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 on the mind, but don’t neglect the most important parts of your vacation, meaning, well, everything else. Whether you’re playing sun up to sundown, or 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 the factors that will determine just how great your golf getaway will be.
It’s those special little 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 Augistín Cathedral looms over the city center.
Laredo’s cultural identity is defined by the city’s center, San Augistín Plaza in downtown’s San Augistín Historical District. A beautiful, tranquil park lined with brick roads neighbors the 19th century San Augistín 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 that still rests several feet below ground.
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 Mexican 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) a proud deflection from Texas’ usual “Six Flags” moniker found throughout the city.
The “Six Flags of Texas” represent the 6 nations that claimed the land. Laredo flies 7 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 highlighting the property’s design and historical significance. Manicured courtyards lined with pristine gardens serve as corridors to the guest rooms, with the stunning main courtyard hosting one of the properties two outdoor pools, a poolside bar and water feature surrounded by towering plants and livened by the sound of birds singing as they bustle to and from. 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 you can only find in Laredo.
Right outside the hotel doors is The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum, Laredo’s definitive historical center. The small museum is one 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 Bartolomé Garcia, the mayor of Laredo. Though small in size, the museum is rife with artifacts dating back to the earliest years of the territory, and authentic displays transport visitors into a day in the life of those living on the Rio in the 1800s, and 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 — don’t sleep on the local gas station’s tacos — the growing metro is home to many locally-owned restaurants, and trending towards the modern craft movement with more and 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 stand-out 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 — shredded beef stewed with onion, garlic, and dried spices served cold — 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 tortilla, with saffron rice, chipotle avocado and black beans complimenting the fresh lobster flavor and making for an addictive teaser.
Paleque 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. It’s more refined relative touting the same moniker, 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, which you do not want to skip. 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. For an excellent sampler option, go for the parrilladas; enormous sizzling platters of perfectly cooked meats, vegetables and peppers 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 charred impeccably.
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 wether 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 is a must. The unique spot showcases Laredo’s handle on modern food trends, with live entertainment, libations, and local food trucks all in one, with amble outdoor seating and indoor space as well. Start with drink orders at the front bar before choosing from a variety of food trucks lining 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, 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 roof top patio bar overlooking the uncovered portion of the immense ground level — another full service bar offers covered seating at the ground level, too. The 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 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, and represent the city’s main economic driver. Laredo’s population balloons by the tens of thousands daily with legal border crossings, and 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 travelers 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 shopping 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 southern 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.
Every golfer has at least a few courses on their must-play list — courses of legend and history like Augusta National or the Olympic Club. Colorado golfers know of a track that fits that bill, the state’s most elusive, mysterious and sought after rounds, aptly named Sanctuary (7549 N Daniels Park Rd, Sedalia, sanctuarygolfcourse.com) There are a myriad of reasons most won’t check courses like Augusta or Olympic off the list, be it cost or otherwise, but that’s not the really the case at Sanctuary — it’s still nice to dream of a real golfer’s paradise.
A panoramic view of Sanctuary Golf Course in Sedalia, CO.
To be clear, Sanctuary doesn’t take tee times online, by phone or in person, it offers no membership packages or stay-and-play deals, either. Actually, your only chance to play this course is within a small window of invites each year, or a very select list of charity events. The stars aligned and strings pulled for a CGB twosome, a guest, and our chaperone to play 18 on a perfect Colorado spring morning. Sometimes dreams really do come true!
Sanctuary club house is all but abandoned.
We have the place to ourselves for a pre-round breakfast.
A massive clubhouse greets you past the gates. Stone pillars and wood beams are focal points of the commanding building overlooking an untarnished, panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. Though we arrived much earlier than usually called for, our bags were rushed to our carts like clockwork, allowing us plenty of time to stock up on merchandise in the pro shop. Aside from staff, the property was all but vacant during our visit — as if this oasis were there just for us.
A glimpse of the incredible view from the club house.
We could stay at the empty range all day.
