There’s something inexplicably special about municipal golf courses. You get a sense that you’re a part of something — not just paying dues — and you know the ins and outs of every hole better than anyone. You’re on first-name basis with the staff, and with members of the foursome of 90-year-olds who always claim the best tee times, and you know exactly which hole is going to sink your round before you even make it to the first tee — that’s life on the muni course.
We love municipal courses, and Valley Hi (610 South Chelton, 719-385-6911, pattyjewettgolfshop.com), one of Colorado Springs’ two city-run courses, is no exception. But like most munis, there are two stories to tell.
Again, like many of its counterparts, poor course management seems to plague Valley Hi — the starter told our CGB threesome we’d have to wait five hours for a tee time one early spring Saturday. (In all fairness, the neighboring muni course was holding a tournament the same day and blocked out tee times, surely adding to the traffic — but still.) Luckily, we only waited about an hour before finagling a spot at the first tee. Leaving, though, we did noticed at least four groups waiting to be on deck.
The management umbrella also covers Valley’s pricing, one of the issues we have with Patty Jewitt as well. Both courses use the same “fee structure” — green fees start at $29.00 for 18, $15 for 9; carts, rentals, etc. add considerably to that cost — and offer very scant money-saving options.
But once you’re on the course, you won’t run into many unwelcome surprises. It’s a hitter’s paradise with wide fairway entries and unassuming hazards, and the greens are fairly easy to read. The 6,940-yard (from the tips) 18-hole layout gets a little crammed — errant shots easily end up on adjacent holes — but this course is built for big swings, slice, hook, or otherwise. On a recent outing, one player in our group played a 40- or 50-yard slice with his driver all day long and never found himself in too much trouble or searching for a lost ball.
The scoring opportunities at Valley start early in the round at the no.1 par 5, followed immediately by the par 3 no.2. Long hitters can reach the 580-yard par 5 in two, but the flat green is still friendly to those making it in three — especially in the front pin placement, about five-yards in from the end of the fairway. No. 2, a hazard-less 209-yards from the tips, sports an elevated tee box and a more undulated green set in the middle of a left-to-right downhill slope. Play the left side high to take advantage of a bounce off the hill towards the cup.
Although Valley’s layout may seem pretty straight forward, distances can be very deceiving. And it’s not a course where you’ll be thinking about needing to play safe. Complacent players will find themselves in trouble on holes with water and other strategic hazards. Trust your instincts — or just lay up.
Playing safe is exactly what you’ll want to do on the 520-yard no.17 par 5, the only hole on the course with two water hazards and a very reachable city street behind the green. Set those fears aside for your first shot, though, the fairway is wide and runs long.
The safest line for your approach is from the left side of the fairway, taking a pond at the far right end of the fairway out of play. Long hitters can reach this green in two, but a creek dividing the fairway from the green will leave most needing to consider a safer shot.
As for conditions at Valley Hi, they’re, well, conditional — on how much the city’s going to invest, or not, into this course during any given year. As of now, Valley, though city-owned for a lesser amount of time, can’t claim the same beauty found at its sister course, Patty Jewitt. Terribly pocked cart paths, a depressingly dirty practice range, and no sign of works in progress on the course doesn’t bode well for those expecting a Patty-like experience any time soon. On the other-hand, Valley’s turf conditions are amongst the best in the area in the late summer and early fall.
Country clubs are country clubs — you’re part an elite class of people as long as you have the money to join, and that’s pretty much all that matters. But muni courses are are something more special, like the neighborhood you grew up in. A round at Valley Hi will pay tribute to that.