When course architect Arthur Hills looked at the site that was to become the Mountains course at BIGHORN, he realized he would be creating a masterpiece. Unparalleled views from spectacular elevations make this layout more unique and memorable than any course in the world.
The rugged terrain, with its natural splendor and exacting design leaves even the most polished professional feeling breathless from its natural splendor and exacting design. Expansive desert transition areas and massive rock outcroppings all come into play. Because of its audacious nature, the designer’s first priority was to make this magnificent golf course accessible to all levels of ability. Five teeing areas assure that novice and intermediate golfers can enjoy the serene setting and majestic beauty of the Santa Rosa Mountains while being justly rewarded for good shots. Those who are feeling bold may choose to challenge the deepest tee, from which even the game’s most accomplished players will feel their skills have been thoroughly engaged.
Host to the PGA Tour’s Skins Game from 1992-1995 and the Senior PGA Tour’s World Match Play Championship in 1998, the Mountains Course has been tested – and on occasion conquered – by some of the finest players in the world including Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, Peter Jacobson, Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Corey Pavin, Tom Watson, Jim Colbert, Hale Irwin, Gill Morgan, Bob Murphy, Larry Nelson, Gary Player and Dave Stockton.
Mountains Course Hole by Hole
|Hole 1 |
|The special nature of the Arthur Hills Mountains course is apparent from the very first tee box. This par 4 plays uphill, demanding a solid tee shot and a medium-to-long iron to reach the green in two. A tee shot that strays left leaves the player with a blind approach to the green, which is bunkered on the right. With significant pitch from back to front, speed is critical to a successful putt.|
|Don’t be deceived by the length of this short par 3; it is full of challenges. First is the precipitous drop from the tee to the green that, when combined with a sometimes-fickle desert breeze, requires careful club selection. The green is deep and protected in front and on the right by traps. This elongated green also offers a variety of devilish pin placements. This hole presents one of the many delightful dilemmas Arthur Hills has designed into the course.|
|Number 3 begins with a blind shot off of an elevated tee, one that requires hitting over a part of BIGHORN Mountain. Favoring the left side provides an opening to the green, but the out-of-bounds is only fifteen yards to the left of the green. The alternative is not much more appealing; driving down the right side means playing a second shot over a lake that protects the green. Long hitters can usually reach the green in two, but most find it wise to lay-up with an iron and follow with a wedge. In many ways this hole is thematic of what is to come, a course where risk and reward are always in play.|
|While the fairway looks wide from the 4th tee, you must still consider your strategy before putting your ball in play. Hitting left means possibly catching not only a bunker, but the encroaching desert as well. Best to favor the right where only the longest hitters might catch the fairway’s right side bunker. There is a more generous landing area there, one that provides a clear shot to an elevated green. It also takes the hills and valleys that lie left out of play. A good drive will leave players a short iron to a relatively flat green, but one protected on all sides by sand.|
|Players follow a gracefully landscaped route to Number 5, a level hole with a generous verdant fairway. There is a bunker left and out-of-bounds right. Most players enjoy cranking it up and going for distance off the tee. The second shot is to a slightly elevated, two-tiered narrow green protected by a bunker on the right. A rear pin location will test the player’s dexterity as the landing area shrinks. Because of the green’s undulations, putting is yet another test. Indeed, every shot on this hole demands the kind of precision expected at a championship course.|
|Approximately 240 yards from the tee of this beautiful par 5, the two-tiered fairway drops to its lower level, offering an opportunity to go for the green in two. But as with most holes, Arthur Hills has added a wrinkle. In this case it is a lake parallel to the fairway that runs about 110 yards to the green, guarding it on the left. Add to that sand bunkers behind and to the right of the green and players face a particularly challenging approach shot. For most, discretion is the better part of play and they choose to lay-up, hitting a short iron to the green for a birdie opportunity.|
|Another impressive par 4 where an elevated tee leads to a seemingly gracious open fairway. Arthur Hills has protected the narrow green with a finger of desert that parallels the fairway and runs to the green, protecting it in front and on its right-hand side. This gives the hole its distinctive beauty, but adds to its difficulty. In addition, the green is diagonal to the fairway, making rear pin settings quite tight. As a result, most players find a second shot to the center of the green most advisable, though its subtle breaks make the speed of the putt important and formidable.|
