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.
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.
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.
Black Forest, home to heavily wooded estates, remarkable views of the front range and one of the most demanding links tracks in the area. East of the town of Monument, off Highway 105, King’s Deer Golf Club will either make you feel like a peasant or royalty, there is no in-between. You need to play as smart as you do long and accurate if you want to master this realm.
From the blue tees, the 384-yard par 4 dog leg at no.1 welcomes players with a false line-of-sight to the green — you’re actually looking at the adjacent green at no.8. It’s safe to to play the same line from the tee, setting up center to right fairway for a clear shot at the flag. More scoring opportunities are spread throughout the front 9 — at the no.2 par 3, the no.4 par 4, and the 453-yard par 5 at no.5 — but don’t let a string of pars and birdies inflate your confidence too much.
The long par 3 at no.6 insists on length and accuracy, even for safe plays. The front fairway is all but off limits with a slim landing zone intersecting natural hazard short and a large bunker. A safe play is flying the front bunker a little more right to wider fairway spooning the green on the right side. If you’re going center green, you better stick it — another large bunker sits behind the green, and everything right is back in the natural hazard. Equally challenging are the tight, winding fairways at no.7 and no.8, a 533-yard par 5 and 326-yard par 4 respectively. The 7th green is heavily fortified with creek and a large bunker hampering your approach; you’ll find some reprieve at no. 8 with an unimpeded line from the fairway. The front 9 ends with a scoreable uphill par 3 — add a club and play for a bounce off the surrounding hills for the best chance at birdie.
The back 9 starts off with a bang. The most picturesque hole on the course, the 539-yard par 5 calls for a big swing from the tee — play center to right fairway. The view from your second shot may induce some dread, looking down at what might as well be an island green protected by water on three sides, though, playing front left or long over the green are safe plays. No.11 and no.12 are good chances to put some positive marks on the card, as is no.13 if you can avoid the deep bunkers spotting the fairway. There are safe plays from right an the left, but accuracy is crucial.
No.10 from green to tee box.
Numbers 14 and 15, a 513-yard par 5 and a 210-yard par 3 respectively, are best tackled by long hitters. Shorter players have opportunities, but you’ll need a little help to walk away even through these two. The road best traveled back to the clubhouse includes more target golf, finishing with the beautiful 351-yard uphill par 4 at 18. Your second shot here can be trouble if you wander too far right from the fairway, but the large circular green offers you a strong finish.
King’s Deer takes golf seriously, also hosting a well-stocked pro shop, excellent practice grounds, and a comfortable bar and grill with gorgeous views of the landscape. Greens fees set you back anywhere from $24 to $35 for 18 with a cart ($17-$19 for 9), though the course does offer competitive membership deals. You certainly get more than you pay for at the Deer, with the opportunity to dig deeper into your game with the course’s free mobile app. Use GPS to track distances, preview each hole with video tours, record your scores and follow the course leaderboard, and more with the easy to use interface.
Links courses come a dime a dozen, but King’s Deer delivers more than most, and in a true Colorado setting. If you take the game as seriously as the Deer does, you won’t regret a visit.
Pre Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, if Colorado were known for one thing, it would be our 29,000-plus acres of skiable terrain, which justifiably makes us “Ski Country USA.”
But happy as we are hitting the high country during the winter months to make some leisurely lines on the slopes, the snow-sports scene takes a backseat to every other fitness-focused activity you can think of during the summer season. (Oh, you climb the Incline every weekend? How novel.)
It’s easy to forget — that is, if you knew it already — that Colorado is also home to an impressive array of golf courses, more than 200 of them, including some of the highest-rated private and public courses in the country. Southern Colorado hosts a number of premiere tracks unlike any others. Really, where else can you tee off from close to 9,000 feet above sea level? From Monument and Woodland Park, to Colorado Springs and Cañon City, long links-style layouts to 9-hole par-3s, the grass really is greener in Colorado.
Snow-capped mountains, forested foothills, bubbling creeks, big game and other wildlife: The golf at Shining Mountain Golf Club (100 Shining Mountain Lane, Woodland Park, shiningmountaingolf.com) is just the icing on the cake. One of the state’s most accessible mountain courses from a metro area, about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs on Highway 24, Shining Mountain’s 18-hole, par-70 layout is a must-play for the views alone. Tight, undulating fairways hug the hills and surrounding marshlands under Pikes Peak’s north face, defining the beauty of Colorado at every turn. Shining Mountain’s signature hole could be the par-3 17th, its elevated tee boxes looking out to a large green protected by a small pond, and set against the gorgeous backdrop of the valley, forest and the towering Rocky Mountains.
