Catamount Ranch & Club: Weiskopf Nails Design and Opening-Day Round
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO -- Forty years ago a youthful Coloradan named Dick Anderson came to this ranching community to bale hay and enjoy the spectacular mountain summers.
Anderson, a Boulder native, former Colorado University football star, and Miami Dolphins' All-Pro defensive back, probably never imagined that almost 40 years later he could walk through a working ranch along side a still-operational hayfield and enjoy something he excels at -- golf.
That's exactly what happened on opening day of Catamount Ranch & Club, Steamboat Springs' first private golf club.
But on this day the ceremonial first drive was nailed by the designer of Catamount, Tom Weiskopf, who was also joined by former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Olympic ski jumper Moose Barrows in an exhibition round of golf.
"Weiskopf is noted for some of the finest mountain course designs in the country, and as someone who grew up here in Steamboat, I'm thrilled to see and be able to play this golf course at Catamount Ranch," said Barrows.
Weiskopf, the 1973 British Open champ and 1995 U.S. Senior Open title holder, stroked that first drive almost 300 yards to perfect position on Catamount's par-5, 517-yard No. 1. He then put his second shot on the back fringe and two-putted for a birdie.
Anderson, who is one of the best golfers on the Pro Celebrity Tour and was the winner of the 1994 Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championships at Lake Tahoe's Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, chipped in from the left fringe for an eagle to open his round and went on to post a two-over-par 74.
Weiskopf proved he's still got it with a six-under-par 66 and Quayle also posted a score in the upper 70s.
Catamount Ranch & Club is Weiskopf's 40th design project and his fourth course in Colorado, along with Grandote Peaks in La Veta, The Ridge at Castle Pines North and Eagle Springs in the Vail Valley.
But this project was invigorating for the Phoenix-based designer because Catamount only has 25 homesites around the course, which gave Weiskopf unusual freedom.
"Only four of the 40 projects I have been involved with weren't also being built along with a considerable number of houses. One of the old-time design features I've always loved was being able to go from green to tee in a few steps. That's a traditional element that I'm afraid is gone forever. Building courses that are easy to walk -- well, that's just not going to happen anymore."
The par-72, 7,088-yard course starts out in the ranch's flattest land near the working hayfields, and along Walton Creek with its cottonwood trees. It then starts to climb toward rock formations, groves of aspen, old-growth Douglas-fir and through scrub-oak brush.
"There are a several amazing things about Catamount," Weiskopf said. "One is we started with a working cattle ranch and built around it, preserving haying operations that continue to this day. Another is we designed a course that is environmentally sensitive -- it actually has improved habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, including elk-calving grounds. And finally, the course was built in 15 months. To be open in that short a time in a mountain climate is incredible. It will take the course five years to really mature, but it is in great shape right now."
At Catamount Ranch & Club there are several holes that drop so drastically, you will be questioning club selection especially when you also have to figure that at 6,800 feet, the ball carries at least 10-percent farther.
Weiskopf includes reachable par-4 holes in everyone of his designs and you will find one on the 5th, a 310-yarder. Just hit it solid down the middle and the reward is yours. Anything left or right could be a bogey.
Catamount's No. 6 is only 315 yards, but the 60-foot drop to a target spot will certainly puzzle you. There's a natural no-man's land right there within tee-shot distance and you have to keep your drive short of it.
Weiskopf will tell you to hit an 8-iron on the 211-yard, par-3 No. 8. It's one of those holes, as you look out over the Yampa Valley's hayfields of Colorado and Walton Creek 80 feet below, that will tease some to pull out a lot more club.
"I never pick signature holes on my courses," says Weiskopf, who designed the course with four sets of tees. "This course is a prime example of why --there are a lot of holes I really like, so I prefer to let those who play it pick their own personal favorite."
"Everyone who has played the course so far really loves the views," said Randy Houseman, Catamount's head pro. "At the highest points of the golf course you can look out on the Yampa Valley floor, see Rabbit Ears Pass, the Flat Top Wilderness ... it's just a sight to see the natural terrain. The greens (L-93 bentgrass) were a bit slow when we first opened, but they are starting to get quick. They will really be challenging new year."
For now and through 2001, Catamount Ranch & Club will be open for limited public play. But after that it will be a private club. Memberships are available through the purchase of property at Catamount Ranch or Lake Catamount subdivision.
Catamount Ranch & Club
33400-B Catamount Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
Green Fees: $150 for non-members through 2001.
Catamount Ranch and Lake Catamount Sales Center: 708 Lincoln Avenue Steamboat Springs, CO 80477 Telephones: 888-456-5590 or 970-879-0690.
Historical Lake Catamount
In the early 1970s, the Lake Catamount area was proposed as a site for the downhill segment of the Colorado Winter Olympics bid. The county approved a vast new ski area, a base village with more than 3,000 residential units, 1,000 hotel units and 250,000-square feet of retail space.
But Colorado didn't get the Winter Olympics bid and the idea was tabled. In 1997, Cordillera, the same company that owns the world-famous resort and golf courses in the Vail Valley, bought the property.
The golf course is just east of Highway 40 at the bottom of Rabbit Ears Pass, a few miles south of Steamboat Springs.
Where to Stay
Fairfield Inn, 3200 South Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. Marriott's award-winning economy hotel lodging chain features large units with gas-burning fireplaces. The Fairfield Inn is located one mile from Steamboat Ski Village and Yampa Hot Springs, one and a half miles from Historic Steamboat Springs and Howelson Hill (ski jumping). Take Highway 40 east through downtown Steamboat Springs -- 1.5 miles or it's east of downtown turn left off Highway 40 into hotel parking lot.
Practice Fac.: B+
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: B
Pace of Play: A-
Overall Rating: A-
February 2, 2012