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Draw of Golf & Natural Wonders Lead to Powder Horn
A real draw to the High County lifestyle of Wyoming is that of men and women working in concert with the natural wonders of nature and the land. So it's not surprising to find that The Powder Horn, one of the nation's top residential golf communities, does just that by using the backdrop of the state's many endemic attributes as a start, a middle and an ongoing push to forge a development that is second to none.
Stag Nine's Sixth Green
The centerpiece of The Powder Horn, located in Sheridan in the north-central portion of the state near the Montana border, is its nationally recognized, 27-hole golf course. Noted for its three distinct nines - the Mountain and the Stag, both opened for play in 1997, and the Eagle, which debuted in 2002 - The Powder Horn has earned loads of recognition from numerous magazines and just about everyone who has made the effort to see the property.
The development occupies 900 unspoiled acres. Little Goose Creek meanders through and every measure was taken to preserve the beautiful land, so much so that the courses have been designated as a National Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Panoramic Shot of The Powder Horn
Designed by Dick Bailey, each of The Powder Horn's nines has its own personality. With a nod to the game's Mecca, St. Andrews, the Mountain Nine features a small replica of the famous Swilcan Burn Bridge as well as large greens, 30 sizeable sand bunkers and the open rolling terrain of a Scottish links. Woodlands and wetlands surround the property's old red barn to create target golf with Old West flair on the Stag Nine. And on Eagle, the need for length and creative shots are mixed together across meadows and creek-side terrain.
The community and its courses are situated at 3,800 feet elevation at the base of the Big Horn Mountains. Every hole offers incredibly panoramic views of the not-so-distant peaks and surrounding areas, and the course challenges with native rough along fairways.
The Powder Horn was developed by Sheridan native son, Homer A. Scott, Jr., who has been one of the region's business leaders for years. Scott and his wife, Janet, were introduced to the property that would become The Powder Horn in the fall of 1993, and it was love at first sight.
With the tranquility of Little Goose Creek and the hills and high ground that afford such great views of the Big Horn Mountains, deciding to develop the land in a right way was a dream that became a reality. Two generations of the Scott family are now involved in the management and operations of The Powder Horn.
Each of the nines play to a par of 36, but the Eagle is by far the longest at 3,653 yards from the tips. The Stag is carded at 3,491 yards and Mountain is 3,443 yards; multiple elevated tees make Mountain the easiest of the three. As expected, the 18-hole configuration with the highest rating and slope is the Eagle/Stag Combo, at 74.3 and 139, respectively, followed by Eagle/Mountain (73.8, 136) and Stag/Mountain (72.6, 132).
The Eagle begins with a daunting 430-yard par-4 that plays into the prevailing wind, and with fairway-tightening bunkers, puts a premium on the opening shot. The next four holes keep your attention: the 470-yard par-4 second (with unforgiving wetlands that run almost the length of the hole along the left), the 215-yard par-3 third (which plays long despite going downhill), the 425-yard par-4 No. 4 (also starting at a raised tee with bunkers left and two lakes right), and the massive 629-yard par-5 fifth, which houses wetlands, a creek and trees.
The seventh on Eagle is a testy three-shotter, stretching 574 yards in an "S" configuration that circumvents water, then sand and then water again before turning back to the right.
Stag features target golf with tricky shots over natural hazards to greens tucked into trees. It begins with the shortest hole in the development and is perhaps the most picturesque. From the back tee it is a 335-yard par-4 bordered the entire distance by Little Goose Creek. On the tough 455-yard par-4 second you take aim at a pair of cottonwoods in the middle of the fairway and turn your ball left or right. The toughest test on Stag may be the 424-yard par-4 fifth, a humdinger that turns left off the tee and crosses both the Eternal Spring and Little Goose Creek en route to a green flanked on three sides by cottonwoods.
Perhaps you can get a stroke or two back on the Stag's 510-yard par-5 ninth, but avoiding its nine bunkers requires precision. The overly aggressive and careless player will discover that bogeys are as easily achieved here and pars and birdies are reserved for more thoughtful ball-strikers.
The first hole on Mountain is named after the most famous structure in golf - the Swilcan Burn Bridge. It's best not to get caught up in the pomp and keep to your game as one of the Mountain's best challenges hits you on the next hole, a 520-yard, double-dogleg par-5 that runs uphill. On Mountain's No. 3, you reach the highest point on The Powder Horn, and your reward is a stout 175-yard par-3 to an elevated green.
Mountain's top test is the 463-yard par-4 seventh, which has mounds left and bunkers right of the landing area and a putting surface that is long and narrow, slightly elevated and protected left by sand. The closer on Mountain is a two-shotter that plays 413 yards and is a sharp dogleg-right. Beware of water left and the two huge traps on the port side of the green.
Since the first tee was put into the ground at The Powder Horn, the accolades for Bailey's work have been loud and numerous. The course was named among Golfweek's "America's Best Courses You Can Play" in both 2006 and '07, Best Residential Golf Courses in 2005-09, Top 100 Modern Golf Courses in 2006-09 and as Wyoming's Top Course.
Golf Digest also lauded the venue as its Best Wyoming Course to Play in 2006; the Wyoming Business Report anointed the track as the No. 1 course in Wyoming and Links Magazine listed it as one of America's Top 100 Premier Golf Properties in 2008 and '09.
The Powder Horn boasts two practice facilities featuring a multi-tiered practice green and short-game areas as well as a spectacular 30,000-square-foot clubhouse. The community also has a pool and pool house, two tennis courts, expansive nature trails and trout-stocked ponds for fishing.
Rated one of Where to Retire magazine's "Top 100 Master Planned Communities," The Powder Horn was recently named a "Best Development in the High Country" by Mountain Living Magazine. Travel + Leisure Golf included the development on its list of "America's Top 100 Golf Communities."
All those magazines and awards can't be wrong - and they aren't. The Powder Horn is a marvelous place to play and live. You owe it to yourself to get out to Wyoming to give the place - and this course - the once-over. If you do, you may never leave.
For more information, visit www.thepowderhorn.com.
Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.