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Homes on the Range

At the foot of the TETONS, world-class golf living has arrived in the A-List community of JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming

By: Larry Olmsted

Tiger Woods is no different from the rest of us. He too needs an occasional break from the rigors and pressures of his job—chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. His solution: Hop on his jet and fly to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he owns a lot at the new 3 Creek Ranch.

3 Creek is one of several developments that are transforming Jackson Hole, a 50-mile-long valley nestled between the Grand Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges, from a winter playground for the rich and famous to a year-round playground for the rich and famous. Like many buyers, Woods recognizes the best of all seasons in this beautiful, rugged locale, including world-class skiing for his Swedish bride, Elin, and pristine fly-fishing for him and his angling buddies.

Development is booming in Teton County, which has the nation’s highest adjusted household gross income—$107,642 in 2002, the last year for which data is available. Five luxury communities are underway, expanding or breaking ground soon, but the growth will be limited because 97 percent of area land is federally owned and protected.

“The people who choose Jackson are a bit different from second-home owners elsewhere—they are more respectful of the history and ambiance,” says John Resor, managing director of Snake River Associates, a local development company. “Seeing those mountains every day is awe inspiring.”

The town of Jackson combines its epic backdrop with a mood of relaxed elegance and rustic cowboy charm. Anchored by a public square, downtown is famously gated with elk antlers and bordered by wooden sidewalks. Millionaire residents and celebrities often show up in jeans and pick-up trucks, while sushi bars and European pastry shops rub shoulders with the iconic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and Silver Dollar Saloon.

The area draws more than 3 million visitors annually, and one of the biggest attractions is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which ranks among the country’s best ski resorts. The slopes tower over Teton Village, a modern satellite community at the base of the ski hill, 10 minutes from downtown Jackson. Although there is plenty to do in the snow, the region may be even more popular during the non-skiing months—Jackson is the gateway to Grand Teton National Park, which in turns leads to Yellowstone National Park.

All this makes Jackson a great place to live, not just a place to visit. And there may be no better community to call home than 3 Creek Ranch, situated four miles outside town. Home to a Rees Jones-designed golf course, 3 Creek occupies 710 acres of open, rolling meadow in a high-prairie ecosystem and has the region’s best views of 13,770-foot Grand Teton, known  as “The Grand.”

Because 3 Creek is located in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the developers have placed a focus on environmental stewardship, with programs like reclaiming the property’s wetlands for trumpeter swans, restoring the native grasslands and operating a nature center to foster appreciation among residents and guests. Wildlife sightings are common: moose, elk and even the occasional grizzly bear, which head pro Billy Cleveland has spotted roaming the course.

Perhaps they’re trying to take their turn on the layout, which features some memorable holes. The par-3 16th plays directly at The Grand, while the par-4 17th and the home hole, as immense as the surroundings at 620 yards, have majestic views that will inspire your
inner Ansel Adams. In fact, the legendary photographer did roam the area in the 1930s and ’40s, immortalizing the Tetons in his inimitable black-and-white style.

Cleveland and his staff take service to a new level. Any club can boast caddies, pyramids of Pro V1s on the driving range and hole location sheets. Each morning, after cutting holes and placing tee markers, staffers measure every hole and print daily scorecards. At 3 Creek, when the scorecard says a hole measures 388 yards, it measures exactly 388 yards—no more, no less. Off the course, the club employs a full-time naturalist and a fly-fishing guide to enhance the outdoors experience.

Put it all together and the community is a hot commodity: After its first full year of operation, nearly 100 of 136 available lots priced from $1 to $5 million had been sold.

In addition to Woods, other boldface-name local taxpayers include Charles Schwab, who owns property at 3 Creek, and Harrison Ford, whose sprawling ranch abuts the course.

Fifteen miles south of town, the Snake River Sporting Club is going for an even broader outdoors experience, following the model its founders developed at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Sporting Club. The family-oriented facilities include an equestrian center and archery/rifle ranges, and access to hiking trails in the adjacent Bridger-Teton National Forest. The club offers a heli-skiing operation in the winter.

“A perfect day would be to get up, play nine holes, jump on a drift fishing boat with one of our guides, then meet up with the family for dinner,” says general manager Neil Vohr. “Maybe the kids spent the day taking golf lessons, doing archery or fishing. Maybe your wife spent the day in the spa.”

SRSC sits in a deep, narrow canyon, and its Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, set to open this summer, is built partially along the canyon floor and partially on a ledge carved from one of the valley walls. It’s an isolated setting with a primordial feel. Weiskopf used tributaries of the Snake River to front greens and bisect fairways, and as with many of his designs, he designed a drivable par 4, the 320-yard second.

Weiskopf began this project several years ago, but the original developers ran out of funds before the course was finished. So although the course officially opens this summer, several holes have matured nicely, which can be seen in the elaborate finger-style bunkering bordered by grown-in rough.

Most homesites are set along the valley wall and, except for a cluster around the third hole, away from the course. The large residences—3,500 to 7,500 square feet—follow strict architectural guidelines to ensure they blend well with the untamed surroundings.

Resor’s Snake River Associates is responsible for Jackson Hole’s next major development, a 510-acre community called Shooting Star. Located next to Teton Village, just south of the
entrance to Grand Teton National Park, Shooting Star will feature a Tom Fazio course and approximately 100 golf residences. Resor hopes to break ground this summer, with a projected 2008 opening.

If 3 Creek, Snake River Sporting Club and Shooting Star represent the future of golf in the valley, Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club and Teton Pines Resort and Country Club are its past and present. Bordering Grand Teton National Park, the Jackson Hole course debuted in 1963 and was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr. a decade later. In fall 2004 Jones began a full renovation; he completed 10 holes last summer and plans to finish the remainder this spring. Vail Resorts, which owns the Snake River Lodge in Teton Village, recently purchased Jackson Hole and has poured millions into the property, including 35 new cabins that sold out in hours.

New director of golf Mark Bradley, brother of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat, has overseen improvements to the course, and if the first 10 holes are any indication, the layout will continue to be among the best in the area.

Traditionally, Teton Pines has been Jackson’s power-broker community—in addition to several Fortune 500 CEOs, Vice President Dick Cheney is a resident. His spread is part of an enclave of homes just off the 18th green.

The 1987 Arnold Palmer design incorporates a lot of water, but most of it is out of play. Definitely in play are the views. Several holes frame The Grand, and the signature hole is No. 16, a dramatic par 3 that faces Rendezvous Bowl, one of the steepest pitches at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Teton Pines also has a branch of the Jack Dennis Fly Fishing School, a sprawling clubhouse and a restaurant considered one of the area’s best. The course allows limited outside play, but its best-kept secret—for non-residents at least—may be a pair of three-bedroom townhouses that are available for rent and give guests temporary membership privileges.

No matter how long you stay, it will not have been long enough. Which means it may be time to look into making a home in Jackson Hole.

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