It’s 12:45 p.m., and just four hours after leaving LAX, my kids and I are already zooming east down I-80 in our rented red Expedition from the Salt Lake airport on the way to Park City. Maddie, 13, and Andrew, 12, are rocking out on their iPods (she’s wondering if I’ve ever heard of Led Zeppelin!), and I’m taking in the summer scenery on this road I have traversed a dozen times before, always in January en route to the Sundance Film Festival. Memories come flooding back: On my first trip here, in 1994, I landed in a snowstorm and stayed up all night negotiating with novelist/screenwriter Pat Duncan to buy the Courage Under Fire script. As I recall, I was woefully underdressed, sporting penny loafers in a blizzard.
But in July, the scenery is vividly changed. Gray and white snowcapped mountains are now naked peaks blanketed with rich greens and browns. We pass Utah Olympic Park, home of the 2002 Winter Games, where ski jumps marked with the familiar five-ring logo resemble giant miniature-golf holes sloping down the hills.
In short order we arrive at the home of our friends Jordan and Helen Levin, a 110-year-old white two-story brimming with character, just one block behind Main Street. After getting settled, we walk into town for lunch. In Park City they get Small Town America right. There’s not a fast-food joint in sight, and many of the shops are still just that, replete with hand-painted signs and friendly sales people. You just have to love a town where the police station is next door to the liquor store.
A century ago Park City was a mining outpost; today prospectors are hunting down movie deals in January or pars in July. In the Park City area alone, there are at least half a dozen golf courses worth playing, ranging from the well-regarded local muni to Tuhaye, part of the recently completed Talisker development. On this trip I am looking to get behind the gates of two of the more upscale golf communities, Promontory and Glenwild.
On our first night, we meet up with my friend Marc for dinner. Park City may be first and foremost a ski destination, but with fewer tourists around and a variety of activities (fly-fishing, mountain biking, et cetera), you can see why locals love the place in summer. Marc and his wife, Gayle, chose Park City for a second home after looking at Aspen, Vail and even Bend, Oregon. “We came for the winters,” he says, “but we stayed for the summers. I knew we had made the right choice when I woke up one morning last spring and skied Deer Valley in the morning and played eighteen holes at Park Meadows in the afternoon. It was one of the best days of my life.”
Marc and I arrive at the gates of Promontory at 8:30 the next morning inside his blue-steel H-1 Hummer. Apparently it’s the same model they use in combat, although I suspect the soldiers don’t get the fancy paint job and two-tone leather seats. No one seems to bat an eye as we move past the guard gate into what seems to be the ultimate adult summer camp.
A few particulars on Promontory: It’s ten square miles and occupies some seven thousand acres. There are two championship courses, the just-completed Jack Nicklaus Painted Valley Course and the Pete Dye Canyon Course. There’s an equestrian center, an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts and a massive glass-and-stone “mountain modern” clubhouse. (Homeowners also share a private ski lodge at Deer Valley Resort.)
We drive past a maintenance shed that I’d be happy to call home—it looks to be straight from the pages of a Ralph Lauren catalog. Promontory, which bills itself as a “luxury second-home community,” has 1,900 homesites; lots run from $500,000 to $2 million, houses from $1.85 million on up. Golf memberships cost $150,000, and remember, the playing season is only five months. So when we meet up with the community’s director of golf, Steve Hupe, it’s not like he’s wowed by the Hummer. He just wants to know what kind of mileage it gets and if it has a shift-on-the-fly transmission (it does).
The homes are big and the architecture diverse, on a grand scale but not overbearing. Most of the houses are cabin-style, and many employ a wide range of stone, wood and glass, sourced locally. They are well spaced, and though many dot the Canyon Course, they don’t intrude on it. The Dye course opened in 2002, the Nicklaus track last summer, and during our round the staccato of staple guns and jackhammers interplays with the crack of our drivers. In about ten years, when the building pace slows, the trees mature and the courses have had some time to settle, the place will be extraordinary.