TPC Colorado showcases everything Colorado Golf has to offer. (Photo by Jeff Kelly)
Less than a year since opening, the gorgeous TPC Colorado (2375 TPC Parkway, Berthoud) in northern Colorado is opening the door for the Centennial State to become a fixture for top-level competition once again. The state’s first from-scratch course development in 10 years is already making a name for itself as a premiere golf destination, and a worthy addition to the TPC network.
TPC Colorado covers nearly 8,000 yards of the picturesque landscape with stunning, sweeping views of Longs Peak, the front range and the gorgeous neighboring reservoirs. Though designed to be a long, challenging championship course for pros, Arthur Schaupeter Golf Course Architects have succeeded in creating a layout to be enjoyed by golfers of any level, with forward tees ranging from 4,000 to 7,600 yards in total. The course touts lush, undulating fairways winding their way along the shorelines to large green complexes guarded by strategically placed hazards. And with deep, stacked pot bunkers dotting the fescue-lined fairways, TPC Colorado definitely offers pros, members and guests a unique, mountain links-style challenge.
A sea of bunkers and natural hazard awaits to make the 773-yard par 5 even more difficult. (Photo by Jeff Kelly)
Nowhere is that challenge more evident than the longest par 5 — by far — on the course. Playing 773-yards from the tips, hole 13 is, well, intimidating to say the least. A wide-open landing area for your tee shot is really the only reprieve you’ll find until you reach the green. Safely off the tee, you’re pretty much guaranteed to “lay up” with your second, shorter players should favor the right side of the fairway to avoid a sea of bunkers and natural hazard inside the elbow of the doglegging fairway, but longer players can cut some of the corner back to the fairway for a shorter approach. Lying two, and a little more than halfway there, another targeted *long* approach is key to reach the green in regulation, avoiding another pot bunker greenside and thick downhill rough on the backside. Did I mentioned this is only the second hardest hole on the card? The title of hardest hole at TPC Colorado goes to the 624-yard par 5 at no.5. The long “S” shape fairway and a rash of deep, troublesome bunkers dictate your club selection and distance control from the get-go, leading to a slightly elevated triangle green.
Course conditions at TPC Colorado are everything you’d expect from a tour quality venue, meaning thick, troubling rough, perfect fairways and pure, fast greens. The deep, sod-stacked pot bunkers found on nearly every hole are as beautiful as they are difficult — and the perfect setting for a social media post — and the massive, crystal-clear waterscapes complete the feeling that this course is something special. The par 3 at no.8 comes straight from a golf fairytale, with manicured turf cutting through the trees on its way to the large green set in front of the reservoir. It’s only when you’re walking down that sliver of turf that you realize you’re all but surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the lake. The large tress lining the hole grow straight out of the incredibly still water, creating an unworldly setting you can’t help but admire on your way to the green.
The picturesque par 3 at no.8 is nothing short of extraordinary. (Photo by Jeff Kelly)
Gorgeous par 3s are something of a theme at TPC Colorado, evidenced again at hole 16. The elevated tee boxes behind the clubhouse tower over an island green, set against the reservoir once again to provide the perfect backdrop to a memorable golf shot. But beware, unlike its no.8 counterpart, 16 hosts a little bit of trouble with natural hazard and pot bunkers catching anything short, and more sand and tall fescue forbidding anything long, leaving nothing but a small bailout short left of the green.
The importance of shot placement becomes more than evident at the no.4 tee box, the longest, most challenging par 4 on the card. Reachable fairway bunkers call for a left side play off the tee, which brings another massive left greenside bunker into play on your approach. A stretch of depressed natural hazard cuts the fairway in two, though it shouldn’t be a factor if you can get off the tee. Playing too safe to the right side of the green on your second shot will find the front slope of the huge green complex and makes for a troubling up and down.
Mastering TPC Colorado calls for navigating the numerous sod-stacked bunkers and undulating fairways. (Photo by Jeff Kelly)
Challenging as it is, players of *most* any level can find scores at TPC Colorado — or at the very least they’ll want to come back to get the scores they left out there. The short 370-yard par 4 at no.6 has sub-par written all over it, as long as you avoid the twin greenside pot bunkers and can navigate the sloped green. Look for more scoring opportunities at the par.3 no.8 and after the turn at no.10, no.14 and no.16 (see above), just to name a few.
