Sorry, partner. On the sports excitement scale, watching a 1.62-ounce golf ball roll toward a hole in the ground seldom matches seeing a one-ton bull try to drill a cowboy into the dirt. But head for Wyoming and you can experience both during Cheyenne Frontier Days. The golf is enjoyable if not world class, while Frontier Days is the biggest rodeo spectacle in the West.
Established in 1897 and known as “The Daddy of ‘Em All,” Frontier Days lures tens of thousands of visitors every summer. This year’s festivities run from July 23 through August 1 and include bull riding, steer wrestling, parades, concerts, cook-offs and faithful re-creations of cowboy and Indian villages. When to go? George Strait headlines the opening ceremonies, but unless you’re a huge fan of his, shoot for the second weekend, when the world’s best ropers and riders compete in the finals.
Fly into Denver instead of Cheyenne. Flights and rental cars are cheaper and more plentiful, and the 90-minute drive up Interstate 25 to Wyoming takes you past lots of good golf. Buffalo Run Golf Course in Commerce City, Colorado, is just eight miles from Denver International Airport and, at 7,411 yards, penalizes with wheatlike rough and ice-slick greens. An hour’s ride north of Denver, in Windsor, Pelican Lakes Golf & Country Club is a 7,264-yard Ted Robinson Sr. design that seemingly floats in the Poudre River corridor and boasts “more shoreline than any other golf course in the world.” Both are great tracks for acclimating to higher altitudes. (Denver is a mile high; Cheyenne sits at 6,067 feet.)
When you reach Cheyenne, check in to one of the dozen sumptuous rooms at the 116-year-old Nagle Warren Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Or try Little America Hotel & Resort, a luxurious space that boasts a surprisingly challenging, densely forested, par-30 nine-holer. Head to the Snake River Pub & Grill in the restored railway depot and hunker down in front of a slab of St. Louis-style ribs straight from the smoker or a stone-oven-fired pizza. Wash down dinner with a Snake River Lager or Hobo Hefeweizen (or both), then amble over to Frontier Park to troll the midway and catch country star Kenny Chesney in concert.
Cheyenne remains a frontier town where restaurants like The Albany serve “bulls balls” instead of fancying up the name to “Rocky Mountain oysters.” (Either way, bull testicles are a cowboy delicacy.) The pioneer spirit endures on the course as well. The Wyoming capital has only one 18-hole public layout: the Airport Golf Course, a flat, featureless track that regularly hosts the Wyoming Open — and 51 2-hour rounds.
Fortunately, Cheyenne Country Club opens its gates during Frontier Days. And this being cowboy country, you can play in your jeans. The 6,559-yard course, which dates to 1912 and until 1971 featured cottonseed greens, features six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. This arrangement, coupled with fairly flat putting surfaces, could yield the best score of your life — if you can thread your drives through mature cottonwoods and stay out of the lakes that border half the holes.
A quick clubhouse lunch fuels a visit to the Old West Museum, where frontier history comes alive. Artifacts are displayed, and a video honors Lane Frost, the champion bull rider who died at age 25 competing in the Frontier Days finals in 1989. Stroll the Wild Horse Gulch Old West Town and the Indian Village, then sup on richly prepared steaks at the Whipple House, a restaurant that occupies a historic mansion downtown.
|Facts & Contacts|
|Buffalo Run Golf Course |
Greens fee $39; 303-289-1500
|Pelican Lakes Golf & Country Club |
Greens fee $50; 877-837-GOLF
|Cheyenne Country Club |
Greens fee $50; 307-637-2230
|F.E. Warren Air Force Base Golf Course |
Greens fee $29 (cart included); 307-773-3556
Make an early tee time at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base Golf Course in Cheyenne. You don’t need to enlist; just show proper identification to your sponsor-escort to get from the security gate to the clubhouse, which opened in December and sports an indoor golf simulator. A snug, 6,706-yard layout with puny greens similar in feel to those at Cheyenne.Country Club, the Warren course rewards strategy over power. Some 300 antelope — and a classified number of nuclear missiles — call the secured area home.
Doff your golf cap, don a Stetson and follow the boot prints to the rodeo arena. Whoop, holler, yip and yodel for the cowboys and cowgirls as they ride, rope and wrestle for bragging rights, prize money and coveted bright, shiny belt buckles. As you head back to the Denver airport, you might opt to hang around: PGA Tour stars wrangle par at The International (August 2-8), just down the road at Castle Pines Golf Club.