A southern Colorado golf tour

COCOgolftourPre Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, if Colorado were known for one thing, it would be our 29,000-plus acres of skiable terrain, which justifiably makes us “Ski Country USA.”

But happy as we are hitting the high country during the winter months to make some leisurely lines on the slopes, the snow-sports scene takes a backseat to every other fitness-focused activity you can think of during the summer season. (Oh, you climb the Incline every weekend? How novel.)

It’s easy to forget — that is, if you knew it already — that Colorado is also home to an impressive array of golf courses, more than 200 of them, including some of the highest-rated private and public courses in the country. Southern Colorado hosts a number of premiere tracks unlike any others. Really, where else can you tee off from close to 9,000 feet above sea level? From Monument and Woodland Park, to Colorado Springs and Cañon City, long links-style layouts to 9-hole par-3s, the grass really is greener in Colorado.

Quintessential Colorado

Snow-capped mountains, forested foothills, bubbling creeks, big game and other wildlife: The golf at Shining Mountain Golf Club (100 Shining Mountain Lane, Woodland Park, shiningmountaingolf.com) is just the icing on the cake. One of the state’s most accessible mountain courses from a metro area, about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs on Highway 24, Shining Mountain’s 18-hole, par-70 layout is a must-play for the views alone. Tight, undulating fairways hug the hills and surrounding marshlands under Pikes Peak’s north face, defining the beauty of Colorado at every turn. Shining Mountain’s signature hole could be the par-3 17th, its elevated tee boxes looking out to a large green protected by a small pond, and set against the gorgeous backdrop of the valley, forest and the towering Rocky Mountains.

Municipal courses

Notably lacking in quality in southern Colorado, municipal courses are to the average golfer what a grade school is to any Average Joe: nostalgic. City-run courses become a part of the local community; a neighborhood gathering place, a go-to bar spot, an event venue — not just a place to swing the sticks. No place exhibits this more than Patty Jewett Golf Course (900 E. Espanola St., pattyjewettgolfshop.com), one of the Springs’ two municipal courses. The 27-hole layout is both welcoming and challenging to players of any skill level, and delivers iconic views of the Front Range from anywhere on the property. Prime conditions and a clubhouse with a warm, appealing patina complete an affordable country club feel.

Conditions are also king at Pueblo’s Walking Stick Golf Course (4301 Walking Stick Blvd., Pueblo, walkingstickpueblo.com), one of Pueblo’s three muni courses. The 18-hole, par-72 layout has historically rated as one of Colorado’s best courses to play on a budget, offering players a full-service, desert-links style design for less than $40 per round during peak season. The picturesque track sports rolling fairways, pot bunkers and troubling natural hazards, paying off with big, inviting greens and plenty of scoring opportunities.

More area links

Rooted in tradition, the prevailing golf course design you’ll find anywhere is links, and southern Colorado is no different. Historically, links courses are coastal, with scant trees, expansive natural hazards and undulating terrain. Sans the nearby beach, King’s Deer Golf Club (19255 Royal Troon Drive, Monument, kingsdeergolfclub.com) stays true to a modern links design — a formidable, 18-hole, par-71 challenge surrounded by lush, gorgeous marshlands and abundant natural hazards. Target golfers and scramblers are the only ones to master this realm, but long hitters may find some low scores too.

On the east side of Colorado Springs, Springs Ranch Golf Club (3525 Tutt Blvd., springsranchgolfclub.com) hones its own links design. The newly remodeled layout criss-crosses Sand Creek several times, taking advantage of the natural dunes and expansive views of the surrounding landscape. Trouble isn’t hard to find on any golf course, but Springs Ranch is the perfect place to get aggressive and shoot right at the pin.

Cap your Colorado links mini-tour at Cañon City’s Four Mile Ranch Golf Club (3501 Telegraph Trail, Cañon City, fourmileranch.com). This up-and-coming golf community centers on the 18-hole, par-72 layout. Don’t let the humble clubhouse (I mean trailer) fool you, Four Mile is a course you won’t soon forget. Undulating is an understatement — this is a raging sea of conditioned turf that’s both forgiving and infuriating. Blind shots are a signature at Four Mile, grip it and rip and trust the funneling greens will reward your ambition.

Military and private courses

At the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, across U.S. Highway 115 from Cheyenne Mountain State Park, awaits Cheyenne Shadows Golf Course (1050 Titus Blvd. #7800, carson.armymwr.com), Fort Carson’s resident track. Open to civilians, the 18-hole, par-72 layout boasts dramatic views of the surrounding landscape, and is approachable by any player. The Air Force Academy is home to the much-lauded Eisenhower courses (usafasupport.com/golf-course.html), two 18-hole tracks playing amongst the trees and foothills for service members and their guests. Meanwhile, Peterson AFB hosts Silver Spruce Golf Course (40 Glasgow Ave., 21fss.com/silver-spruce-golf-course). Its well-maintained 18-hole and 9-hole, par-3 courses are also open to the public.

The Springs’ private courses are much like anywhere else: pricey and exclusive. But if you have a chance to chase birdies at the Colorado Springs Country Club, Garden of the Gods Country Club, Cheyenne Mountain C.C., or even The Broadmoor, you’d be a fool not to take it. Exceptional conditions and five-star treatment is what the country club life is all about, and every golfer should experience it at least once.

Practice, practice, practice

It’s hard to enjoy a round if you’re thinking about breaking every club in your bag, no matter where you are. But there are a number of facilities here to help lower your scores. World Golf & Sand Creek G.C. (6865 Galley Road, worldgolfsandcreek.com) on the east side of town is the site of a large, stadium-lit driving range, a practice green — and mini golf — a golf simulator and a short 9-hole track. And Cherokee Ridge Golf Course (1850 Tuskegee Place, cherokeeridgegolfcourse.com), home to a regulation 9-hole and another 9-hole, par-3, is another suitable, inexpensive place to hone your hacking. The First Tee (525 N. Academy Blvd., thefirstteepikespeak.org) hosts youth programs at its impressive indoor practice facility, also open to the public year-round for practice sessions.

Shoot ’em straight.

Editor’s Note: This content was originally published in the Colorado Springs Independent newspaper, used with permission.

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