Ever wonder what ski-towns do in the offseason? They play golf.
OK there’s more to do than golf, of course. We’d be remiss not to mention the world-class rafting and mountain biking opportunities camping, fishing, hiking — and everything else that makes it ColoRADo — especially in and around the town of Crested Butte. Resort towns are always a must-do when planning a trip to the Centennial State, often hosting premier golf tracks you won’t find the likes of anywhere else once the slopes close, and making a name for mountain golf. The Club at Crested Butte (385 Country Club Drive, Crested Butte) delivers more unobstructed views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains than you could ever ask for, with a perfect mix of opportunity and angst from tee to green.
The Club sprawls along the southwestern foot of a massive granite ridge near the famed mountain — don’t even try to walk it — but its expanse delivers gorgeous view after gorgeous view, each unique and breathtaking in its own way. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design adds emphasis to the surrounding landscapes, tying pristine hazards like the snow-melt-emulating sand traps and pristine water features with lush natural areas. But the greens are what make The Club such an interesting challenge. It’s safe to play for breaks away from the mountains, but there’s a lot more movement than you may read (Tip: stay below the hole and play with a soft hand.) Playing at 9,000′ at the foot of a mountain means dramatic elevation changes and long ball flight — bring a camera and your big stick.
The track opens with an unassuming tee shot into a dogleg curling away from the mountain, a 384-yard (from the tips) par 4. Get the fun started early and cut the corner with a driver — only really long hitters beware of the creek crossing the fairway — pure it and get your first taste of that high altitude ball flight. A good lay up will still leave a nice approach to the slightly elevated green. Greens at The Club are massive and inviting, but, as on no.1, very well protected, in this case by three equally massive bunkers surrounding the majority of the green.
Your shot sequence is similar at the 378-yard par 4 at no.2, replacing greenside bunkers with a gorgeous, dangerous water hazard. Scoring early here is a real possibility. Cutting the corner of the 529-yard dogleg with a long drive could lead to trouble in the second creek sectioning the fairway, but too short of a layup will make this hole very long. Either way, take in the view of the heavily-guarded green set against the aptly-designed residential area, and the 12-thousand-foot-tall stone peak looming above before your second shot. You’ll want to track your route to the green before taking your shots, the last third of the fairway and basically the entire frontside of the green is home to bunkers-galore. The 424-yard par 4 at no.4 plays back along the no.3 fairway to an elevated green.
The Club’s first par 3, 190-yards, at no.5 has hole-in-one written all over it, though, overconfidence will lead to trouble — beware of the left side bunker and water starting short right. If you really want to overthink it: consider your distances at elevation and an elevated tee box when choosing a club, and know the wind may be a factor worth a second thoughts. Another scoring opportunity awaits at the 439-yard par 4 at no.6 — hit it far and straight for an easy trek to the dance floor here.
The par 3 at no.7 is another that begs you to get cute — water left and bunkers right — and 203-yards doesn’t make the tee shot any easier and leaves a lot of room for error. Bounce back at the 432-yard par 4 at no.8. Rip it from the tee worry free, except for a massive right side fairway bunker and creek deep in the fairway. A good drive will allow for an aggressive second shot over natural hazard to the center of the green.
The 497-yard par 5 at no.9 is the perfect welcome to the turn, taking advantage of the view all the way in. Strategically placed fairway bunkers force accuracy on your first shot and long hitters can get really aggressive with their second, look to make up a lot more ground with your third otherwise. Circling back a bit, I should have said cautiously aggressive — the green is protected front left and right, and back center with large bunkers.
No.10 marks the start of the up and down ride you take after the turn. The ridge becomes an accent piece as you tee off into the facing range on the other side of the Slate River snaking through the valley below. It’s a easy trek to the green on the 405-yard par 4, though, more bunkers await in front of the large, tiered green. The 168-yard par 3 at no.11 is stunning, again offering plenty of trouble with sand and water — and pin placement can make this hole even more difficult.
You’ll start to get a sense that the back nine is harder than the front — intimidating would be an understatement for what you see from some of these tee boxes. If not, the 391-yard par 4 at no.12 will change that. Trust that you’ll land on the fairway with a draw along the front of the hillside made of up natural hazard descending to the tight fairway. Prepare accordingly for an uphill approach with a creek cutting the green off from the fairway and a left side bunker.
A payoff comes at the no.13 tee box, in the form of THE view of the surrounding area — an unobstructed panorama of the Slate, valley and forested range topping the skyline. The landing zone at the 454-yard par 4/5 rests hundreds of feet below the tee boxes (I’m not exaggerating in the slightest). The bunkers on the left side of the fairway, and the natural hazard behind it, are reachable, so rip it center right to make for the easiest line back uphill to the green. A left greenside bunker caps the end of the uphill struggle, but playing too far right leads closer to more natural hazard and isn’t really worth the risk. No.14 is the only other duel par hole, 5/4, at 633-yards — zig-zagging a long ways to a green tucked between two more greenside bunkers.
The 202-yard par 3 at no.15 is arguably the toughest at The Club, the only safe play is on the green — center to center left — as three bunkers surround the flat ground and long putts are anything but guaranteed. No.16 doesn’t make things any easier. At 440-yards, the par 4 is inviting from the tee, but things get dicey on your approach with a water feature placed front left of the green and accompanying bunkers on the left and back right. The par 4 no.17 offers some reprieve at a manageable 429-yards.
The return on no. 18 rivals its counterpart on 9, a 557-yard par 5 doglegging more dramatically back towards the clubhouse. Two bunkers on either side of the fairway are strategically placed to demand accuracy from the tee, and the elbow is a little deep to try to cut the corner completely. Play the left side of the fairway as much as you can to avoid the two bunkers in the front right of the green; the backside bunker isn’t in play unless you’re wayward with approach. Go with confidence from tee to green and you can end this track on a high note.
Green fees at the Club vary dramatically depending on the time of year — for obvious reasons — with club rentals, shoe services and stay and play packages available as well. The Club at Crested Butte isn’t just for golf, either, though that’s all CGB was there to do, facilities are tailor made for destination weddings and special events, or even just an afternoon on the gorgeous clubhouse patio enjoying some of the mouth watering dining options.
Colorado ski towns aren’t always all about the slope life. When the snow melts and the greens come in, tracks like The Club at Crested Butte maintain the Colorado high country lifestyle in all its glory.