Windwalker owners seek to build most exclusive nine holes in the Steamboat area |

Windwalker owners seek to build most exclusive nine holes in the Steamboat area

Developers of a new private nine-hole golf course will be seeking a permit from Routt County Planning. The planned course
John F. Russell

— The owners of Windwalker Ranch, a private lodge on the Yampa River just below Lake Catamount Dam, are seeking a permit from Routt County to build a very private nine-hole golf course straddling the river on a 59-acre parcel within the 514-acre ranch.

There would be no commercial operation of the golf course, according to documents on file with the county. Instead, like the lodge and other amenities at the ranch including trophy trout fishing and shooting, it would be reserved for the use of members of about 10 families in the ownership group and their personal guests.

A public hearing on the project before the Routt County Planning Commission that had been scheduled for May 7 was postponed as of Thursday until May 21, Planning Director Chad Phillips said.

Steamboat Springs Attorney Bob Weiss, a spokesman for the owners, said Thursday that the group sought the postponement to consider new information and a number of conditions of approval for the permit that the proponents only recently became aware of.

Weiss confirmed the motivation for the postponement includes Phillips’ reasons for recommending against approval of a separate application for a permit to encroach on a water body setback regulation. That permit is needed to allow construction of a suspension bridge over the river that would have a 150-foot span and allow golfers to proceed from the first tee to the first green and ultimately back to the ninth green.

“I think we have an application that meets the requirements,” Weiss said.

Phillips told Steamboat Today that regulations require that in order to be approved, an encroaching on a water body setback must be “unavoidable.” In this case, he said he does not view it as unavoidable because public roads could be used to accomplish the same thing.

The site at 32600 Whisper Road is about 5 miles south of the city limits of Steamboat Springs and bounded on the west by Colorado Highway 131 and on the south by Routt County Road 18 (the road to Lake Catamount). According to a narrative by the project planner, Patten Associates, the golf course occupies less area than a typical nine-hole golf course due to areas of shared tees and fairways.

Excavation activity on the site was underway this winter to create a pond that would be incorporated into the golf course. It’s the first of up to three ponds contemplated for the golf course and would be used to irrigate the golf course. Its creation would also contribute soils and rock to contouring the fairways, Phillips said.

The pond was allowed under a permit that is separate from the special use permit need for the golf course itself, Phillips said.

The Windwalker Ranch property was operated for many years by the Gonk Jacobs family as a traditional cattle ranch, and it continues to be hayed by a lessee. More recently, it was owned by a notable trout-fishing entrepreneur, Donny Beaver, who paid $19.4 million for it in 2007 and approached the county with tentative plans to develop the property. Subsequently, a ranch realtor in Jackson, Wyoming, listed the ranch for re-sale at $21.9 million.

It sold to the current owners, headed by billionaire investor Dirk Ziff and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne, for $17.65 million in March 2012.

Three months after purchasing the property, the ranch owners obtained a county permit to build the main house/lodge and three “cabins,” which do not have kitchens and are used as sleeping quarters.

According to Patten Associates, the main house and cabins are occupied solely by owners, their family members and non-paying guests. And those limitations were included in the county approval of the buildings.

Typically, Patten wrote, only one owner family and their guests occupy the ranch at any given time. The ranch is private and not offered for commercial use, or made available to third parties who are not guests.

There have been more changes at the ranch since 2012, Phillips said.

A use-by-right caretaker residence has been built on a 35-acre parcel near the adjacent Steamboat Sand and Gravel mine. In October 2014, the planning commission approved an amendment to the original conditional use permit for the lodge to allow a shooting stand, tennis and basketball courts and shade structure.

Also included in the request for the golf course permit is the ability to use the ponds for swimming, small, non-motorized boats, paddleboards and fishing. Jet-skis and power boats will not be used on the pond. Proposed winter uses include Nordic skiing on groomed trails, snowshoeing, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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