“You are now entering “The Gauntlet,”” a sign reads as you pull up to the no.9 tee box at Antler Creek Golf Course (9650 Antler Creek Dr., Falcon, CO,719/494-1900, antlercreekgolf.com). “Arguably the hardest 4-hole stretch in Colorado.” Ye be warned. Consisting of three par-4s and one par-5, don’t plan on any scoring opportunities, just worry about reaching the 13th tee with your sanity intact.
The panic starts to set in at the no. 9 tee, even more so when addressing your approach. A smattering of bunkers on the right constricts the fairway halfway between the tee and green, followed by another collection of sand constricting your approach even more. These bunkers are big and deep, and an appropriate welcome party for The Gauntlet.
So you’re leaving no. 9 with an up-and-down bogey — we all know it was a double. Please keep your seatbelt fastened. The 657-yard (from the tips) par-5 no. 10 feels more like 800 yards, playing uphill from tee to green. Long hitters can expect a short approach if reaching the green in three —as long as you avoid the thick natural hazards on either side of the fairway — but shorter hitters will be playing long and mid irons for GIR. And did I mention the dogleg? Playing your third shot from the left side of the fairway will give the best down the dogleg and of the green. The green, however, is again uphill, and protected by a bunker and a pair of burms on the front side.
By now you probably don’t want to talk about your score, understandable, the good news — or bad news — is you’re halfway through this monster. The par-4 no. 11, another dog leg (right), is threatening from the get-go. What my foursome calls “the ditch” runs the length of the hole on the right side, making you think twice about trying to cut the corner from the tee. But the safer play on the left isn’t without hazard either, a bunker lies in the corner of the dog leg and very inviting to wary tee shots. Fear not, though, the short grass leads downhill for your approach shot, that is, to another elevated green … protected by a hill more than willing to funnel you ball far from the cup if you land on the wrong side of it.
Take a breath, one more left (yes you can throw your scorecard away). You’re not out of the thick on the 538-yard par-4 no. 12. As a matter of fact, you very well may be in the literal thick, with a sprawling natural hazard along the left side of the fairway. And oh yeah — surprise — it’s another dogleg. Your tee shot can get you into some trouble, a short (read shank) shot will leave you in the natural hazard while anything long can fly the fairway — and into a house if you muscle it. The approach to the green is less anxiety-inducing than the previous three, but the slope of the green is also likely to run you off the dance floor.
Deep breath in, deep breath out. You’ve just completed what very well may be the hardest four-hole stretch in the state of Colorado. You have six more holes to salvage what’s left of your score. Continue the grind.