TPC is a tour caliber course designed for anyone to play, from Monday to Sunday, and whether competing for a spot on the leaderboard or not. With an expansive, full service clubhouse — and future additions currently being built — a eatery and patio boasting unparalleled views of the norther Colorado landscape, and the overall quality that comes with the name, a day at TPC Colorado is really hard to beat.
TPC Colorado may be built for pros, but it has plenty to offer anyone lucky enough to play it. (Photo by Jeff Kelly)
Nearing its one-year anniversary, TPC Colorado is set to host its most important pro competition yet. The TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes brings the Korn Ferry Tour, formerly the Web.com and Nationwide tours, back to the state for the first time since 1997. 156 players will compete for the $600,000 purse and their future on the PGA Tour July 8 – 14, bringing all that Colorado golf has to offer back into the mainstream.
The Max is nothing close to your average municipal course.
When you hear Laredo, Texas, the last thing that comes to mind is great golf. But believe it or not, built on the bluffs over-looking the Rio Grande — just a pitching wedge away from Mexico — the Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course has everything you need for an unforgettable getaway to wait out the Colorado cold season.
“The Max” as locals call it, is a Robert Trent Jones II Signature Design. This great facility is one of only six RTJ II designs you can play in Texas, with others including notable properties such as Horseshoe Bay, Mill Creek and Las Colinas.
The Max is not your run-of-the-mill municipal golf course — flat and featureless with holes stacked next to one another.Instead, the course weaves its way through what seems an endless mesquite tree forest, often leaving you with a feeling of seclusion during your round, and plenty of shade. The natural soundtrack of the Texas borderlands surrounds the course, and the wind fanning through the trees provides a cool respite from the Texas sun!
The design takes advantage of the gentle, rolling terrain to create The Max’s one-of-a-kind character — appealing to the eye from tee to green. Large, flat green complexes provide plenty of chances at the dance, but the Bermuda greens are quick, and the subtle breaks prove plenty challenging.Overall, the course is exactly what you would expect to find at an expensive country club, with manicured fairways, greens rolling fast and true, and (somewhat) forgiving penalty areas.
The course is designed seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, calling for decisive shot planning.
Aside from the fantastic course conditions, The Max’s variety of holes demands players’ attention throughout the round. From beautifully framed par 3s to reachable par 5s and drivable par 4s, each hole provides a new and interesting challenge. The par 3 at no. 15 is a perfect example, with strategically placed trees obscuring your view of the the bunker-protected green. From the right angle, the twisted, ancient looking mesquites frame the flag perfectly, and add a an opportunity to get a little fancy with your ball flight — get your cameras ready.
The par 4 no.18 couldn’t be a better finishing hole. A wide open landing zone from the tee sets the stage for an interesting approach, the fairway shrinking to a sliver as it doglegs left around a vast natural hazard. Regardless of your tee shot distance a layup could be as risky as challenging the hazard and cutting the corner — two green side bunkers will make you second guess your approach, no matter where you’re playing from.
Hole 18 ensures you won’t forget your experience at The Max anytime soon.
After you finish the round, the great experience only continues.The Max’s new stunning clubhouse, a rustic adobe-inspired structure, fits seamlessly into the Texas landscape, as if it’s been there for decades. The main level is dedicated to the bar and Las Islitas Grill, dishing out delicious clubhouse favorites and chef specials before, during and after your round, and making it’s own mark on Laredo’s food scene. (See everything else Laredo has to offer here.) The upstairs event space, meanwhile, boasts the best views of the Rio Grande River in all of Laredo and the perfect place for weddings, corporate events and any type of private party you can think of. When the space isn’t booked, The Max hosts a variety of public events including yoga and live entertainment nights, making the most of one of the best overall venues in the city.
The Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course is truly a treasure for the people of the City of Laredo. The friendly staff, outstanding course design and conditions, delicious food with hearty portions and world class views to be expected from such a unique setting truly makes this place a worthy golf destination. The city cares aboutthis municipal track and recognizes everything it brings to the community — as every muni course should — and it shows. The Max promises a unique, high caliber golf experience you may never have considered, and one you’re sure to remember.
