Today we practiced what we preached – there’s Always Time for 9. We were traveling from Twin Falls, ID to Ft. Collins, CO – a 10 hours drive. What better way of breaking up the day then by stopping halfway at Fossil Island Golf Club in Kemmerer, WY. Their website states, “it has a double par 5 island green built in 1920 and designed by noted golf course architect Dick Phelps”. I had to research this statement a little further since Dick Phelps was not yet born in 1920. They also say, “the reputation and design of this 9-hole course draws travelers from their charted course just for the experience of playing it”. We had to investigate! So, we got off the interstate to “golf the fairways less traveled”.
After receiving the course rundown from our new friend, Dale, we started off to Hole #1. This par 4 dogleg left has water very much in play if you try to cut too much off the bend in the fairway. If trouble left wasn’t enough, there is a large willow bush in the middle of the fairway that Dale said is a magnet for golf balls. Luckily I missed it and landed just right of the bush with a perfect angle to the green. There is a bunker at the front left of the green which I ignored and registered a par to start my round.
Hole #2 is a 161 yard par 3 and today the pin was in an evil spot. Tucked behind water and willow bushes it was best to try to land on the right side of the putting surface. I ignored my own advice and went up and over the obstacles and somehow found the green and another par. Hole #3 has a very large fairway and landing area for both your drive and second shot. After two good shots at this par 5, you should be in position to make a decision – lay up or go for the green? The river looms in front of the green but after my two good shots we are going for it. The first of two island greens was conquered as I cleared the river, found the green, and one-putted for birdie. Now that’s how to start a round!
The par 4 fourth hole has a big dogleg left. There is a large fairway to the right but that direction will make the hole play much longer. I took the safe route (right) and after three good shots I was still short of the green. Like I said – longer! If you try to cut the angle to the left, those pesky willow bushes may take your ball and never give it back. I understand why this is the number one handicap hole.
Hole #5 is the sister hole to #3 albeit a little shorter. The river will again separate the green from the fairway. I was on the second island green in three but this time two-putted for par. On neither hole did I even come close to finding the bunker that separates the two greens. I felt a sense of accomplishment playing these two holes in one-under! Hole #6 features another wide fairway. Of course all the open area is to the right and plenty of room for your big slice. The area shrinks quite a bit if you hook the ball as the river runs the length of the left side of this hole.
The seventh hole is a par 4 of 401 yards with a slight dogleg right and out-of-bounds down the left side. Watch out for the bunker to the right of the green. Hole #8 is a par 3 with large pine trees flanking the fairway as you approach the green. Being a par 3 the trees shouldn’t come into play, right? Hole #9 is another dogleg right with bunkers bordering the green. The fairway is once again very wide but watch out for the water just left of the green.
Rating: Ace: The greens were in excellent shape. the fairways were a little spotty, but for late summer they were very playable. The first five holes require you to think before you pull a club. The last four just hit the big dog and let it fly. I liked the course design and routing. There was a good combination of holes and of course, those two double island greens are awesome. Dick Phelps wasn’t around in 1920 for the original design, but he put his stamp on the course with a few updates and the double island greens. The course has a bar for the after round 19th (10th?) hole and it does have Dale to serve those drinks and help you feel welcome. Fossil Island is a little off the beaten path but one of those fun courses to play the fairways less traveled!
220 Wyoming Hwy. 233, Kemmerer, WY 83101; 307-877-6954; www.kemmerer.org