Situated close to the Wyoming border, on the edge of Targhee National Forest, Teton Springs Lodge and Spa offers golfers the use of the 18-hole Headwaters layout and the 9-hole Nelson course at its Headwaters Club. Opened in 2004, both tracks were designed by architect Gary Stephenson in collaboration with Byron Nelson and Steve Jones.
The Headwaters course occupies a rather flat site in the Teton Valley, with fairways routed around a residential development and water in play at many of the holes. Disregard its 7,400-yard length as the course in reality is a lot shorter because of its playing altitude of around 6,000 feet above sea level.Notable holes include strong par fives at the 5th and 9th, whilst on the back nine, water-threatened holes at the par three 10th and short par four 15th catch the eye before tackling the very tough (and very long) 18th, a mighty 490-yard par four closing hole that doglegs right past yet another water hazard on its way to the home green.
I didn’t find any springs here, but there were 10 water hazards to contend with. And despite being surrounded by mountains, the course is quite flat. I coulda been in Florida, but for the spectacular views of the Teton range. This, however, is not to suggest that Teton Springs is anything but a surprisingly fine course.
Texan Gary Stephenson recruited another Texan—Byron Nelson—to help design the course in the early 2000s. Nelson told him, “Architects want to make everyone fly the ball high and land ion greens with water in front. The average player cannot play those shots. Take a look at the courses in Scotland. They make you play on the ground. That is what we need to do in America.” Nelson’s favorite hole—the eighth—not only features an open green, but is bunkerless. Most of those water hazards are either lateral or on tee shots, so 14 of the greens will accept one of the running shots Nelson advocated.
This would be a 6 ball course but for the routing. Stephenson’s specialty was residential courses. So he spread the holes out among the house lots. Unlike most of the members, I walked the course. My guess is that I logged a mile or two going from greens to the next tees.
But the holes are outstanding. Tee shots present a challenge, with only three not requiring some thought as to where the best landing spot is. There’s fine deception at the short par four 6th and 13th and at the par five 17th. The initial view seems to call for a layup short of a sea of bunkers, but on closer inspection, there are risk/reward alternatives. The greens ran at 12 on my stimpmeter. They have interesting contours but are not unduly severe for that speed.
Huntsman Springs is the name course in the Teton Valley. Teton Springs makes a worthy companion.