City Park Golf Course in downtown Denver (201 W. Colfax Ave., cityofdenvergolf.com/golf-course/city-park) has been a landmark of Colorado golf since opening in 1913, though, its future isn’t clear. We spend a lot of time talking about a given course’s front row, panoramic view into pristine nature — Rocky Mountain skylines, expansive marshlands, valleys, et al, but something else can be said for urban tracks. Especially a track that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
A Thomas Bendelow design, City Park has always been a little different given the worldwide popularity of links tracks. But the history that’s rooted in the fairways of Denver’s Park Hill (not to be confused with Park Hill G.C.) is even more of driving force behind the resistance to plans to redesign the course as part of the city’s flood control program. One portion of the multi-million dollar “Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems” project, City Park is set to close in late 2017, effectively flooded and redesigned around the new stormwater retention reservoir. The Denver Post published a piece about the project and the history of City Park in May 2017.
We can’t speak on the future City Park design as the project contractor has yet to be selected as of this writing (to be announced summer 2017), and we’re not one for politicking, but we can speak on a recent experience at one of Colorado golf’s most important historical landmarks.
Dew-covered spring mornings are a fixture on the golf course — picture perfect lawns warming in the sunlight, freshly cut grass wafting in the breeze — it’s a similar experience at most courses. Now, take that scene and place it in the middle of an urban residential area at a municipal course blocks from downtown Denver, with a bustling city life and the lure of one of the most desirable cities in the nation. That’s City Park golf course.
The track opens along a busy residential road, the 402-yard (from the tips) par-4 at no.1 and its 359-yard counterpart at no.2 are easily reachable in regulation — the long, open fairways are playable from either side, though, just make sure you don’t ruin a commuter’s day playing too far left. Tough, undulating greens are City Park’s signature and will cause you trouble. Pin placements matter, a lot, as much as targeted approach shots to stay below the hole. Scoring opportunities continue at the dead straight, 490-yard par-5 at no.3. Long hitters can make short work of this hole for even lower scores, but even average hitters can play for a good birdie look.
Your troubles aren’t limited to the rolling greens, the City Park’s only water hazard — ironic considering the future plans — is a large pond at no.6. Stay left from the tee the entire way for the safest path to the green, anything right is playing with danger. Offering little reprieve, no.7 is home to the track’s longest par-3, a cool 218 yards. Long par-3s are another Bendelow signature — playing for par here will do no harm.
No.s 8 and 9 offer a taste of what the urban golf scenery is all about, playing back towards downtown. The real payoffs begin at the no.12 teebox, so have your camera ready. The Denver skyline looms overhead as the remainder of the track zigzags in a more condensed layout. Tighter fairways and more hazardous trees make the back-9 a little more daunting, opening with consecutive par-5s and another long par-3. Capitalize on the short par-4 at no.13 with a fairway dropping gently into a green that’s approachable from either side.
The remaining holes leading back to the clubhouse stay true to form, with stunning views and tough greens demanding consistency from tee to green. Distances don’t matter as much as accuracy, and though this course can be welcoming, playing from the rough can and will get you into trouble.
Denver cares about City Park, as witnessed by the impeccable turf conditions and the pride Denver Golf staff has for all the municipal properties. The city has more information on the ongoing redesign process at CPGCredesign.org, and posts regular updates in monthly newsletters. We may not know what the future holds for the beloved City Park Golf Course, but here’s to hoping the new design pays homage to Bendelow’s original design and the historic legacy of the grounds. CGB has a 2019 tee time to find out.