The perfect practice round is waiting for you on the Powers corridor in Colorado Springs. The fairways at Cherokee Ridge are wide, the greens are forgiving, and the few hazards that are present play little into a target golfer’s game.
I took to the regulation 9-hole course on a weekend in the fall ($15 for nine holes, walking) — the property is also home to one of the few executive par-3 courses in the city. The scant amount of tree cover leaves this course exposed to the mile high sun all day, and despite some recent rainstorms the conditions were really dry, the setting for a long-ball hitter’s dream.
Dreams come to fruition at the no. 1 tee — a 394-yard par-4 with a slightly elevated tee box facing America’s Mountain. Avoid playing too far left into only water hazard on the regulation course and you’ll find an easy approach to the unprotected right side of the green. But don’t pinch yourself yet, no. 2 and no. 3, a par-5 and par-4, respectively, scream for the big stick with parallel fairways and little danger to take into account, too.
The first real decision making for mid to long hitters comes to play on no. 3: The fairway is split with light rough near the 150-yard marker, before a slight dog leg to the right. Though most of the rough at Cherokee Ridge offers an easy out, some may want to play shorter from the tee and setup a cleaner approach to the slightly elevated green.
No. 4 can be tricky. A 154-yard par-3 with few looming pine trees coming into play when the pin is on the right side of the green. The green is big enough to play safe on the left, unprotected side of the green, though, you’ll just have to worried about your putting stroke on the super fast dance floor.
The 425-yard par-4 at no. 5 should be a walk in the park. Trees line both sides of the box and the opening to wide open fairway, and green protected by large bunkers on both the left and right sides.
The only sketchy play comes near the trees and native grass down the left side of the fairway. (Safety note: No. 5 lies close the course driving range with only a short fence acting as a barrier, and those on the the range can’t see players on no. 5. Fore!)
I can never not play no. 5 from the left side, making it harder than it should be and allowing the right green side bunker to become a factor in my approach — not to mention any bombs coming over from the range. Today I hit the beach — it’s a lot deeper, menacing, and, well, more hazardous than I remember.
Back to the open range on no. 6. Grip it and rip on the 360-yard, uphill par-4. Play the left side of the fairway off the tee — long hitters should beware of a large fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway — to get a clear approach the protected green. There’s a slight dog leg right starting at the fairway bunker, just after the 150-yard marker. Another green side bunker threatens approaches from the right side and is hidden by some trees.
No. 7, a par-3, is easy but long, coming in at 195 yards to the center of the green from the tips. Shorter tee shots need to thread two green side bunkers, but the fairway is wide enough to make them non-factors. Fly the green, or miss deep to the left, and you’ll have a blind shot at the pin from the bottom of a hill, Club selection is key.
The fast and hard conditions led me to a 5-iron from the tee, playing my second shot from a few yards out from the front fringe. Nothing wrong with up-and-down for par here.
Placement is key on no. 8. The 400-yard par-4 turns sharply to the left and the fairway can be very elusive from the tee. There’s a good chance mid to long hitters will fly the fairway with a driver — I was lying just shy of the no. 6 fairway from the tee. But long hitters can cut the corner and catch the bottom portion of the fairway — you’ll have to track your ball flight, trees line the left side of the fairway and block the view from the tee. The safe play is a layup near the bunker at the start of the dog leg.
Playing from the far right isn’t the worst, though, sans a few bunches of trees, the approach to the green is pretty clear. The layout of this hole makes it arguably the toughest on the regulation course, rivaled only by it’s next door neighbor, the par-5 no. 9.
Cherokee Ridge’s closer is 448 yards uphill, but seems to play a lot longer. The fairway runs parallel to the driving range with a killer view of Pikes Peak, and another slight dog leg left reveals an elevated, protected green. Right and left side fairway bunkers may dictate where you play from the tee — long hitters can carry the bunker on the right and should. Trees and native grass protect the inside corner of the slight dog leg and hide the flag from shooters playing too far left from the tee.
I lined a worm-burner from the tee right down the middle of the fairway and, mercifully, just left of the right side bunker. I could see the flag but figured I was still too far left for a shot at the green with a fairway wood. I did have a clear enough shot at the front right side of the green and was able to place my second shot on the fairway about 10 yards out. I didn’t see my ball land because of the gradient of the hole, not realizing there is a big bunker on the right side of the green, and even bigger hills and valleys ready to swallow it had I tried to land any closer to the pin.
So, I’m on in three with a downhill putt for birdie to close the round. Either my putter, or, more likely, I forgot about the ridiculous green speeds and threw my birdie chances away with a rocket past the cup. Can’t be mad with a two-putt par, unless it lips out and a closing bogey is staring you in the face.
(Find me at the closest practice green, forever shamed.)
Cherokee Ridge may not impress your country club friends, but I don’t think it’s trying to. It will impress your wallet, and may very well put a dent in your handicap on the right day. Target golfer or long ball hitter, it doesn’t matter: These nine holes are easily played with any game. And for everyday golfers looking for a quick practice or twilight round, young grinders working on their game, and even hackers looking for somewhere they can’t lose a ball in Colorado Springs, you won’t find a better option than Cherokee Ridge.