Colorado has many claims to fame, but if you ask anyone to describe the Centennial State it won’t be long before you’re hearing about the scenery. Mountains come to mind, naturally, but below the peaks of the iconic Rockies await a number of equally awe-inspiring landscapes – from desert dunes and thriving marshlands to open prairies and forested foothills. With more than 200 courses to choose from statewide, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a course laid out in your landscape of choice, but if you’re looking for a quick sampling of each, the selection of Colorado golf courses below is a great place to start.
Southern Colorado is a place unto its own, with dramatic high desert landscapes paying homage to the state’s Wild West history. Walking Stick Golf Course, one of three Pueblo municipal courses, is one of many tracks in the area taking advantage of the vast open spaces and sweeping views of surrounding plateaus and mountain ranges in the distance, and it’s notable for several reasons. Opened in 1991, it didn’t take long for the Arthur Hills design to makes its way to a number of “best” lists that everyday golfers can appreciate, including best value in the state (Golf Digest) and more. The layout likens itself to its Arizona links counterparts – long and flat with undulating fairways and big, tricky greens. Natural hazards make for the most trouble—beware the cacti and snakes—but strategic bunkers and misread putts can trip you up, too. Big hitters and target shooters will find plenty of scoring opportunities, but the layout won’t hurt the ego of wayward hackers too much either.
Four Mile Ranch Golf Club in Cañon City is easily one of the state’s best desert flowers — and is also rated among the country’s top public courses (Golf Digest, Travel and Leisure). Rolling fairways and undulating greens are to be expected at any links track, but this Jim Engh design seems to take it to another level. Welcoming you to the number one tee is an angry sea of green capped by an elevated, dramatically-sloped green — a taste of what the rest of the track has in store. Though Four Mile has been accused of being “gimmicky” with regard to the blind shots into funneling greens and friendly slopes, the unassuming track is really only guilty of being a blast. Bad shots will be rewarded sometimes (but who doesn’t love that?), while others will make this 7,000+-yard course play even longer, especially if you’re scrambling from the slick-rock natural hazard commanding the surrounding area.
Colorado stakes its name on red rocks—literally where the name comes from—and shows off its true colors any chance it gets. Puns aside, Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre of Colorado courses, home to some of the most breathtaking scenes you’ll find on any course, anywhere, with giant red rock formations jutting through the manicured grounds. Play the front side of the Robert Trent Jones Sr./Jr. design to score, taking advantage of the parallel holes and straighter lines-of-sight, then get your camera ready at the turn. It’s like you’re playing on another planet from the 10th tee to the 18th green, zigzagging through the spires in a more challenging finale.
Perry Park Country Club in Sedalia, meanwhile, should be considered the Red Rocks of country clubs — unique is an understatement. With a rich, awesome history, waterfront practice facilities, impeccable conditions, and a layout set among the natural landscape as perfectly as can be, Perry Park is basically flawless. While the towering red rock formations play peanut gallery throughout your round, Sentinel Rock is one of Perry’s more prominent features. The massive rock outcropping looms idly over the 1st and 10th greens, and makes for an easy distraction on the otherwise readable putts. And just when you think your walk in the Park couldn’t get any better, the 18th hole delivers a memorable finale. A good draw following the treeline from the tee makes short work of the par 4, but a trip across the water to the island fairway unveils a ridiculous view of everything Perry Park has to offer — well worth the extra yardage.
Much of Colorado’s economic corridor lies in close proximity to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains – picturesque, heavily forested landscapes that change colors with the seasons and are teeming with wildlife. The Country Club at Woodmoor stakes its name on the location it calls home in Black Forest near Monument, Colorado. Recently acquired by new ownership, the J. Press Maxwell design and club amenities continue to see upgrades to an otherwise perfect wooded getaway. Big hitters may salivate at the sound of 7,300-feet above sea-level—thinner air does equal longer ball flight—but the perilously narrow fairways will quell any plans for aggressive lines. Now a semi-public course, Woodmoor stays true to its C.C. roots with green complexes built for member golfers, so plan your shots accordingly.
Depending on who you ask, Evergreen Golf Course, just west of Denver proper, is a mountain course. But as you’re tracing your way through the heavily pined layout, it feels much more like a stroll through the woods than it does climbing a 14er. One of several Denver Golf municipal properties, the par-69 course can play pretty quickly—leaving plenty of time to spot elk and other wildlife known to roam the grounds—but can cause you some trouble if you get too distracted by the stunning views of Evergreen Lake and Denver Mountain Park in the surrounding area.
Next we get to the high country. At just under 9,000 feet above sea level, Shining Mountain Golf Course in Woodland Park is easily one of the state’s most accessible mountain courses. Nestled in a valley surrounded by lush marshland and impressive mountain peaks, the John Harbottle III design is a perfect representation of Colorado mountain golf, with dramatic elevation gains, a taste of the variety of high country microclimates, and one of the best places to catch a Rocky Mountain sunset (something you’ll never forget). One of Shining Mountain’s coolest features is the crazy-long cart bridge that traverses the entire marshland in the middle of the property; which is not to say the course won’t leave an impression. This place is too beautiful to be worrying about your score at all.
Raven Club at Three Peaks (pictured above), in Silverthorn, humbly calls itself the best mountain course in the state, which may be rightfully earned. The Hurdzan/Fry and Tom Lehman design may also claim the title of most difficult (or maybe we just had a really, really, bad day). Either way, The Raven does belong amongst the best ambassadors for Colorado golf. The par-72 track reads approachable on the scorecard, but extreme elevation changes, smaller green complexes and the most strategic of hazards will have you second guessing yourself from the first tee to the 18th green. One thing is for certain, though; there isn’t a bad view from anywhere on this course. And if you’ve ever wondered, how can someone live all the way out here?, well, you’ll see why.
A version of this article first appeared on GolfNow‘s blog The Daily Tee, to which CGB is a contributor.