Wild and wonderful—and with a golf course to match—the Snake River Sporting Club strikes back.
In Jackson Hole, Wyo., they sell the Wild West—big hats, stagecoach rides, mock gunfights in the town square. A 20-minute drive to the south, the Snake River Sporting Club embraces a milder, more natural Western lifestyle, with its lodge cabins and estate homes, never-ending vistas, and true-to-the-land pursuits. The private-club community sits well off the highway, across a bridge, and down a curving road that separates an elevated meadow from a valley where the Snake River flows. Along the river are the club’s cabins and homesites, horse paddock, outdoor-pursuits center, and sinuous golf course that is as genuine as a $20 gold piece.
Snake River’s course, which was designed by Tom Weiskopf, opened in 2006 to much acclaim. The course and the rest of the Snake River community ceased operations during the subsequent economic crisis, but this summer—with new owners and a new infrastructure in place—the club reopened for business following an $11.5 million update. The project included a $2 million upgrade to the golf course led by Weiskopf, who replaced every green with bent grass, added a short-game practice area, and made other subtle enhancements to improve what was already a classic Western layout.
Weiskopf, the player turned architect known for his lack of gimmickry, moved out west years ago from his native Ohio, and his love for his new home is evident on every hole. The designer shows the golfer everything from the tee, then allows choices of angle and approach depending on skill and nerve. The easily walkable course rides the natural contours of the land, hugs the river and wetlands, and plays through tall cottonwoods and low sagebrush. Elevation changes are minimal, but there are numerous sand traps and stands of thick grass with which to contend.
Natural diversions on the Snake River course might include deer and elk, an eagle’s nest perched high above the 13th green, or even a bear crossing the fairway with her cubs. (Let them play through.) For refreshment, golfers can stop to drink the cold, clean spring water that bubbles up alongside the par-3 fourth hole.
In addition to the course, the renewal of the Snake River Sporting Club has included a spacious, log-and-stone clubhouse (try the elk-buffalo chili) and the first luxury lodge cabins for sale (starting at $2.85 million fully furnished). The 800-acre community, which is surrounded by 3.5 million acres of national forest, will have a maximum of 68 homes. Owners enjoy private access to six miles of the river for fly-fishing, boating, and swimming, as well as miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Shooting and archery are also available at the rejuvenated community, where the rugged optimism and fighting spirit of the American West prevail.
Snake River Sporting Club, www.srsportingclub.com