La Posada Hotel’s pool is a perfect getaway by itself.
What are the makings of the perfect golf getaway? Where to play and how many rounds you can squeeze in may be first to come to mind, but don’t neglect the most important parts of your vacation — everything else. Whether you’re playing sunup to sundown, or just a quick round in between tourist stops with the family, the time you spend on the course is a mere fraction of your vacation as a whole. Where you’re staying, dining options, local nightlife, attractions and all the little things are what determine just how great your golf getaway will be.
It’s the things that set the city of Laredo, TX, apart from the Scottsdales, Orlandos and others typically associated with golf getaways. A city somewhat lost in the mainstream perception of a US border town, Laredo exists in a world unto itself; rich with natural beauty, a culture steeped in history, and offering a kind of rest and relaxation unlike anywhere else.
Though founded in 1755 during the Spanish effort to colonize northern Mexico, it wasn’t until after the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845 — and the subsequent war with Mexico — that Laredo became a part of the United States. Centuries of Spanish, Mexican and American cultural exchanges have left an indelible mark on the city, making for an unmatched experience for anyone looking to explore one of America’s most unique regions.
San Augustín Cathedral looms over the city center.
Laredo’s cultural identity is defined by the city’s center, San Augustín Plaza in downtown’s San Augustín Historical District. A beautiful, tranquil park lined with brick roads neighbors the 19th century San Augustín Cathedral, completed in 1872 and run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Laredo. The building’s roots date back to the 1760s, when a small mission was built as a place of worship, later replaced by a small stone structure in 1778. Visitors can still see the outline of that stone structure outside the cathedral’s front doors, with colored bricks marking the original foundation resting several feet below the sidewalk.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the gorgeous property of the original casa consistorial (think town hall), now an impeccable Four Diamond hotel, La Posada. The property was once converted into a high school — the building that now houses the main lobby, restaurant and other amenities — before becoming the city’s foremost boutique hotel, touting impressive views of the border and famed bridge crossings from the banks of the Rio Grande. The historical building flies seven flags above its doors, each representing a territorial claim on the land (see image caption below) and a proud deflection from Texas’ usual “Six Flags” moniker.
The “Six Flags of Texas” represent the six nations that claimed the land. Laredo flies seven flags, with addition of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande.
Inside, La Posada’s quaint elegance is evident at first glance, with rustic accents and refined features accentuating the property’s design and historical significance. Manicured courtyards lined with vibrant gardens serve as corridors to the guest rooms, with the stunning main courtyard hosting one of the property’s two outdoor pools, a poolside bar and water feature surrounded by towering plants and livened by songbirds birds bustling to and fro. All in all, La Posada delivers a quintessential vacation setting. Rooms include nods to historical elegance as well, with exposed brick walls and more rustic accents characterizing the cozy, comforting and well-maintained spaces. With a top quality full service bar and restaurant, ballroom and event venue, La Posada Hotel has created its own signature brand of rest and relaxation.
Right outside the hotel doors is The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum, Laredo’s definitive historical center. The small museum is another of the city’s oldest structures, having served as the capitol building of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande and the former residence of the famed Laredo mayor, Bartolomé Garcia. Though small in size, the museum is rife with artifacts — many dating back to the earliest years of the territory — and authentic displays transporting visitors into a day in the life of those living on the Rio in the 1800s. It’s a must-visit for anyone wanting to make the most of this unique cultural experience.
All You Can Eat
While Laredo’s “authentic” dining scene is dominated by Latin cuisine — locals say don’t sleep on the local gas station’s tacos — the growing metro is home to many locally owned restaurants trending toward the modern craft movement, where more casual, hip and delicious options abound. Lolita’s Bistro is a shining example of the latter with gorgeous plates served in a delightful, social media worthy atmosphere. Unbeholden to a specific cuisine, Lolita’s menus delight with a range of Middle Eastern, American and Asian flavors alongside its standout Latin options. The appetizer list cannot be missed, especially with the salpicon tostadas and Baja style lobster taco waiting to dazzle your taste buds. The salpicon (shredded seasoned beef served cold) sticks to the Mexican variation of the dish — shredded beef stewed with onion, garlic, and dried spices served cold. Here it’s heaped on a fresh tostada with fresh pico, avocado, queso fresco and onion coming together for an unforgettable bite. Not to be outdone, the lobster taco’s creamy texture works surprisingly well inside a flour tortilla, with saffron rice, chipotle avocado and black beans complimenting the fresh lobster flavor and making for another addictive teaser.