Time stands still when on the pristine practice facilities, rivaling anything you could ever dream of. Imagine if Disney World shut its doors to the public for a day. More jaw-dropping features greet you on the way to the first tee, not least of which is the underground grotto complete with a waterfall and statue that would fit well in a Las Vegas penthouse suite. The attention to detail paid to the property is more than apparent when so few people are around, everything has its place though prepared to host hundreds of patrons — like walking through a dreamscape, unsure of what is real and what is not.
From the no.1 tee box . It’s a long way down to the green.
As for the course itself, Sanctuary has no fillers from 1 to 18. Each hole is designed around the natural terrain to set up not only memorable golf shots, but also payoff views from everywhere on the course. It’s an overwhelming experience for a photographer — the picture-perfect cutlines on the fairway and greens are so perfect they don’t even look real, and the lush rough and a wide variety of trees separating the holes zigzagging up and down the hillsides add a perfectly suited layer of beauty to the natural landscape. You can’t get conditions like these at your local muni, or even resorts, there’s just too much foot traffic. That’s not the case at Sanctuary — the greatest amount of traffic comes from the elk and deer disregarding the no carts signs.
It’s tough to find a flat piece of land on the fairways.
No.1, the hardest handicapped hole, is a good challenge to start the round, a 604-yard par 5 (all yardage approximated from the tips). Landing targets are aplenty from the elevated tee boxes, sporting hidden ridges and plateaus to bounce your drive further downhill before a natural hazard cuts the fairway in two. Playing left from the tee is the safest route, avoiding a front-fairway bunker. Stay center-left with your second shot for the safest approach to the green, but beware: too far left and you’re sitting in the bunker and too far right plays to a pond waiting to collect errant shots. GIR will never hurt you (duh) but Sanctuary’s felt-like greens will yield great results if you have the right touch.
A large tree looms above the no.1 green.
The gravity of where you are and the adrenaline from actual being able to play here subsides by the time to reach the 458-yard par 4 at no. 2, at least a little bit. The feeling of being completely alone in this paradise never goes away. The no.2 fairway acts like a wide, tree-lined hallway, narrowing just after the landing area to an uphill shot at the pin. The massive green is guarded by a pine tree on the left and a green-side bunker on the right. Most of the bunkers around the green complexes are sunken and hidden from view, so if you’re missing with your irons you’re going to find yourself in at least a few of them.
The green at no.2.
No. 3, a 432-yard par 4, presents an uphill battle after your tee shot, running against the terrain through another tree-lined fairway. Be warned about a pair of bunkers begging for you to miss the fairway on either side. Your purest drive may call for an extra club, or two, for your second shot but don’t get discouraged. Accuracy is everything when heading to the center of the elongated green, playing left of the green will net you a drop, and anything right puts you up against an awkward shot from the hillside rough.
It’s an uphill struggle on the no.3 fairway.
Like that at no.3, the greens at Sanctuary are massive. Throw some darts!
The no.4, 571-yard par 5 stole my heart, not only visually striking but also offering a number of shot scenarios for any level of golfer. The elevated tee boxes sit above an extremely narrow landing area on the fairway below. It’s imperative to clear the mammoth hill running parallel to the fairway and acting as a natural barrier down the entire right side of the hole — topped with knee high grass, brush and trees all the way down. Drive down the middle, between a lone pine tree sitting on the hillside and a fairway bunker and thick natural hazard on the left. Consider a tough layup for your second to an even more narrow fairway, or aim for an even tougher go at the green. You’re shooting blind into a green that’s arguably over-protected; blocked from right to left by the hill, a tree, a large bunker, another tree, multiple pot bunkers scattered like landmines, more trees, and natural hazard on the backside.
Looking back up the long, winding par 5 at no.4.
The first par 3 on the course, at 188 yards, finds a home at no. 5. Hole in one time! (Or so we thought.) A green so massive you could land a small plane on it gives you the confidence to believe in a hole-in-one, but a big greenside bunker looming on the right can get into your head. Play off the hill rising on the left side of the green if you get too nervous — none of us were dancing after one.
