Many of the 30-plus stops on the Little Red Corvette American Golf Road Trip need no introduction. It doesn’t take a golf travel expert to know a few days at Lajitas Golf Resort on the Texas-Mexico border is a boot-scootin’ good time. Same for golf with Bobby Clamplett at Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, California and likewise for three nights at Bandon Dunes. In fact, the who’s-who of golf courses have little room for surprise, and anything short of a fairytale often leaves guests dissatisfied.
On the contrary, and particularly on multi-track itineraries – the underdog emerges and it’s the humble golf courses that steal the show. A term that takes more beatings than a Bryson DeChambeau Bridgestone – it’s “hidden gems” we’re all looking for. Places like Pebble Beach and Kiawah are low-hanging fruit, but a sophisticated gent with a refined palate knows to pair the lesser-known Pine Needles Lodge with their Pinehurst pilgrimage.
There are no regrets on the Little Red Corvette American Golf Road Trip, but not enough time for golf in Cody, Wyoming is one. After golf stops in Bandon, Bend and Senaca, Oregon and Boise, Idaho, the Golf Vette roars through Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park with an overnight pit stop in Cody.
Named for its founder, Colonel William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the northwest Wyoming town deserves more than 16 hours. A grand attraction there bearing his name, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is worthy of a day. It’s five world-class museums under one roof offering a vivid look at Plains Indian culture, western art, Yellowstone, firearms, and of course — the legend Buffalo Bill.
The rodeo happens every night in Cody and its main street looks like a scene from A Fistful of Dollars. Dinner at Proud Cut Saloon is on-brand – the hardwood floor squeaks, and the oak walls are covered with deer and buffalo mounts. The bartender wears a white dress shirt, black vest with a bolo and is poised to pour whisky at beck and call. The western magic continues a half block east on main street with drinks at the Silver Dollar Bar. Right place, right time and because this is what happens in Cody – we end up hanging with 1992 World Champion Bull Rider Cody Custer. He’s in town grooming up-and-comer bull riders and we bend his ear for bucking-bull stories. Custer doesn’t buy belt buckles – he wins them. His legendary ride on Growney Brothers’ Wolfman in Round 10 of the 1991 National Finals Rodeo was good for a career high 94 points which is near perfection like a hole-in-one. The three-time RAM Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion is humble, but it’s easy to see that this cowboy is tough as nails. We have a few local brews, listen to some country songs and hit the hay ahead of the drive down to Casper.
From Cody to Casper in every direction is as far as the eye can see. Antelope graze in herds like cattle and views are shaped by unique rock formations and vistas. We see four or five cars on the 200-mile jaunt as we fly through little cowboy towns named Otto, Thermopolis and Powder River.
New places and new towns are the best part of the Little Red Corvette American Golf Road Trip. “Welcome to Casper” is the latest on a long list small town treasures. About 55,000 Wyomingites live there which makes it the second largest city in the state behind the state capitol of Cheyenne. For wide-open spaces and outdoor lifestyles – Casper is the perfect home in the thick of the action. There’s good fishing and hunting in every direction, a regular schedule of festivals, hiking, biking and a damn good golf course.
We arrive at the modern-western styled Ramkota Hotel complete with indoor pool and the Spirits Lounge with free beer at happy hour. Not the case by a country mile, but the Ramkota could have been falling down and we would have given five stars for the free beer – a hotel amenity that rivals the Fountains of Bellagio. A two Walmart town, Casper has it all – even an Indian restaurant. The Little Red Corvette crew has been on steak and potatoes since Bandon so it’s time to veer. Casper flexes its culinary range with Himalayan Indian Cuisine Restaurant – it’s on the basement floor of the Market Square Building downtown. From start to finish, the garlic naan is delectable, the lamb korma is to die for, the tandoori chicken is fit for Gandhi and they serve a perfect kheer for dessert. In the thick of the Pandemic there isn’t much happening at the taverns around town so we head back to Spirits and gladly pay $6 bucks for two beers and turn in for some z’s.
It’s Wednesday, July 15 and we have a 10:20 a.m. tee time at Three Crowns Golf Club, which is the reason we’re in town. A lot of quality golf courses are built on retired mines and quarries – Florida’s Streamsong Resort and Black Diamond Ranch for example. This Robert Trent Jones II design sits on what was one of the world’s largest oil refineries and it’s obviously healthy because the grass is happy. Course conditions are particularly good from tee to green and its putting surfaces are atop the leaderboard with Crane Creek Country Club in Boise, Idaho for best on the Road Trip.
RTJ No. 2 wasn’t gifted vistas, cliffs, dunes, towering pines or ocean views for this golf course build in central Wyoming, but he still shaped a winner. Three Crowns isn’t the most difficult track in the world – it’s no push-over either. The tree-less design forces good ball-striking with clever use of tall grasses, mounds and ponds. There are some trees, but they need some time – they’ll be a factor in 15 years. The groomed-grass range has plenty of targets for hours and hours of fine-tuning. But perhaps the club’s centerpiece is it’s pleasant clubhouse with veranda overlooking the 18th green. Three Crowns isn’t fancy – it isn’t basic either – it’s quality across the board. It’s a golf course anyone would be happy playing every day, it’s one that Yellowstone-going road trippers should detour for and it’s definitely a track the Little Red Corvette would stop for again.
The golf course closes every year in October and reopens in April, but their restaurant The Grille, is always open. It’s one of the best restaurants in town with a lengthy beer list and perhaps Casper’s best burger. From the pro shop, to the first tee starter and the server on the patio – Three Crowns feels more like a private club and makes us feel like members. The people of Casper are lucky to have Three Crowns – it takes us by surprise, but no doubt about it, this golf course takes a backseat to no one on the Little Red Corvette American Golf Road Trip.