The Chicago-based Sterling Bay real estate investment and development company acquired Victory Ranch & Conservancy in 2012 with a view to establishing a high-end residential destination within a massive 6,700- acre property on the fringes of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Featuring 4 miles of fly fishing on the Upper Provo River, 12 miles of family-friendly trails and a 7,599-yard Rees Jones-designed golf course, Victory Ranch offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Jordanelle Reservoir, Woodland Valley, and Deer Valley Ski Resort from the tee positions on the signature par three 17th.hole.
Other memorable holes include the 440-yard 1st, played from a severely elevated tee to a fairway with a pond on its right side; the 630-yard 5th, requiring a heroic tee shot over a canyon to a ridgetop fairway; and the 520-yard 18th, where there’s trouble on either side of the fairway and out of bounds lurking beyond the home green.
The area in and around Park City saw fit to include a golf connection in tandem with its thriving world renown ski side. A number of developments clearly made strides and one of them is Victory Ranch -- an 18-hole layout by architect Rees Jones.
The scale of the property is quite impressive -- there's no real clutter -- the surroundings mountains and the deep valleys provide an eyeful to absorb.
The golf layout is one of the more unheralded Jones designs and much of that centers on visibility since many people have not realized quality golf is certainly alive and present in The Beehive State.
There's still the tendency for Jones to overly landscape his designs -- instead of the course looking as if it's always been there - it gives the impression of being superimposed upon it. The presentation of the bunkers at Victory Ranch is a good example of this -- they are plentiful but they often stand apart -- giving the appearance of being created from an architect's office rather than blending in more naturally with what the site provides.
Victory Ranch commences with a quality opener. The tee shot starts from an elevated tee and while there's sufficient width there's enough danger to keep the player on one's toes. The putting surface is well-positioned and angled so a superior approach is needed to get close to most of the pin locations. The next three holes that follow are adequate but it's when you arrive at the long par-5 5th that matters pick up considerably. At 630 yards from the championship markers the player immediately sees a fairway directional bunker that provides the player with an idea on what's expected. The hole starts with a blind tee shot and the more one goes right the longer the carry over a canyon is needed. The visuals do not give the player much idea on how much more room there is left of the same bunker. What makes the hole so good is that tee positions are angled so well. The player must align themselves correctly and have confidence in the line of attack chosen. More importantly, the terrain gets the mental and physical stimuli going in a big time way.
The 5th also provides stellar views of the nearby area as you make one's way to the fairway. The hole then plunges to the green with out-of-bounds lurking into the picture on the left side -- pushing closer and closer as you get nearer to the green. Jones combined a strategic and visually attractive hole to great effect and it's memory will last long after the round concludes -- the surest sign of a hole's stature.
The concluding holes on the outward side are good but nowhere near as what the 5th provides.
The inward nine commences with a long par-4 10th -- going in the same direct as the 1st. It's long but primarily repetitive. At the par-5 12th you encounter another quality hole -- this time dog-legging right with a colorful and quite severe fairway bunker hugging that side. Pay heed to it -- either going around or over it. Going in it can result in at least one dropped shot.
The final three holes are quality holes. The uphill par-4 16th plays 555 yards and features a drive zone that bends slightly to the right with just one bunker on that side. The hole is not overly cramped but the need for proper positioning is crucial to attain a birdie opportunity.
The long 240+ yard par-3 17th plays downhill and often is aided by the prevailing wind. The issue I have is the proliferation of no less than 14 tee box areas. No misprint -- 14 total. They are all cookie-cutter types and frankly overkill. There's no question having ample teeing areas for par-3 holes is crucial -- given the inherent wear and tear. But stacking so many of them just fails from a visual perspective. The key for tee locations is not having one follow the next in a straight line but to provide different playing angles so that how a hole plays can be vastly different.
The closing hole often plays into the westerly wind and it's clearly a muscle finisher -- 520 yards par-4. Keep in mind, the high altitude does help propel one's golf shots throughout the round at Victory Ranch. The issue I have with the closer is the unimaginative positioning of fairway bunkers flanking both sides. A better approach would have been to create an angled bunker either to one side or even in the center of the fairway. Thereby players would have to decide either to shape a shot around it or if strong enough to carry it.
Victory Ranch was well conditioned during my lone visit. And the outdoors in Utah can be breathtaking with hard to beat quality weather during the peak playing months. Provided one can get access since many of the key clubs in the immediate vicinity are private -- the golf side of the equation is clearly meant to add another element when coming to the area. Victory Ranch is not as complete a design as nearby Red Ledges in Heber City but the design has its moments where shotmaking and strategic decisions are front and center. If in the area -- and the opportunity arises -- it's worth playing.
by M. James Ward