The golf course at Rochelle Ranch in Carbon County is the legacy of local sheep farmers Curt and Marian Rochelle, who commissioned Ken Kavanaugh to fashion the longest course in the state of Wyoming, which can be stretched to an eye-watering 7,925 yards from the tips.
A more manageable 5,706 yards from the forward tees, Rochelle Ranch is certainly not short of yardage, but the course is set at an altitude of 6,800 feet on the Red Desert steppe, which is surrounded by the Sierra Madre, Medicine Bow, Seminoe, Haystack, Shirley and Rattle Snake mountains where the ball flies higher and longer. So fear not.
Elevation changes and dramatic views combine for exciting golf and there’s enough movement here to stir the senses. Only two holes run parallel to each other and there’s little in the way of rough, apart from sand and sagebrush, to slow proceedings.
Two par fives (4th and 14th) measure in excess of 640 yards and for most golfers these are genuine three-shot holes and the par four 3rd stretches to 515 yards, so this is a three shotter for most mortals.
Architect Ken Kavanaugh commented as follows: “Rochelle Ranch sports a rugged, rough-hewn look, with weathered, wind-blown bunkers, tall wavy grasses and expansive sand dunes that blend seamlessly into the surrounding terrain. The strategically-bunkered fairways were designed with extra width to accommodate a wide variety of players on a site that often features strong prairie breezes. The course earned its first tournament before opening, getting the 2007 Wyoming State Senior Men's event.”
Those who happen to be motoring along I-80 through Wyoming had best have their golf clubs ready because literally just off the Interstate is a fine public facility that gets little attention because of its isolation.
Rochelle Ranch is a very strong demanding layout available to the public, owned by the town of Rawlins and very reasonable for the fees charged.
The course is the design of architect Ken Kavanaugh and while his name may not be high on the overall "star power" chart for overall awareness he has been involved with a number of quality layouts.
Rochelle Ranch is a sprawling layout with plenty of land movement and quality views of the immediate area. Only two holes run parallel to one another and while there is no real rough per se, the fairways are bordered by sand, sagebrush and scrub bushes. In Wyoming, Rochelle Ranch is the longest course -- with the tip tees set at 7,925 yards. However, with an elevation of over 6,800 feet the golf ball certainly flies a healthy distance when properly struck.
The course was the gift of Curt and Marian Rochelle, local sheep ranchers who paid for the construction of the course.
When I played the course the nines were reversed from what they are today and the change makes plenty of sense since the first four holes from the original routing were extremely intense for the respective demands they called upon players to demonstrate.
The hidden factor at Rochelle Ranch is the wind -- it can be very w-i-n-d-y at times and failure to provide the appropriate trajectory will vanquish nearly all who can't do just that. Given the length of the course the fairways are extremely wide but it pays to find the right angle into the putting surfaces. Kavanaugh had a limited budget so all the extra details one would normally find are not present at Rochelle Ranch. This is especially so with the greens. They are simply matter-of-fact, more on the mundane side.
The quartet of par-3's is also a bit disappointing. They have varying challenges -- especially the long 7th and 15th holes. But none of them is truly compelling from an architectural component. In all probability -- that might have been impacted by a Spartan budget.
The inward side of holes is especially done well. The opening trio provide for too long and strong par-4's -- followed by lengthy par-3. The uphill 11th is especially well done with a thought provoking blind tee shot at the outset. The most interesting hole is the 4th -- a 444-yard Cape-like hole that tempts players to cut the accessible left hand corner and reach the green. There's plenty of high octane risk and reward here.
Rochelle Ranch has enough elasticity to entertain the full spectrum of players. The course shows how affordable golf can be fun and challenging at the same time. Be most interesting to see if any future work is done which enhances the intricacies of the putting surfaces and their surrounding areas. If this dimension should ever happen the totality of Rochelle Ranch will most certainly merit even more attention.
Like I said at the outset of this review -- if you're ever heading on I-80 be sure to take a break and enjoy the golf -- it's literally right off the highway.
by M. James Ward