The Northern American Rockies
December 19, 2012, just a few days before Christmas, and I find myself in the rather charming town of Kemmerer, Wyoming. The temperature is far below freezing, but wouldn’t you know it. The person I met was from Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. He tells me that if the Mayans are correct, and that if the world does, in fact, end on the 21st, I’d better not be here. Experts on the subject have already told me that I must be at least 200 miles from a volcano.
I wondered, thinking of great mountains, what might be going on golf-wise in this beautiful state that can be so glorious or tough, usually both (just in case I have to play my last round of golf tomorrow). Jackson Hole is the obvious thought, the place where I met my first moose. As a place to put a golf course, including anything resorts offer, this is an ideal spot, right below the Grand Tetons, jutting up in saw-tooth fashion. Remember those alpine American paintings that look so grand that they appear fake, so majestic that they couldn’t really exist? Well, they do. Wyoming is why those paintings exist.
There is, indeed, a Wyoming State Golf Association, and they, like others of their kind, are fostering talent within the state, developing youth programs and in general, keeping things moving on the approximately seventy courses available through the state of Wyoming. Interestingly enough, the WSGA recently voted two professional players into the Hall of Fame, and I was surprised to see that one of them was Keegan Bradley, nephew of Pat Bradley of the LPGA. I was under the impression that Bradley was a Vermonter, but also learned that his father, Mark, is the head pro at the Golf & Tennis Club in – you guessed it – Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the loveliest spots to play in the United States. So, that’s why the WSGA receives about 10,000 annually from the Keegan Bradley Foundation.
Jackson Hole might represent the ultimate glory of Wyoming, the American home for many of the lower latitude caribou, there are a lot of opportunities for the weekend guy who wants to play golf without losing the house (I am reminded of the deck 5 announcer on our cruise who blithely broadcast “and now for our more fortunate clients). There are six or seven courses in Cheyenne, including the CC, and others can be found in Powell, Hulett, Lander, Casper, Worland, Powderhorn (yes, skiing parallels many of these) and Laramie. A beautiful example is White Mountain in Rock Springs. Who would have thought that such an attractive course could sit so close to Potash mines.
I’d like to come back some day and play some of these courses, and hope that the Mayans have miscalculated. Wyoming is the place, however, where the mother ship landed in “Close Encounters,” (on Devil’s Tower). My hotel room last night was number 19 on December 19th, and I think my handicap sits somewhere around there, too – I’m doomed.
Part II should put us somewhere around eastern Nebraska or Iowa, and the next day, Chicago. There’s a lot of golf between Kemmerer and Chicago, but if you’re traveling this way once the snow clears, don’t forget Wyoming. There’s no other golfing location on this continent quite like the Rockies experience, and they run from Canada to Mexico. In fact, it sounds like a wonderful plan for a north/south golf excursion – dress warm.