Calling it a small town is a borderline understatement when describing Fowler, Colorado. About 40 miles southeast of Pueblo, the town of no more than 2,000 is home to Cottonwood Links Golf Course (1 Cottonwood Ln., Fowler, 719/263-4500, see Facebook page), literally on the other side of the railroad tracks.
Cottonwood is the definition of good ol’ boys golf; rural charm with unabashed dedication to the locals. There are no frills on this 9-hole layout. If you’re looking for dress codes, caddie service and manicured surroundings, this is not the course for you. But if you’re looking for a laid-back challenge with a true mom-and-pop feel in a nondescript part of the state, you may not find any better. You’ll get the idea once you step into the clubhouse, one large room setup to seat dozens and a single bathroom accessed via the door to the cartbarn in the back of the building. If that doesn’t do it for you try the driving range, no more than 100- to 150-yards deep, where you can warm up your woods only if you’re shagging your own balls from the trees (and there’s no one on the hole behind the them). Still not convinced? How about BYOC, Bring Your Own Cart, as there’s no guarantee they’ll have a loaner for you.
(Editor’s note: The visits on which this writing is based occurred during a large scramble tournament. The course did have enough carts for all players, though, it’s unclear how many were loaned to the event by private owners.)
Though billed as a links course, Cottonwood feels more parkland than anything else — there are plenty of trees in and around the areas of play, and the fairways are in close proximity to each other in the heart of the course with a fair share of natural hazards. (Side bar: Bring bug spray. Trust us, you don’t want to be without and end up the butt of the locals’ jokes when the mosquitos are swarming.)
A wide, inviting par 5 opens the round at no.1, running parallel the road leading to the clubhouse. Long hitters can easily reach in two as the green is set just slightly left of the tee box with no real hazards defending your approach. Shorter hitters should stay center to right-of-center from the tee to follow the fairway all the way to the green. More scoring chances follow at the no.2 par 3 — a sloped green trickier than its par 3 counterpart found at no.4 — as well as the the 520-yard no.5, another, mostly hazard-less, par 5. Make the most of them.
It’s not that the previously noted holes are your only chances at sub-par scores, but its tough to end your round with a long stretch of par 4s, capped by a notable finishing hole sporting a water hazard and blind, elevated green. No. 9 must be considered the toughest hole on the course, the tee boxes placed just so everything that you need to worry about is out of sight. View of the water is guarded by tall natural grasses that blend in with expanse of O.B. bordering the right side of the hole that also blocks the view of the flag. Most hitters will want to take a long iron to the center or left-of-center to layup as close to the water as possible, another long to mid iron should see you to the green in regulation.
With small town charm comes small town prices, consider them one and the same. 9-holes run $16 for non-members; 18-holes for $22; cart fees range from $12 to $16. Even though there are probably very few reason why you’d ever find yourself in Fowler, Colorado, the rural charm of Cottonwood Links is a good reason to stay a little longer if you do.