Shining Mountain no.17

Shining Mountain is quintessential Colorado.

A disclosure to get out of the way first: Both review trips we made to Shining Mountain Golf Club (100 Shining Mountain Lane, Woodland Park, 719/687-7587) happened to fall outside of the peak season and yielded less than favorable course conditions (unsurprisingly). Crunchy turf and pocked greens this late into April would normally be cause for concern, but this is golf in the high country — the grass is always greener when the snow-melt begins.

At just under 9,000-feet elevation, Shining Mountain is one of Colorado’s most accessible mountain courses from a metro area, located about 30-minutes west of Colorado Springs off Highway 24. If nothing else, this course is a must-play for the breathtaking views alone; what’s more is the daunting course layout with a personality you won’t find anywhere outside of the Rocky Mountains. Tight, undulating fairways hugging forested foothills, expansive marshlands and natural hazards and creek beds are Shining Mountain’s signatures, paired with its share of elevated tees and greens. Big tee shots are easy to come by this high above sea-level, but mishits will undoubtedly get you into trouble in a hurry.

The north face of Pikes Peak acts as your peanut gallery from the first tee; an inviting downhill par 4 leading you towards the foot of the mountains. The front-9 plays along a bubbling creek, winding through the forest and climbing up and down the foothills. There are plenty of scoring opportunities to be found, including at no.1, the short par 4 at no.3, and three par 3s at no. 4, 6, and 9. But safer plays will ensure you come out of the woods no worse for wear. You’ll want as few marks as possible on your scorecard heading into the turn, the back 9 can be a sobering experience.

No.10 can get the trouble started early with a tiered fairway descending to a blind green that’s protected by a manmade pond. Big hitters beware: chances of reaching the green in one are slim, but a long ball will definitely put you in the water. Play short for a manageable approach at the green with your second shot. You’ll want a strong start at 10 to keep your wits about you to find the 11th tee box. Though there are signs, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting lost as you follow a neighborhood dirt road for about a quarter-mile from the previous green.

One of Shining Mountain’s most difficult holes awaits at the no.13 par 4, complete with cascading island tee boxes and a needle-thin fairway boarded by forest on the left and a shear face of natural hazard leading down to the no.15 fairway on the right — anything but a draw or an arrow-straight drive is likely to be trouble. Speaking of the last par 5 of the par-70 layout, no.15 is also the longest at just under 600 yards. One of the few sure scoring opportunities after the turn, play right fairway all the way for an unobstructed line at the flag — left of center and you’re fishing for balls in the marsh.

You literally cannot avoid Shining Mountain’s coolest landscape feature, that being the crazy long wooden bridge traversing the width of the marsh. Get creative with your social media videos and you’re rumbling from end to end.

The signature par 3 at no.17 won’t let you forget what Colorado golf is all about anytime soon. Elevated tee boxes look out to large, welcoming green protected by another small pond, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the valley, forest, and America’s Mountain peaking out over the trees (pictured above). This is why we love this game.

Regardless of conditions, Shining Mountain is quintessential Colorado — mastered by locals but welcoming to all. Dedicated disc golfers can find a home here, too, a fun juxtaposition to see firsthand (just make sure you’re keeping eyes open on busier days). Green fees range from $30 to $41 for 18 with a cart ( $15 to $22 for 9), but keep an eye out for hot deals online for as low at $12 for 18 with a cart.

With a revived restaurant and bar and adjoining event space, the property takes full advantage of its natural beauty — home to big game, birds of prey and other wildlife, picture-perfect skies and the awe-inspiring  sunsets of the Rocky Mountains. Add to that a scoreable challenge easily played in a short day-trip and for a reasonable price, and you can bet we’ll be back as often as possible.