This is not the kind of place where you borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. The huge homes are each architecturally unique, and the nearby Wasatch Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. Think golf on the Ponderosa. The biggest house I saw belonged to leveraged-buyout titan Barry Baker, who refers to it as his “starter castle.” He won’t tell me the actual square footage, but suffice to say it’s got an eighteen-seat movie theater.
Baker hosts the annual Royal Order of the Christians and Jews tournament, a Ryder Cup format that has been going for about twenty years and in 2006 migrated to Glenwild from Caves Valley in Baltimore. All of the guests stay at houses on the property, and competitors come back year after year. Baker has one rule: No foursome can have more than nine ex-wives in total. “We found the guys would just spend the round complaining about their exes, so we had to set a limit,” says this affable golf fanatic. Beneath his outsize persona lies the heart of a competitor: With a 3.7 index, Baker loves the course, which from the tips plays 7,543 yards.
Glenwild is vintage Fazio. “There is plenty of space to hit the ball,” says Mick Wydra, the membership director and a dead ringer for Phil Mickelson. “The trouble is all on the greens.” Wydra is certainly right about that. Repeatedly, I find myself on the putting surfaces in regulation, but pretty much every time I am above the hole I three-jack for bogey.
To be honest, though, with this kind of beauty around, score becomes less important. The last three holes at Glenwild are as good as any closing trio I’ve played. I have to hit driver, three-wood, seven-iron to get to the back of the challenging sixteenth, and rarely has anyone been on the green in two from the tips. (As at Promontory, the par fives are monsters.) From the elevated tee of the 245-yard seventeenth, I airmail a three-wood over the green. It can be very difficult to judge distances when the altitude (at which the ball travels an extra ten to fifteen yards) and a devilish wind are doing a dangerous dance together.
The eighteenth seems to have it all. In an effort to thwart the powerful combination of thin air and new technology, Fazio has served up a 518-yard par-four to give you something to talk about on the ride home. From the tips, your tee shot has to carry two-hundred-plus yards just to get through the thick stuff. To make matters worse, water hugs the entire left side of the fairway, forcing most of us mortals to turn the hole into a three-shot par four.
Coming off the course, I find myself sort of dumbstruck. How is it possible, I wonder, that a layout this good in such a magnificent setting is not showing up on the Top 100 lists?The answer is that the owners feel no need to market Glenwild except by word of mouth. They have already sold some 250 memberships, and when they hit 325, they will sell no more. “We don’t feel the need to advertise or promote it,” says Wydra. “The course and the setting sell themselves.”
As we head out of town the next morning, I have a whole new perspective on Park City. It’s like we’ve experienced the town with its guard down. The mountain air, so frosty in the winter, is exhilarating to breathe and can stretch my drives toward the three-hundred-yard mark. In the end, because of the short summer and its magnificent slopes, Park City will remain primarily a ski destination. But with world-class courses like those at Glenwild, Promontory and Talisker coming on, the short grass is quietly giving the deep powder a run for its money.