Colorado Golf Tour: A taste of all the state has to offer

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 Courseone 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.

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 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. 

Taking a stroll through the beautiful Perry Park

Perry Park red rocksOnly a few Colorado courses may make the must-play list for your average golfer — Fossil Trace, Sanctuary, Bear Dance, Arrowhead, et al. — and each serves as an excellent example of what golf in the mile high state is all about. But there are countless other tributes to Colorado golf that remain lesser-known, their rich histories and truly breath-taking landscapes lying just outside the scope of the mainstream. Perry Park Country Club (7046 Perry Park Blvd., Larkspur, perryparkcc.com) is one such course.

A short, scenic drive off I-25, between the town of Monument and Castle Rock, Perry Park easily rivals Arrowhead, its famous red rock counterpart in the north. Views, views, views — that’s what Perry is all about — the track plays along stunning  rock formations jutting from the manicured grounds in the foothills of the Rockies.

If the superlative conditions and country club amenities are what you call the icing on the cake, the sprinkles would be the property’s rich, and awesome, history — we’ll have more on that in a future post, but we can say if you’re one for western lore, Perry Park is your new favorite track (read: stagecoach stop, Pony Express, Native American glyphs, etc.) If that doesn’t do it for you, how about multiple 2017 Golf Advisor Magazine reader’s choice CAGGY award winner, including “Most Underrated Private Club”?

As our quest to crash the perfect Colorado country club continues, a CGB threesome took to the track upon an invite, and it was love at first sight.

Sentinel RockPerry does not hold back its beauty — a commanding rock outcropping known as Sentinel Rock serves as the focal point of the view, from the clubhouse all the way to the no.1 green. An aggressive line down the 381-yard par 4 will buy you time to snap plenty of photos. Starting off in the red is definitely possible here, that is, with a soft hand good reads on the green — they only get tougher.

Scoring opportunities are dotted aplenty throughout the layout, though, the Dick Phelps design has very well placed hazards, and fairway movements that can definitely throw a wrench in your plans. The no.2 par 5, at 533 yards, serves as another scoring opportunity, as well as your first introduction to some of the striking rock formations serving as your peanut gallery.

Colorado is known for its red rocks, it’s our thing. (Did you know: That’s why the state is named Colorado (color red) and why Red Rocks Amphitheater is called Red Rocks, duh). It’s difficult to put this kind of beauty into words, these formations have been here for eons yet never look the same, and only become more stunning with every glance.

Perry Park landscapeDon’t get too distracted, though, this layout isn’t just a walk in the park. Errant shots will start to add up here and it’s not a scrambler’s course — the tree-lined fairways run close together when not winding through the wooded residential area.

After the difficult yet picturesque par 3 at no.5, it’s a downhill run back towards the massive reservoir in the middle of the property. When we say you’re playing against the gorgeous red rock formations, we mean it — a hosel rocket could ricochet of the face and back into yours.

The 447-yard par 4 at no. 10 mimics its no.1 neighbor, playing directly into Sentinel Rock, but look for a little bonus in an ancient cave rests just behind the no.10 tee box and some spelunking after the turn. Trace more of your footsteps on the par 5, 514-yard at no.11 before breaking away from the bulk of the layout. The par 3 no.12 is a deceivingly difficult welcome to the other side of the track. Distance is key to keep the ball below the hole on the back-to-front sloped green on the other side of the water hazard, but anything too low is set to roll off the dance floor if not into a bunker.

No.s 13 and 14 make way for what may be one of the most enjoyable last legs we’ve played on the front range. The 418-yard, par 4 no.15 doglegs back towards the southernmost rock ridge — long hitters can aim low by cutting the corner and setting up a short approach to the downhill green. And 16 delivers another spectacular view of the red rocks, foreshadowing the arresting view from the no.17 tee box. The 222-yard par 3 is a difficult hole, shots guarded by strategically placed trees and a sand trap waiting to catch anything deep, but none of that matters when you’re teeing off within arm’s reach of the red rocks. (Play your scoring ball from your assigned tee then hit another one from against the rocks.)