Palenque Grill wows with stunning plates and spot on flavors.
For an authentic taste of Laredo, the Palenque name is inescapable. Taco Palenque is a local fast-food mainstay for 24 hour favorites, serving the signature flavors of its tacos and quesadillas from multiple locations all across Southeast Texas. Its more refined relative carrying the same name, Palenque Grill wows diners with bountiful servings of North Pacific Mexican cuisine, superb presentation and spot-on flavors. Per Texas standards, the meal begins with complimentary chips and salsa, a must-have. Whether sweet, smoky or spicy, the sampling of house salsas disappear all too quickly, serving as a perfect compliment to anything else you order, too. Mouth-watering options line Palenque Gill’s menu cover to cover — from seafood to enchiladas, parrilladas and more — meaning the most unenjoyable part of your dinner will be having to choose one. Go for the parrilladas for an excellent sampler option. The enormous sizzling platters of perfectly cooked meats, vegetables and peppers are served with accompanying sides and tortillas. Grilled meats show strong with or without accoutrements, but the shrimp stand without equal — stuffed with cheese and peppers, wrapped in bacon and finished with an impeccable charred.
Exceptional flavors stick close to Laredo’s premiere golf offerings as well, as evidenced by Las Islitas Grill inside The Max’s stunning adobe-style clubhouse. Las Islitas’ attention to quality is on display in any of its traditional clubhouse menu items — sandwiches, apps, burgers, salads and more. But a watchful eye on the restaurant’s specials will catch a number of affordable must-have dishes to enjoy whether you’re playing or not. Local favorite Stone and Stein pizza, meanwhile, crafts wood-oven pizzas to order in the Outlet Shoppes at Laredo (see below). The Subway-meets-Chipotle-meets-pizza concept is built to turn out fresh pies without delay, boasting all the freshest ingredients you could want on a custom pie.
Cultura Beer Garden sets the tone for an evening on the town.
For a quick fill up before a night out begins, Cultura Beer Garden cannot be missed. The unique spot showcases Laredo’s handle on modern food trends, with live entertainment, libations, and local food trucks all in one, with ample outdoor seating and indoor space as well. Start with drink orders at the front bar before choosing from a variety of food trucks stationed along the back driveway — you can’t go wrong. The large community tables and live entertainment complete the beer garden vibe, and set the perfect tone for what’s to come.
From Dusk Till Dawn
When the weekend sun sets on the city center, a different Laredo comes alive, and it’s fueled by bright lights, loud music and refreshing cocktails. Siete Banderas has mastered each. The Banderas building is unique in and of itself, with its second story rooftop patio bar overlooking a portion of the immense ground-level dance floor — another full service bar offers covered seating at the ground level, too. Music blares from each corner of the property and through the pulsating sound system, playing top American and Latino hits that keep the crowds whooping until last call. Aside from the club scene, Laredo’s bustling nightlife is sure to suit any style of entertainment one could be looking for, including karaoke, jazz, sports bars, pubs, and everything between.
When the last call beckons and the music subsides, a walk back through the city center proves as enjoyable as the day before. The perfect nighttime climate blankets the city in preparation for the next sunrise, though the city doesn’t sleep. Just across the banks of the Rio Grande, thousands of Mexican day laborers, trucks, trailers and travelers make their way across the border 24 hours a day, an indication of the city’s main economic driver. Laredo’s population balloons by the tens of thousands every day because of legal border crossings, and is afforded a sense of security by a presence from every branch of American law enforcement patrolling the city and surrounding areas.
Shop till you drop at Laredo’s premiere outlet mall.
