Rochelle Ranch Golf Course in Rawlins, WY
Tee Time: July 23, 2011, 13:45, 87 F, Gusty
Designer: Kenneth M. Kavanaugh, 2004
Playing Partners: Landon Weight
Tees: Horseshoe, Par 72 (75.9 rating/128 slope/7,925 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.4 index)
Stats: 103 (53-50); 39 putts; 11/14 fairways; 0/18 greens; 6 penalty strokes
Rochelle Ranch Golf Course sits along I-80 just a bit more than halfway between Salt Lake Cityand Cheyennein Rawlins, WY. At 7,925 yards from the Horseshoe tees furthest back and many tee shots playing into a headwind or crosswind, it certainly earns its place as one of the toughest courses in the country. Right from the opening drive you are thrown into this battle of attrition with a 440-yd par 4, which at #18 is rated the easiest hole on the course. Thus began a round in which no tee shot had to carry less than 200 yards, two par 5’s awaited at over 640 yards apiece and no par 4 played less than 423 yards.
I started well enough, bombing a drive into the heart of the first fairway, missing the green to the right and almost chipping in for birdie. It would be the last time I made a par until the 17th. With the shortest hole on the course following, a 173-yd par 3, a par-par start to this behemoth sounded like a great reason to celebrate. Unfortunately even at 173 yards the wind came howling in from the right and I was forced to punch a 4-iron at a green about ten yards deep. I missed long and made bogey. In fact I did not hit one green in regulation all day, an embarrassing statistic even if I had many long iron and woods for approach shots, including driver into a par 3 later on.
Even as Landon and I struggled through the opening holes, the beauty of the course and perfect weather kept morale high. Antelope grazed in the fairways and along the sagebrush that ate a few errant tee shots. Cottontail rabbits, hawks, gulls, ducks, cattle and one gopher snake were all sights on this safari through Rawlins. The wind rustled the high prairie grass and drowned out the passing semis on the few holes at the end of the front nine that ran along I-80. Remove the fact you have to carry your tee shot over 250 yards on the par-4, 493-yd 9th and you can see the awesome landscape we got to enjoy for over four hours in the picture below:
The front nine was a brutal introduction to this mammoth golf course, playing at almost 4,000 yards. By the middle of the back nine I had let any worries of my score fade away as I just enjoyed the scenery, excellent course layout and the fact that I was still plugging along in my new quest to break 100. Landon also stopped worrying about his score as well and cracked open a beer or two, which was for the best as he would card a 145 on the day. It was hard to get angry about your 14th consecutive missed green when this is what greeted you to the 15th tee:
Even though I bogeyed the final hole for a 103 complete with two triple-bogeys and two holes marked “worse”, I felt the drive to Rawlins was well worth it to play this course. I came home exhausted, chewed up by mosquitoes and a few golf balls lighter than when I arrived. Would I play this course again? Absolutely, maybe from a less daunting set of tees because the layout was fun and the course had the feel that it would use every club in your bag from a closer distance. But when you’re rated the #29 toughest course in America, you have to play from the tips to truly appreciate how damn tough it is. The fairways were lush, the greens rolled true, the wind made you question every club choice and the sagebrush along the rough ate golf balls. It was the hardest course I have played as evidenced by my first time failing to break the century mark in a long time.
Well, that’s one state down and only 49 left to reach my goal.Wyomingmay have higher ranked courses among the various golf publications, but this muni track is well worth the damage to your USGA index.
#13, Par 4, 444 yards, 1-handicap, My Score: 7
This hole was my favorite because it gave you two options. The wind was blowing hard at my back and with the length I had been showing off the tee all afternoon, the 280-yd or so carry over the water to cut the corner was too tempting to ignore. I teed it high and let it rip but came up about ten yards short and drowned it. I tripled it for a 7 after playing one into the fairway on my next shot, but I still think the risk was well worth the reward (I would have come in under 100 if I caught an extra gust). Take a look at the view from the tee, it does look like you have to bomb one over Lake Superior to see the other side, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Amenities: C-; the pro shop was smaller than our hotel room and little else is nearby.
Difficulty: A; the ever-present wind, brutal length and well-guarded greens make this one damn tough test.
Scenery: A-; wildlife is teeming and the rolling hills and peaceful landscape are only held back by the constant presence of I-80 close by.
Value: C+; at $33 for 18, you definitely get a lot of golf for the money, but the $30 cart fee is not too nice on the wallet.
Overall: 2.95 (B-); recommended at least once for the experience.