Perry Park no.18Perry Park’s finale is awe-inspiring. Scoring doesn’t really matter at the 409-yard par 4, either — take it all in while you can. 18 delivers a taste of everything Perry Park’s setting has to offer, crossing the water (optional) and unveiling a stunning view of the property on its way back uphill towards the no.1 tee box. A bailout fairway rests on the other side of the reservoir pond from the tee, but playing from here makes this short hole a lot longer. The 18th green is protected by four bunkers surrounding it from all sides, and hosts a final glimpse of Sentinel Rock.

There are plenty of reasons why must-play courses are sometimes relegated to the “in our dreams” category. Perry Park itself is a members-only club, though it offers some of the most competitive and reasonable pricing options available, especially considering the caliber of the track. Facing water driving ranges, a picturesque practice green, and well-minded amenities round out Perry Park’s golf offerings, not mentioning the dining, events and other club features, all adding to the lure of this kind of country club lifestyle. Add Perry to your list of must-play Colorado courses, and if ever you have a chance to spend a day in the Park, don’t sleep on it.

The Club at Crested Butte defines golf in the Rocky Mountains

Crested Butte no.11 green

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.

Crested Butte green

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.

Crested Butte no.3 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.

Crested Butte no.9 fairway

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.

Crested Butte skyline

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.

Crested Butte no.11 green2

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.

Sanctuary Golf Course is a golfer’s dream come true

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.  
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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!
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Sanctuary club house is all but abandoned.

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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.
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A glimpse of the incredible view from the club house.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 
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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.
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It’s an uphill struggle on the no.3 fairway.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Take a big swing on the no.8 tee.

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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!
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Looking up at the no.9 green, waterfall, and clubhouse.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The gorgeous, difficult par 3 at no.14.

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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.
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Rounding the corner at no. 15.

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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.
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No.17 is home to challenging pin placements.

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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.
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It’s a long way to get home on the no.18 fairway.

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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.

City Park Golf Course: What’s next for Denver golf?

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It’s easy to get used to the city life at City Park Golf Course.

City Park Golf Course in downtown Denver (201 W. Colfax Ave., cityofdenvergolf.com/golf-course/city-park) has been a landmark of Colorado golf since opening in 1913, though, its future isn’t clear. We spend a lot of time talking about a given course’s front row, panoramic view into pristine nature — Rocky Mountain skylines, expansive marshlands, valleys, et al, but something else can be said for urban tracks. Especially a track that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Thomas Bendelow design, City Park has always been a little different given the worldwide popularity of links tracks. But the history that’s rooted in the fairways of Denver’s Park Hill (not to be confused with Park Hill G.C.) is even more of driving force behind the resistance to plans to redesign the course as part of the city’s flood control program. One portion of the multi-million dollar “Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems” project, City Park is set to close in late 2017, effectively flooded and redesigned around the new stormwater retention reservoir. The Denver Post published a piece about the project and the history of City Park in May 2017.

We can’t speak on the future City Park design as the project contractor has yet to be selected as of this writing (to be announced summer 2017), and we’re not one for politicking, but we can speak on a recent experience at one of Colorado golf’s most important historical landmarks.

Dew-covered spring mornings are a fixture on the golf course — picture perfect lawns warming in the sunlight, freshly cut grass wafting in the breeze — it’s a similar experience at most courses. Now, take that scene and place it in the middle of an urban residential area at a municipal course blocks from downtown Denver, with a bustling city life and the lure of one of the most desirable cities in the nation. That’s City Park golf course.

The track opens along a busy residential road, the 402-yard (from the tips) par-4 at no.1 and its 359-yard counterpart at no.2 are easily reachable in regulation — the long, open fairways are playable from either side, though, just make sure you don’t ruin a commuter’s day playing too far left. Tough, undulating greens are City Park’s signature and will cause you trouble. Pin placements matter, a lot, as much as targeted approach shots to stay below the hole. Scoring opportunities continue at the dead straight, 490-yard par-5 at no.3. Long hitters can make short work of this hole for even lower scores, but even average hitters can play for a good birdie look.

Your troubles aren’t limited to the rolling greens, the City Park’s only water hazard — ironic considering the future plans — is a large pond at no.6. Stay left from the tee the entire way for the safest path to the green, anything right is playing with danger. Offering little reprieve, no.7 is home to the track’s longest par-3, a cool 218 yards. Long par-3s are another Bendelow signature — playing for par here will do no harm.

