When I was 13 I thought I’d never admit it, but I’m a golfer. You might not guess by looking at me, and for years I would have denied it. One of the reasons I’ve come clean is playing with my dad, who has a specific golf agenda. He was once a mild–mannered, casual golfer. As the kids grew, more opportunities to play materialized. Then he started engineering opportunities to play, which segued into his current specialty: golf tourism. Wherever you go, hunt down the local track, or sneak in a quick nine to ‘get to know the place from a different perspective.’ If you can get on board with someone like this – or adopt the philosophy yourself – I recommend it.
I’ve come to know the signs and expect the call: “You know, that wedding we’re invited to is only 127 miles from Torrey Pines.” “Flights are cheaper if we stay for a round of golf on Monday.” Or “On our way back, we pass 4 golf courses. Just saying.”
Now there are certainly golf-specific vacations that hard-core golfers take, to Scotland and Ireland, and if you love golf (and rain), they are spectacular. But don’t discount the odd round on a regular vacation; those are sometimes the biggest, best surprises. That’s the golf that Jackson Hole is perfect for: snowy peaks in the distance, blue skies for days, moderate temps, and a few bonus yards in the thin air at 6000’.
There are almost a dozen courses to choose from, some public, some private, some in-between, each with their own flavor. You could certainly make a whole vacation playing all the courses in Jackson Hole and neighboring Teton Valley, Idaho. Because it’s Jackson Hole, we are lucky to have some courses from name-droppable course designers. For those in the know, it’s course architect bingo. For the rest of us, they’re just really pretty.
If you have a connection to one of the private courses – Shooting Star (Tom Fazio), 3 Creek Ranch (Rees Jones), Snake River Sporting Club (Tom Weiskopf), or Headwaters Course at Teton Springs (Byron Nelson) – then I recommend you call in a favor, even if you don’t have one coming. Or just drool over the course photos.
Here’s a rundown of the more accessible tracks around the valley(s). Keep in mind, most courses offer impressive lunch/dinner options off the beaten path, reservations rarely required, with incredible views:
Teton Pines Country Club and Resort (Arnold Palmer) is one of the originals, and stands the test of time on its 30th anniversary season. Tee times are available after noon most days, and they have some great rates for rounds in the fall, which can be a particular treat on an Indian summer day. It’s worth starting with lunch before your round, or dinner after (as long as you include the home-made chips). Located on the Moose-Wilson Road between Wilson and Teton Village.
You’re wondering which course has Teton views from every hole, where you might come across moose and bison (yes, BISON!) on your way around? Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club (Robert Trent Jones Jr.). Done. Book it. Times are available outside the first 2 hours of the day, and they offer great twilight rates after 2pm. And be sure to give the bison a wide berth. If you have to skip a hole, your Facebook post will make up for it. Located between the JH Airport and town of Jackson.
Nearby in Teton Valley, Idaho, there are some lesser-known gems. I have to include Huntsman Springs (David McLay Kidd) in the discussion, for the benefit of the truly committed. It’s a private club, but they offer lodging that comes with golf privileges. The course is a true experience and an undertaking, with a feel more like Scotland than Idaho. Be prepared for a 6+ hour round, even with help from forecaddies. Located North of Driggs, Idaho.
A few miles away, you’ll find the other end of the golf-scene spectrum. You can get the same Scottish feel – and the most laid-back round of your life – at The Links at Teton Peaks, where prime-time rates max out at $39 including a cart. The course is impressive, well maintained, has Teton views, and is reasonable even if you’re renting clubs. Located North of Driggs, Idaho.
Take some time out from your busy vacation whirlwind, and pick a course that fits your style and schedule.