There’s a reason why links is the oldest golf course design style, they got it right the first time. Depending on who you ask, the definition of a true links course may be up for debate — proximity to the ocean is a deal-breaker for some — but the most important characteristics of the design easily translate to many dry, desert-like landscapes. Colorado Springs (read: as land-locked as it gets) is home to a shining example of links-style design with Springs Ranch Golf Club, a true gem on the east side of town.
Springs Ranch (3525 Tutt Blvd, 719/573-4863, springsranchgolfclub.com) may be competing with two other golf courses located near the Powers corridor, Cherokee Ridge and Sand Creek, but its dedication to the natural landscape makes this course one of the most unique in town, now in the cleanup stages of a significant update. Native hazards are the greatest challenge players face, dominating the majority of the surrounding area. Pot bunkers are dotted throughout the layout set on top of the undulating dunes of the high desert. The scant amount of trees pose little threat and the sole water hazard is all but an afterthought.
“Undulations” may sound like a red flag, but the movement of the course isn’t nearly as drastic as some others we’ve played. Your worries should be focused on the natural hazards and pot bunkers. Overall, Springs Ranch is a very playable course; invitingly wide and with a number of scoring opportunities, yet still more challenging than it looks.
The recent course construction and severe storms — followed by an extreme hail storm so bad it prompted local course closures — left the course in a lot rougher shape it would be otherwise when we found it. The bunkers were left with a layer of gravel and sediment after a series of heavy storms — raking made them even worse — and a number of the greens were sporting significant hail damage.
The new layout can be a bit confusing as you make your way to no. 11. Even though the new layout is marked somewhat sufficiently, noticing a foursome on 18 teeing off over the cart path you’re traveling on is pretty unnerving. No. 16 and 18, the two other newly-updated holes, flow pretty easily.
Sand Creek snakes its way throughout Springs Ranch and is the most dominating feature of the no.12 par 4. Easily one of the most prominent hazards on the course, the deep ravine defends the green once players reach the end of the left-to-right curving fairway. Big hitters have a chance to carry the creek, but only if they’re really big hitters. A layup is the safest play for a look at GIR.
Home to the course reservoir, no.9 is another standout. The water becomes a big factor on the approach to the green depending on the placement of the pin — easy breezy if the flag is on the left of the green, more troublesome on the right. Playing too far right from the tee will cause you some trouble from the get-got. The conservative plays are all left-of-center, maintaining a clear path to the green regardless of pin placement. Fly the green and you’ll be looking at another awkward lie to get up and down from the hill on the back side.
Really, Springs Ranch isn’t about signature holes as much as it is a seamless, natural flow. The fluidity of the holes adds emphasis to its surroundings, allowing players to take in the expansive views of the front range and the features of the high desert, and really focus on the scoring opportunities at hand. Weekday course rates range from $16 (9 holes, walking) to $40 (18, with a cart) during peak season, $18 (9 holes, walking) to $45 (18, with a cart) on weekends. Twilight specials are offered as well, $12 for all you can play starting two hours before sunset (no carts) but you can find much better deals in the area.
Whether you’re a links traditionalist or simply a fan of classic course play, you’ll appreciate Springs Ranch’s ode to the origins of course design. In a place like Colorado, known for our mountains more than anything else, it’s refreshing to find a course unafraid to fully embrace a different kind of high altitude landscape, and add to the diversity of Colorado golf.