No.s 8 and 9 offer a taste of what the urban golf scenery is all about, playing back towards downtown. The real payoffs begin at the no.12 teebox, so have your camera ready. The Denver skyline looms overhead as the remainder of the track zigzags in a more condensed layout. Tighter fairways and more hazardous trees make the back-9 a little more daunting, opening with consecutive par-5s and another long par-3. Capitalize on the short par-4 at no.13 with a fairway dropping gently into a green that’s approachable from either side.

The remaining holes leading back to the clubhouse stay true to form, with stunning views and tough greens demanding consistency from tee to green. Distances don’t matter as much as accuracy, and though this course can be welcoming, playing from the rough can and will get you into trouble.

Denver cares about City Park, as witnessed by the impeccable turf conditions and the pride Denver Golf staff has for all the municipal properties. The city has more information on the ongoing redesign process at CPGCredesign.org, and posts regular updates in monthly newsletters. We may not know what the future holds for the beloved City Park Golf Course, but here’s to hoping the new design pays homage to Bendelow’s original design and the historic legacy of the grounds. CGB has a 2019 tee time to find out.

Colorado Springs Country Club delivers on the lifestyle

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Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods play peanut gallery at the no.1 fairway.

7 a.m. Sunday morning, the tapping of cup cutters and rumbling mowers in the distance. The night before weighs heavy on the landscape, manicured and lush. The grounds lay dormant, flags are placed, and the staff is hurriedly preparing for the day. This is Sunday at the Colorado Springs Country Club (3333 Templeton Gap Rd., cscountryclub.com).

In case you didn’t know, CGB isn’t used to the country club lifestyle (born and raised on the muni course, baby). We visited this private 18-hole track upon invite from the course.

The lure was apparent within several minutes of being in the clubhouse — our breakfast happily served prior to the kitchen opening (in the form of one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had), and a custom Callaway Epic driver setup mimicking that on our wishlist insisted upon us before hitting the first tee. We could get used to this.

I can try to wax poetic about the conditions at the club, but no amount of words can describe what every greenskeeper strives for better than one: perfection. The par-71 track seems unassuming from anywhere but inside, shielded from the bustling neighboring community. It’s an oasis any golfer could spend a lifetime in.

Zigzag through the first four holes on the front 9, taking advantage of the opening par 5, a 552-yard (from the tips) dog-leg protected by a few strategic bunkers and mature pine trees. The large, inviting greens can be deceptive, but constantly roll away from the bluff overlooking the course from the northeast. You’re welcome. Scoring opportunities are spread throughout the course, including no.7 and no.8, a 390-yard par-4 and 162 yard par-3, respectively, but biding time until the back nine can pay off.

B-E aggressive at no.10 and 11, a par-4 and par-5, to start the back 9 off in the right direction. Accuracy around the green is paramount in conditions like these — don’t count on bounces and rolls too much. Play left off the tee on no.10 for the clearest path the dance floor; grip it and rip it (as straight as you can) as you make your way uphill on no.11. Birdie or better on both and you’re feeling pretty good, but the biggest payoff of the entire round is just around the corner at no.12.

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The no.12 par-3 is quite a beauty, and a beast.

Make sure you have some time between you and the group behind you, or make time. You’ll need a moment, or five, to take in the postcard-worthy design of the 185-yard par-3. This hole deserves all the spotlight it can get, yet sits humbly out-of-view from the rest of the course with a slightly elevated green protected by deep beach bunkers — it’s reflection is captured in a pristine pond separating it from the tee boxes. Regardless of pin placement, this hole is tough. It’s hard enough not to be distracted by the scenery, and large hills behind the green are stingey with favorable bounces, oh, and anything short is bunker or water bound, so pull the right club.

The rest of the back 9 plays similar to the front, though, with fewer parallel fairways and more scoring opportunities. Our CGB twosome had already been musing (sort of seriously) about making a membership happen, way before we reached the final upsell attempt at no.18. The 355-yard par-4 is home to another small pond, a fountain, and THE view of the clubhouse. An aggressive shot from right or left of the fairway can set up an even more enjoyable birdie attempt to close your round.

A members-only club, Colorado Springs C.C. breathes exclusivity, an alluring facet of the lifestyle. And though still one of the more affordable, true country club options in the Springs, it provides the kind of experience every golfer has yearned for, and deserves to live at least once. Even if it’s just for an early morning breakfast sandwich at the driving range.