The par 3 no.5, with a tougher-than-it-looks pin placement on the front side of the green.
Back-to-back, look-alike par 3s create mixed emotions, but the 187-yard hole at no. 6 plays nothing like its neighbor. Adjusting for the change in wind direction is the least of your worries — focus on the 9 pot bunkers dotted along the right side of the green, none of which you can really see from the tee box.
Side view of the par 3 no.6 green.
The downhill dogleg at no.7, a 406-yard par 4, has a wide, inviting fairway that constricts as it leads down to the pin. A number of trees on each side of your landing zone are the only trouble waiting for you, that is, until you need to navigate around a greenside pine growing with the sole purpose to ruin your shot. A large, pure white sand bunker also hugs the green. Competing with the grade of this hole is the greatest challenge — you’re constantly readjusting your grip and struggling to find a comfortable stance. A difficult hole to say the least.
Looking back up the no.7 fairway from the green.
The 380-yard par 4 at no.8 may sound manageable, but it’s another uphill struggle with a blind second shot to the green. The drive is straight forward, so muscle one up to the fairway to make some early headway. A small, scrawny pine tree on the top of hill serves as a great aiming point for your second shot, just don’t forget club up to compensate for the uphill grade. A two-tiered green with about 20-feet of rise makes for a fun but potentially frustrating finale to the hole. Choose your landing spot on the green and putting speed carefully.
Take a big swing on the no.8 tee.
These greens can be intimidating.
A time-to-order-lunch chime from the cart’s GPS computer welcomes you to the 344-yard par 4 at no.9. GIR doesn’t sound like a big ask here, or so you’d think. A long stretch of natural hazard stretches from the tee boxes to the ascending fairway, which has a strategically placed bunker preventing a would-be safe shot the left side. (If you do crash land left, well, good luck.) Avoid more trouble as you continue uphill with your second shot — playing over the cart path and avoiding a huge bunker on the right. Oh, and also the deep, greenside bunkers to the left. The payoff for your struggle comes in the form of the greenside waterfall that had us all feeling like we were in the middle of Jurassic Park!
Looking up at the no.9 green, waterfall, and clubhouse.
We made the turn after two hours — our golf carts were all but completely drained, and we’d taken at least a couple thousand pictures. The staff set us up in new carts and we made a mental note not to rush this back nine holes no matter what.
Perched above the waterfall off of the ninth green is the no.10 tee box. The 206-yard par 3 acts as a welcome reprieve from the challenging front nine. Being one of the highest points on the course, the mountain views command your attention and offer a glimpse of the impressive layout set atop the land between you and the Rockies in the distance. Enjoy the view as you make your way to another oversized green, but beware of the bunkers calling out your name.
The view from the no.10 tee box, snow-covered Pikes Peak far in the distance.
Back to reality at no. 11, a 585-yard par 5 and good reminder that this course is super challenging — it’s not going to give you any free shots. A single fairway bunker sits left of a natural outcropping jutting out from the right side making for an interesting decision. If your distance and accuracy is there, try to thread the needle over the hazard; The smart play lands just before the outcropping to create another conservative second shot towards a much more inviting fairway. Your third shot should reach the green, staying true-to-form as it’s impressively large and protected by more bunkers.
No.11’s green and fairway.
No. 12 offers very few options other than to play it safe. The 383-yard par 4 doglegs from left to right. Put your wood away and take an iron to the elevated fairway to steer clear of troubling natural hazards and trees populating the treacherous cliffside area on the right and as far into the elbow of the fairway as you can. The green is tucked behind a massive bunker and more natural hazard, so don’t try to get cute if you’re trying to maintain a clean scorecard. Our group took the riskier play, cutting the corner after putting our scoring balls in play. Sanctuary claimed all but one, which likely took a lucky and/or errant bounce off a boulder or tree to a playable lie off the fringe.
It’s amazing how well hidden these massive bunkers can be from the elevated tee boxes..
