STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO - It's only appropriate that Gary Crawford, head pro at the Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club, is a former member of the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Ski Team.
After all, this historic ski town has produced 52 Winter Olympians, more than any other town in America. Two of the more famous Steamboat skiers are downhiller Billy Kidd and Moose Barrows, who is immortalized in the TV clip by ABC's Wide World of Sports. Barrows is the ski jumper who survived the crash forever deemed "The Agony of Defeat".
Crawford's second profession might not be as taxing physically, but it is just as rewarding. The Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. beauty that boasted Tom Watson as its tour representative pro when it opened in 1974. It covers 6,902 yards from the back at par 72 and produces some stunning scenery on holes skirting boulder-strewn Fish Creek.
"I think many people really enjoy the holes that come close to Fish Creek," Crawford said. "If we were trying to build this course today, the environmental concerns probably wouldn't let us get so close to the creek.
"I think Jones Jr. lived up to his reputation on this course. It has great bunkering and large undulating greens, and it has spectacular views and wildlife. Just today some excited golfers came into the clubhouse and said they had a bear visit on the No. 17 green," Crawford said.
Crawford, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, is entering his 14th season at the club. He was on the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team from 1976 to 1988, competed in the Lake Placid Olympics of 1980 and was in Calgary for the 1988 competition. He said one of the more exciting competitions he took part in was the 1982 World Championships in Oslo, Norway, where 100,000 came out to see the event.
"The first thing I noticed about the course other than the great scenery was Jones' challenging greens," said Alan Gildersleeve. "I've been playing this course for 12 years and the greens still challenge me. The golf course is an awesome sight. It's beautiful in the fall with the aspens changing colors and spectacular when Fish Creek is running high in the spring."
The greens are bent and poa and even though they aren't super slick, they are tricky to read. Being in the foothills near the Mt. Werner ski slopes, they break away from the big hill. Some fairways are tight with evergreens lining the edges. There are 72 bunkers and water winds through seven holes.
Surprisingly, Steamboat Springs is located below the 7,000-foot elevation, so the golf course is open approximately 150 days of the year, from mid-May to November 1 some years.
No. 10, a 542-yard par-5 is the signature hole. Fish Creek crosses the fairway 100 yards from the green. No. 15 will challenge you with two crossings of the creek on this par-4, 378-yarder.
The par-3 holes are fun. No. 8 at 190 yards has a green tucked peninsula-styled. Pin placements right require bravery and accuracy. No. 11 (200 yards) and 17 (191 yards) have highly elevated tee boxes to well-trapped greens.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort
2200 Village Inn Court
P.O. Box 774808
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
Phone: 800-848-8878 or 970-879-2220.
Green Fees: Public Summer $100. After 2 p.m. $70. Member-Resort Guest $65. After 2 p.m. $50. Spring and Fall rates reduced, call for prices. Golf Carts $20 per rider. Summer season runs June 15 to September 17.
Golf Packages: "Golf 'Til You Drop" Packages is $119. Swing away Monday through Thursday: Hotel accommodations Greens Fees for up to 36 holes per day with cart Unlimited driving range privileges on days of play Course Guidebook. Call for details and check website for other special golf packages.
Where to Stay: Don't miss the Sheraton Steamboat's Morningside Luxury Condos. Imagine a three-bedroom, three-bath condo with full kitchen and living room overlooking the Silver Bullet Gondola and ski slopes. Ski-in and ski-out in luxury.
These units also have a private balcony, washer and dryer, TV in every bedroom and living room, Iron and ironing board, master bath with walk-in shower and oversized bathtub. You can get from 1,610 square feet to 2,497 square feet. Top floor has an open-air viewing area with three hot tubs overlooking the ski runs. This place is heaven in summer or winter.
Where to Eat: Start the day off right with spectacular views of the Steamboat Ski Area at Sevens Restaurant. It features unique, health conscious selections as well as gourmet preparations. Available year-round for breakfast. The 3 Saddles Bar & Grill is located off the Sheraton lobby. Summer or winter, 3 Saddles' deck is a perfect place to have lunch, dinner or a cocktail while overlooking Mt. Werner.
The Fish Creek Grille overlooks Sheraton's Golf Course, with spectacular views of the Flat Top Mountains. Enjoy a lunch, cocktails or a South American cigar.
History: The town got its name when trappers, traveling through the area in the mid-1800s, found a mineral hot spring that made a chugging noise which sounded to them like a steamboat. Fur trapping gave way to gold mining and eventually ranching and coal mining.
Would you believe a high school band on skis? That was part of Carl Howelsen's Winter Carnival in 1914. When Howelsen came to town in 1913 he also showed the townspeople that skiing could be fun. The Flying Norseman, as he was called, built a ski jump and hurled himself, skis and all, more than 100 feet off the ramp. Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs maintains the 30-, 50-, 70-, and 90-meter jumps used by Steamboat's future Olympians as a training site.
Directions: From U.S. 40 take Mt. Werner Drive toward the ski mountain and look for signs to the golf course. The Sheraton Steamboat can also be found from Mt. Werner Drive. It's at the base of the ski mountain.
Practice Fac.: B
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: B
Pace of Play: B+
Resort Hotel: A+
Overall Rating: A-