|Lushly landscaped, this stunning par 3 resembles a watercolor softened by a haze of green. Between the desert and green lies a lovely lake surrounded by plants that makes proper club selection critical. Too short and the lake claims another ball. Too long and one has a difficult chip shot onto the green that slopes toward the water. In addition to water, a bunker on the left catches shots that carry over the narrow elongated green. Though a short hole, most golfers are pleased to take par and head towards number nine.|
|Hitting left off the tee of this par 4 takes you down a series of rolling knolls toward the encroaching desert, while hitting right means going out-of-bounds. But there is a sweet spot; a 25-yard strip down the right center of the fairway that leaves players with a medium iron to the green. That green is guarded in front and on the left, helping some shots fall into the water. Because this green is long and plays fast, a good lag putt may be required.|
|On Number 10 the course earns its name – and its reputation. A spectacular par 5 opens the back nine, climbing out of the valley and right into the rocky mountain terrain. The undulating fairway is bordered by out-of-bounds on both sides; desert wash to the left and a rockslide on the right. A good drive allows players to lay-up their second shot to approach an elevated green that is wide, but not deep. And though the green is protected on the front right by a bunker, it does offer a birdie opportunity|
|While there is a captivating view of the valley below from this dramatically elevated tee, the fairway itself is hidden. The temptation is to hit left, but too far and the rocks lie in wait. Too far to the right and lateral hazards abound. The safest bet is a 3-wood right down the middle. Depending on pin placement, a mid-iron is usually best for the approach. The green is deep and elevated, guarded right and left by a desert waste bunker. It slopes from back to front, so putting is truly at a premium here.|
|Many think of this hole as the most difficult par 5 in the desert. Mountains sit to the left of the fairway and a natural ravine runs along its right, crossing the fairway about 160 yards from the green. To add to the hole’s challenge, it is played uphill and against a prevailing breeze. A successful drive will leave players the option to lay-up short of the ravine or try to hit across it to the narrow green, which is protected by bunkers on its right and left. A truly magnificent hole, but one that requires smart, strategic shots.|
|The elevated tee of this downhill par 3 is just a short iron shot to a green protected on its right by a sand bunker, making it a real birdie opportunity. The challenge here comes from the desert. Inescapable, it threatens to claim any shot hit too long, too short, or too far left. On the tee, a slight desert breeze awakens you while the entire valley unfolds before you. Course, mountains and nature of one, and a setting that for those fortunate enough to play it will never forget.|
|With its abbreviated length 14 is another one of Arthur Hills’ risk-reward challenges. An elevated tee may tempt bolder players to think about driving the hole. But be advised; to the left of the green the mountains are a lateral hazard; while behind the green a ravine waits for any mistakes. Those who know this hole hit a fairway wood, leaving a short pitch of less than a hundred yards to the green. Once safely on, a new set of difficulties presents itself. The green is quite narrow and slopes dramatically from the rear to the front. Even the best find making a par a very satisfying score.|
|From a tee overlooking the entire valley, with all of BIGHORN before them, players face one of golf’s most dramatic and exciting holes. This exceptionally long signature par 4 drops a precipitous 180 feet from tee to green. Players are invited to test their strength and drive for distance from the tee, though mountains to the right and left demand the shot be accurate. The second is a long iron to a green that slopes slightly left. Perhaps the most difficult hole one the course, players should be pleased, if not delighted with par. But regardless, all are thrilled by the surrounding beauty.|
|Though a ravine runs parallel to the fairway, the real challenge on 16 begins on the green. The hole plays uphill and a good drive will leave players with a mid-iron shot to the flag. But it had best be accurate. Placement of the approach is critical and should be below the pin. Running diagonally to the fairway the green slopes back to front and presents players with a difficult putting surface. Many a golfer have walked away from this hole… on in two, but well over par.|
|Players will finesse a tee shot from an elevated tee to the green below on this often-troublesome par 3. There is a bit of room right in a bailout area, and it is safe to think right, instead of left, where a ravine guards the green from the left and in front. This is one of those holes where the line between success and failure is razor thin. But then it is the thrill of beating the challenges that make BIGHORN golf such a special experience.|
|It is the perfect finishing hole. It opens with a downhill drive over a waterfall, with a stream on the left and out-of-bounds to the right. While the fairway is generous, there is a bunker on the right players should be careful to avoid. A successful drive will leave a slightly downhill mid-iron to the green, but before taking the shot, look back over the truly splendid ground traversed. If anyone needs reminding of what a truly extraordinary course they have played, this view will do it. Then make the approach to a gently sloping green protected on the right by bunkers and on the left by water. Most players pause before making their putt, reluctant to finish an experience only a blessed few will ever know.|