Contrary to its predecessor, the 393-yard par 4 at no.13 begs you to take a chance with the promise of paying off — who doesn’t love a hole like that? — just keep a provisional on hand (*wink). Pull driver and go with gusto! You’re going for green from high above the fairway, the the backside of the green barely peeking from around the corner, sitting next to a pond with a small fairway bunker and further right a large safe landing area. Long hitters can shoot with an eagle on their mind, but birdies all around are nothing to complain about, and made for another highlight of our outing.
A waterfall is not a common in-course feature in Colorado — more than one and you’re just showing off. Topping its brethren at no.9, the water feature at the 173-yard par 3 at no.14 is awe-inspiring. Cascading falls and multi-tiered pools create a diagonal border on the front side of the green and dominates the scenery of the hole. As for playability, if the water isn’t enough, a hidden bunker awaits for anything long. Don’t get too distracted by this simple hole, it’s best enjoyed with a smooth, confident swing to find your target and enjoy the view.
The gorgeous, difficult par 3 at no.14.
You won’t have a chance to put your camera away at Sanctuary.
No.15, a 613-yard par 5, offers another subtle scoring opportunity. Long hitters can make this hole much shorter by cutting the corner on the right. Play your strength accordingly as the fairway narrows slightly — if you don’t see your ball after rounding the corner, you never will again. (The good news is no one is playing behind you, so head back and have another go.) The safe play is a layup towards a second fairway bunker, setting up your second shot straight down the second segment of the separated fairway. An approach from the right side of the fairway will keep you clear from the serpentining, rock-lined bunker wrapped around a small pond on the left side of the green.
Rounding the corner at no. 15.
Some of these hazards are just unfair.
Exaggerated ascents and descents are a signature of Sanctuary’s design that make the distances listed on the card only good for reference points. The 317-yard par 4 at no.16 feels like a driveable hole for long hitters, but because the tee boxes are so far downhill from the fairway, it plays like a short par 5. Going for green or not, accuracy is again key — because when is it not, right? — if only to avoid the colony of bunkers dotted along the final stretch of the fairway on the right side. If you’re there in three, trust the roll on the greens to bail you out to save par or bogey (and join the club).
The 366-yard par 4 at no. 17 recalls its neighbor at no. 7, playing slightly left to right downhill. 17 plays a little shorter and with a more dramatic elevation change from tee to fairway, almost like a blind trust fall. Play inside the curve of the hole as much as you can, anything long and right can get dangerously close to a bunker and a stone retaining wall. The peanut shaped green is defended by tall tree with far reaching branches growing out of the fringe, literally, and, of course, another pot bunker just beyond it to capture those who dared to attack the flag.
No.17 is home to challenging pin placements.
A fringe-side treen — greenskeeper’s revenge!
We were hoping it wold never end, but there we were at no. 18, the second hardest hole on the card and a perfect finisher. The 438-yard par 4 follows a tree-lined valley straight uphill and has you second guessing your club selections from the get-go. (When in doubt at Sanctuary, club up.) The waterfall count rises again when you add what’s probably the tallest water feature on the grounds, sitting innocently above the backside of the massive, undulating green.
The scene for a truly picture-perfect ending to an unforgettable experience and returning you to the same state started the round in: alone in this personal paradise with only your thoughts and a stunning natural landscape all around you.
It’s a long way to get home on the no.18 fairway.
Bidding farewell on no.18 at Sanctuary.
Grounds crews always deserve a tip of the cap, but Sanctuary’s crew of miracle workers deserves a standing ovation. The do an exceptional job with all the upkeep that this course demands, by the looks of it, a lot. The location of this track protects it from prying eyes, the only outside vantage point being a small park across the canyon about a mile away. One could say it’s a shame this little slice of paradise is so removed from the world, but in this case, it’s crucial to the lure.
Sanctuary is nothing short of a golfer’s dream come true, in every sense of the term. The secluded, gorgeous design and natural landscape, abundant wildlife, a challenging, shot-producing layout, and impeccable conditions and 5-star staff equate to absolute perfection. We all have the one course on our would-do-anything-to-play list, but waiting high in the Rocky Mountains is the pinnacle of sanctuary.