As Laredo’s population and development continues to boom, the city’s finding new ways to capitalize on its unique situation. Of the thousands crossing the border each day, many make their way through the city to outlet shopping hotspots further north. In order to cut that travel distance and introduce shoppers to all Laredo has to offer, the city opened The Outlet Shoppes at Laredo. The beautifully colored, open-air mall touts some of the best mainstream brands, including Nike, Puma, Columbia, H&M, Vans, Rue 21, Zales and a whole lot more — with clearance prices and savings opportunities unmatched by most outlet malls. Crowds line the corridors from open to close, speaking not only to the success of the mall but also the high quality retail options for locals and travelers alike.
Laredo as a whole is in the midst of reimagining itself, squashing the misinformed stereotypes that come with being a Mexican border town. With so much to offer, from top quality golf offerings to a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, the city not only deserves consideration as a destination vacation, it demands it.
Nestled at the foot of the mountains in Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor Golf Club’s East Course (1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, broadmoor.com) is one of Colorado golf’s most coveted crown jewels. The championship course is no stranger to the highest levels of the game, hosting 6 USGA Championships in its history (a total of 8 championships have been played on Broadmoor courses), and a number of NCAA Championships — and one now-famous black bear.
The world-renown resort is itself a dominant presence in upscale tourist offerings in the area, golf aside, and is celebrating its centennial anniversary through 2018. Perhaps as an early birthday gift, the USGA named the Broadmoor East Course as home of the 2018 U.S. Senior Open, bringing the track back into the limelight 10 years after the hosting its last Open.
At a summer 2017 launch event, Hale Irwin teed off into the wide no.1 fairway, setting up a good look at the uphill green from his second shot. The Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr. track plays like a country club: overly-inviting fairways in close proximity to one another, speckled with large trees dictating your shots, and highlighted by the manicured hazards, flowerbeds and the lushest of turf. Pristine conditions are a given — this is the Broadmoor we’re talking about — but what really sets the East Course apart from your everyday luxury private club are the greens.
While large and welcoming these greens will cause you a lot of grief, and several strokes, if you’re not extremely careful. The greens slope according to the mountains to aid in finding a line, but otherwise hidden undulations will send your ball sweeping away from the cup if your pace isn’t exact. And the super fast surface doesn’t make it easy, rolling as smooth as you can imagine. It’s no wonder how the Broadmoor East Course earned its challenging reputation in the elite levels of the game.
Reprieve can be found in the sampling of the property’s high end amenities found throughout the layout, topped only by the gorgeous green complexes and sweeping views of the mountains to the west, and the sprawling cityscape to the east. The incredible sunsets, glimpses of the historic hotel, and wildlife spotting seem only an added bonus — no matter how many three-putts are on the card.
The front 9 provides the most scoring opportunities with par 5s at nos. 3, 7 and 9, a short par 4 at no.2 and manageable par 3s at nos. 4 and 8. Players will need to capitalize early before making the turn if they want to stay near the top of the leaderboard. The long par 35 back 9 isn’t as friendly, and can be punishing if you’re mishitting or getting too aggressive.
The 240-yard par 3 at no. 12 isn’t making too many friends at this course. Though reachable, the green complex sits above four frontside bunkers divided by a tiny landing area. Outside of sicking the putting surface or threading the needle and catching the small patch of fairway, chances are you’re playing for par before your second shot. Sunday’s champion can expect another challenge at the finish on the par 4 at no. 18, possibly the most difficult hole in the course. Vacation cottages line the inside of the tight doglegged fairway leading to a creek cutting off the green. A birdie finish is possible with a good, well placed tee shot and a targeted approach, but a look at the elevated, heavily undulated green from the rough can cause a lot of trouble. (Stay below the hole if you’re playing damage control.)
The Broadmoor Golf Club is a world-renowned destination for historic decadence and its culture of perfection, and that reputation rightfully extends to the East Course. The gorgeous country club setting disguises the challenges of this track very well, making it an excellent choice to host the highest levels of the game. And after enjoying a century of iconic status, the East Course is moving into the mainstream limelight once again to showcase elite Colorado golf.
Raven Club at Three Peaks. (Photo courtesy GolfNow)
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 Clubin 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.
Country Club at Woodmoor. (Photo courtesy Golf Now)
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 Woodmoorstakes 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 Coursein 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.
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.