Appeared in 2012 Fazio Premier Clubs
In the U.S., family-owned farms and ranches are disappearing, shutting down or selling off to mega-corporations. Hoping to avoid that fate, the Resor family—which owns a 6,500-acre cattle ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming—had an idea that would keep the family, now grooming its fourth generation, involved and committed: Turn part of their property into a golf club.
“We wanted something different, something sustainable over time,” says John Resor, Shooting Star’s president. “A way to keep the ranch intact and have a complementary business on the land.”
Their solution is Shooting Star, a two-year-old private community with a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, full-service club, single-family homes and “cabins,” and easy access to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (featuring the longest continuous vertical drop in the country) as well as proximity to two of the country’s most magnificent national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Plus a healthy sense of realism.
“As good as the club is, as good as the golf is, we know we’re just one of many amenities for our members,” says membership director Mike Kramer, who worked for Fazio for 11 years and was involved in the design of the Shooting Star course. “There’s just so much to do here—hiking, fishing, white-water rafting, horseback riding, Nordic and downhill skiing, and amazing summer weather.”
Plus some of the world’s most beautiful mountain scenery. Impossible to escape, the towering Tetons are literally in the club’s backyard, forcing the architect to build the course on 250 acres and with big enough scale to match the majesty of the surroundings.
To add drama to the pancake-flat grazing land, two million cubic yards of earth were moved, raising some parts of the layout and lowering others, and exposing 50 acres of ground water that were incorporated into the design. Streams and lakes are in play on 13 of the 18 holes.
All four of the par threes demand crossing or skirting water, often both; same with the four par fives (par is 72). There also are 84 bunkers, many large, deep, and fringed with long, wispy fescue that waves in the afternoon winds. And although they might not always appear so from the tees, fairways are wide, making it possible to avoid the hazards—but usually leaving longer approach shots from less comfortable angles.
So better players hitting from the lengthiest of five available markers will find more than enough challenge while average players can avoid punishment by playing smart and within their means. But everyone has to think on every shot, beginning with the very first hole.
Number 1 is a dogleg-left par four with half a dozen bunkers on the right side, which is also the preferred side for approaching a green angled to the left. It’s followed by a mid-length par three with water down the right, then a long par five with a stream that begins on the right, crosses the fairway, then hugs the left edge of the green. The opening holes give players a taste of the elements to come—water, sand, elevation change, playing the angles—and a chance to get used to the 6,300-foot altitude (which adds about one club to each shot) and firm, fast, and receptive greens surrounded by big collection areas.
The course continually changes directions, starting parallel to the Teton Range, turning toward the peaks then away, altering the effects of prairie breezes. The 7th is a straight par four that aims dead at the ski runs. Its wide fairway and the vastness of the view can easily lull the unobservant into a false sense of security: At just over 300 yards, a driver might be the wrong club because no one wants a tricky half-wedge to the severely undulating green.
One of the most confounding putting surfaces at Shooting Star is the 9th, which hovers at the end of a short par five that wraps around a lake on the left side and is dotted with sand on the right. Set to the right and sloped from back to front, the green is long, thin, and hard to hold. A similarly long, thin, and easy-to-find bunker guards the entrance to the green and partly obscures the golfer’s view: Many approaches to this green finish long and right, leaving treacherous chips and putts back onto the tilted tabletop.
The two par fives on the back, 11 and 15, sweep toward the mountains, one from left to right, the other right to left. The tee shot at 11 crests a small hill to reveal miles of steppe and slope lush with aspen, cottonwood, spruce, and pine. The great American West feels within reach and the senses tingle, the rustle of leaves matched by the burbling of the stream along the right. (Building the streams, Fazio’s crew purposefully placed rocks near greens to create rapids’ rush and roar.)
The 15th is a goliath, more than 600 yards long, that curls around a 40-acre lake, turning 90 degrees left to a tiny green at water’s edge. Into the wind that rides down the mountain it can take three full-throated shots just to get near the green, then something delicately manipulated to approach the hole.
The finish is no less rugged. The 17th is a long par three (266 from the back tees!) with a stream on the right and a green that sits under iconic Sleeping Indian Mountain. The final hole is a brawny par four: The tee shot has to find a perpendicular landing zone sandwiched between bunkers, setting up a final approach over water. It won’t be just the altitude that leaves survivors gasping.
Overlooking the 18th green sits the long, low clubhouse, built with reclaimed Douglas fir timbers, old barn wood siding, and Oklahoma Moss Rock, and filled with an eclectic collection of Western art ranging from Henry Moore to Andy Warhol. From the comforting lounges and cozy dining room—featuring a copper-topped circular fireplace and bar—walls of windows bring light, land, and sky indoors. The clubhouse also has a fitness center (with a separate room for spin classes and Pilates), spa with an exquisite couples’ suite, salon, men’s and women’s locker rooms, intimate dining/conference rooms, as well as a stunning tension-edge pool, children’s pool, and two Jacuzzis.
Connected to the main building, the Alpine Barn is a multipurpose space used for everything from casual dinners followed by big-screen sports to kids’ games. The barn also is lined with ski lockers equipped with boot dryers, and once the snow begins to fall—which it does, plenty—private shuttles run members back and forth to the adjacent Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The club also offers the best Nordic track in the valley, utilizing the rolling terrain of the golf course.
There are presently 18 three- and four-bedroom cabins (with as many as 64 more planned), and land enough for 100 single-family lots. But only two residences will be on the golf course: most are to be located on the other side of the property, closer to the ski mountain with some alongside the mammoth, two-sided driving range.
The Resor family has good reason to ascribe to Fazio’s theory of “core golf,” in which the course is given the best terrain and remains home-free. In this way, the residences transition to the clubhouse, then the golf course, and finally the sprawling cattle ranch to the south.
“This land has been in our family since the 1930s,” John Resor explains. “This isn’t a developer-owned club where there is an exit strategy. The family is involved and is going to stay involved. Our reputation is on the line because we live here and plan to for a long time.”