The Links at Teton Peaks
It is not often one can experience that rare, improbable departure from everyday reality by visiting an iconic mountain wonderland that stuns the senses with wilderness and majesty unparalleled anywhere on earth. And then combine that outdoor encounter with the absolute joy that is an authentic links-style golfing experience. It’s not that such a journey is so improbable, and by any stretch of the imagination it is, it’s that the overall experience can be so spectacular in the scope and grandeur of the encounter that it leaves you breathless in the realization that it is indeed possible. The Links at Teton Peaks, situated at the base of the Grand Tetons, offers such an outing.
True Links golf courses are hard to find anywhere outside the British Islands. In America, those courses tend to exist in coastal regions, primarily in the Northwest and East and are usually very pricey.
The reasons, of course, are Links golf courses utilized the sandbars that separated the agricultural friendly inland land from the salt infested and uninhabitable shorelines. Linksland fulfills its purpose by using terrain, useless for any commercial activities except as a shield protecting arable land from the mercy of nature’s elements. That is until golf became fashionable in the sixteenth century and golfers needing a place to play, with other available lands scarce and expensive. True links land is treeless, formless, fluid and steadily being shifted and shaped by the forces of Nature. The wind and sea are the creators, while the elements provide a natural defense and hazard.
Fast forward to the early ’90s and meet Bob and Sharman Williams, a California couple looking for a place to settle after Bob retired from his law practice of almost fifty years. Setting down roots amidst the grandeur of the Grand Teton National Park, the Williams combined their love of the outdoors, landscape painting, fly fishing and golf, into a links masterpiece that, when considering the location, defies the imagination.
Enlisting the talents of David Druzisky, an award-winning member of the professional architect’s society, ASGCA, the Williams gave him an open mandate: maintain the rugged landscape with the raw beauty of the mountains and surrounding wildlife. All while crafting a true links-style course that combines the best of traditional concepts: wind-swept terrain, scenic routing, and modern maintenance principles. And Druzisky delivered. Pot bunkers, double fairways, blind approach shots, each hole is presenting those unique challenges associated with the links experience, all while including breathtaking views of the Tetons.
For locals and visitors alike, if you have not experienced true links golf, the mere thought can be intimidating. Most American golfers only familiarity with this style of golf is what they see on TV during the playing of The Open Championship each July. Compounding this dismay is if you routinely play more traditional parkland settings with wide fairways and little rough so typical to public and resort courses.
But fear not. The links at Teton Peaks are imminently playable. Each hole has three sets of tees with generous landing areas and distinct approaches. The longest hole on the course is the par 5, eleventh which measures a long 630 yards from the black tees. From the silver’s it is a much more manageable 497 yards. The gold tees measure a plebian 380 yards.
And this is the lesson from an excellent designer. A high-quality golf course should always offer challenges, including length, that appeals to all skill levels. Golfers should always play the tees that support their skill set.
The front nine is well balanced with three par-5’s, three par-4’s and three par-3’s with a total yardage of 3218 yards from the black tees, 2846 yards from the silver tees and 2369 yards from the forward tees.
The back nine gets interesting with three 5’s, three 4’s and three 3’s. Number 10 is a short par-3, followed with back-to-back par-5’s, and then back-to-back par-3’s finishing up with three par-4’s and the last par-5. Number 16 is a drivable par-4 from the silver tees but offers the risk-reward of a double fairway that will challenge the very brave or the very accurate. The back nine measures 3329 yards from the black’s, 2850 yards from the silver tees and 2361 yards from the gold’s
Unlike more traditional seaside links courses, water comes into play on fourteen of the eighteen holes as the Griffin Spring Creek meanders throughout the course. Interestingly this water feature does not detract from the links experience as golfers have been known to stop and test their fly fishing prowess for the native cutthroat trout that fill the stream. Wildlife is also abundant as moose; whitetail deer and many species of wildfowl inhabit the area.
Carts are allowed on the course but to fully appreciate the beauty, ambiance, and recreational experience; management has wisely permitted golfers to walk with a reduction in green fees.
Located in Driggs, Idaho, The Links at Teton Peaks offers an outstanding golf experience at a fair and reasonable price. When one combines the breathtaking scenery of the Teton Range with the non-traditional links golfing experience it became a fanciful detour into delights unknown to the traveler when that journey began. Whether you come just for the golf and spend the day or visit much longer, your experience will more than justify the passage.
Jeff Waters is a PGA Master Professional and a member of the Golf Writers Association of America