of the challenge is set out on the first hole of the Painted Valley layout as it’s a mammoth 718-yard par five, rated Stroke index 1. If you were not aware of this layout’s testing credentials before setting out, then you soon will be as you stand on the first tee and survey the flag of the opening hole in the distance.Water comes into play in the form of creeks at holes 4 to 8 then, on the back nine, there are ponds to contend with on four of the closing five holes. And if you’re wondering where are Jack’s trademark waste bunkers, then look no further than the par four 7th and par five 12th for prime examples of this architectural eccentricity.
Much of the fanfare usually commences with the overall yardage of the layout -- over 8,000 yards. Given the elevation of the area -- over a mile high -- the gains made by the thinner air effectively scales the yardage to an effective total of 7,300 yards.
The individual holes are done well but the fatal flaw of the course is the one-dimensional nature of the routing. The course goes in a straight line for the first several holes and then reverses direction in the same manner. You don't have any real adjustments because the wind pattern follows the same formula for consecutive holes.
The inward half mimics the same process -- holes marching in a straight line for several holes and then reversing in a similar manner. At certain instances you encounter specific quality holes -- the long par-4s at the 4th and 7th holes are very good. On the back nine the lengthy par-5 12th is quite rigorous starting with a testing tee shot. The penultimate 17th is another quality par-5 -- inserting water for the 2nd shot and having a well-placed center bunker that occupies a key location as you come closer to the putting surface. The finishing 18th again has water to contend on the left side for the tee shot and the approach is also guarded by a fronting pond that ably guards any pin location on the right side.
Routing is central in tying things together and at Painted Valley you have a one-way oriented situation -- holes heading one way for several holes and then abruptly going the other way. The really outstanding courses in the Park City area such as Glenwild and Red Ledges have routings eschewing formulaic patterns. Golf is not just about the qualities of an individual hole but how a collective sense of holes is married together out that maximizes diversity and mandates players having to make needed adjustments on a constant basis.
M. James Ward