Set out within what was once a large cattle ranch to the south of Jackson Hole, the course at Snake River Sporting Club is a Tom Weiskopf design that opened for play in 2006. Unfortunately, due to the subsequent economic downturn, the facility ceased operations for a few years.
After a change of ownership – and following a $2 million course upgrade when the architect re-laid every green with bent grass, added a short game practice area and made a few other improvements – the course reopened for play in the summer of 2014.
Draped across the natural contours of the land, the fairways of this classic Western layout play through tall cottonwoods and sagebrush, occasionally flirting with Snake River. As everything is in view from the tee, this allows players to choose the best angle of approach on every hole.
Head Professional Kali Quick kindly provided us with the following comments:
“Our most difficult hole is the 8th, with handicap rating #1. This par four requires a tee shot that threads a needle into a narrow, 15-yard wide fairway. A low hazard area nearly closes off the landing zone from the left. Most players will opt not to use their driver, laying up so that they don’t go into the hazard off the tee. This leaves a longer approach into an elevated green guarded by bunkers on a hole that sits adjacent to the Snake River with spectacular views up and down the canyon.
If we claimed a signature hole then it would be the 15th, with a truly postcard-perfect landscape. This medium length par three looks directly down river through the canyon and the tee tee shot demands a carry all the way to the green. The hole features a stacked sod wall which looks and plays into the links style design of the course. The green is relatively simple, but the overall beauty and location of the hole near the river makes it unforgettable and a favourite of many.”
The facility had a tough go early on in coming to fruition just as The Great Recession was on the horizon. Fortunately, things settled and having the smarts in hiring Tom Weiskopf as the designer paid off in plenty of ways.
The property is nearly all in a flood plain and the close proximity to the enchanting Snake River makes for a real bond with the Wyoming countryside.
As per usual, Weiskopf does provide a driveable par-4 but this time the hole comes early on at the 2nd. The outward nine requires plenty of thought because the penalties for mishits can be quite severe. There's sufficient room but the ever present woods can certainly put a cramp on one showcasing a free wheeling shoulder turn.
The inward half provides a good bit more room but Weiskopf adroitly places key bunkers that add to the visual dynamics. The par-4 13th and 14th holes are especially well done. You have to be ever mindful in securing the best position from the fairway with the approach shots for each. The 16th reverses direction and is equally well done in mandating precision play in the hope of walking off the green with a par-4. The par-4 17th is also good -- this time with a narrowing drive zone and a green offering plenty of vexing riddles to figure out.
The only real downside comes with the final hole. The ending hole is a yardage eating par-5 of 592 yards but simply offers really little in terms of imagination in providing a clear and lasting memory.
The routing is quite basic on both nines given the actual shape of the property. You follow one direction for the first few holes and then reverse direction -- again in a fairly continuous straight line. Fortunately, there's enough hole variety to keep players on their toes throughout.
How good is Snake River to other Weiskopf layouts? I would not have it among my top five but it clearly has enough to merit serious consideration for a top ten placement.
M. James Ward