Notably lacking in quality in southern Colorado, municipal courses are to the average golfer what a grade school is to any Average Joe: nostalgic. City-run courses become a part of the local community; a neighborhood gathering place, a go-to bar spot, an event venue — not just a place to swing the sticks. No place exhibits this more than Patty Jewett Golf Course (900 E. Espanola St., pattyjewettgolfshop.com), one of the Springs’ two municipal courses. The 27-hole layout is both welcoming and challenging to players of any skill level, and delivers iconic views of the Front Range from anywhere on the property. Prime conditions and a clubhouse with a warm, appealing patina complete an affordable country club feel.
Conditions are also king at Pueblo’s Walking Stick Golf Course (4301 Walking Stick Blvd., Pueblo, walkingstickpueblo.com), one of Pueblo’s three muni courses. The 18-hole, par-72 layout has historically rated as one of Colorado’s best courses to play on a budget, offering players a full-service, desert-links style design for less than $40 per round during peak season. The picturesque track sports rolling fairways, pot bunkers and troubling natural hazards, paying off with big, inviting greens and plenty of scoring opportunities.
More area links
Rooted in tradition, the prevailing golf course design you’ll find anywhere is links, and southern Colorado is no different. Historically, links courses are coastal, with scant trees, expansive natural hazards and undulating terrain. Sans the nearby beach, King’s Deer Golf Club (19255 Royal Troon Drive, Monument, kingsdeergolfclub.com) stays true to a modern links design — a formidable, 18-hole, par-71 challenge surrounded by lush, gorgeous marshlands and abundant natural hazards. Target golfers and scramblers are the only ones to master this realm, but long hitters may find some low scores too.
On the east side of Colorado Springs, Springs Ranch Golf Club (3525 Tutt Blvd., springsranchgolfclub.com) hones its own links design. The newly remodeled layout criss-crosses Sand Creek several times, taking advantage of the natural dunes and expansive views of the surrounding landscape. Trouble isn’t hard to find on any golf course, but Springs Ranch is the perfect place to get aggressive and shoot right at the pin.
Cap your Colorado links mini-tour at Cañon City’s Four Mile Ranch Golf Club (3501 Telegraph Trail, Cañon City, fourmileranch.com). This up-and-coming golf community centers on the 18-hole, par-72 layout. Don’t let the humble clubhouse (I mean trailer) fool you, Four Mile is a course you won’t soon forget. Undulating is an understatement — this is a raging sea of conditioned turf that’s both forgiving and infuriating. Blind shots are a signature at Four Mile, grip it and rip and trust the funneling greens will reward your ambition.
Military and private courses
At the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, across U.S. Highway 115 from Cheyenne Mountain State Park, awaits Cheyenne Shadows Golf Course (1050 Titus Blvd. #7800, carson.armymwr.com), Fort Carson’s resident track. Open to civilians, the 18-hole, par-72 layout boasts dramatic views of the surrounding landscape, and is approachable by any player. The Air Force Academy is home to the much-lauded Eisenhower courses (usafasupport.com/golf-course.html), two 18-hole tracks playing amongst the trees and foothills for service members and their guests. Meanwhile, Peterson AFB hosts Silver Spruce Golf Course (40 Glasgow Ave., 21fss.com/silver-spruce-golf-course). Its well-maintained 18-hole and 9-hole, par-3 courses are also open to the public.
The Springs’ private courses are much like anywhere else: pricey and exclusive. But if you have a chance to chase birdies at the Colorado Springs Country Club, Garden of the Gods Country Club, Cheyenne Mountain C.C., or even The Broadmoor, you’d be a fool not to take it. Exceptional conditions and five-star treatment is what the country club life is all about, and every golfer should experience it at least once.
Practice, practice, practice
It’s hard to enjoy a round if you’re thinking about breaking every club in your bag, no matter where you are. But there are a number of facilities here to help lower your scores. World Golf & Sand Creek G.C. (6865 Galley Road, worldgolfsandcreek.com) on the east side of town is the site of a large, stadium-lit driving range, a practice green — and mini golf — a golf simulator and a short 9-hole track. And Cherokee Ridge Golf Course (1850 Tuskegee Place, cherokeeridgegolfcourse.com), home to a regulation 9-hole and another 9-hole, par-3, is another suitable, inexpensive place to hone your hacking. The First Tee (525 N. Academy Blvd., thefirstteepikespeak.org) hosts youth programs at its impressive indoor practice facility, also open to the public year-round for practice sessions.
A disclosure to get out of the way first: Both review trips we made to Shining Mountain Golf Club (100 Shining Mountain Lane, Woodland Park, 719/687-7587) happened to fall outside of the peak season and yielded less than favorable course conditions (unsurprisingly). Crunchy turf and pocked greens this late into April would normally be cause for concern, but this is golf in the high country — the grass is always greener when the snow-melt begins.
At just under 9,000-feet elevation, Shining Mountain is one of Colorado’s most accessible mountain courses from a metro area, located about 30-minutes west of Colorado Springs off Highway 24. If nothing else, this course is a must-play for the breathtaking views alone; what’s more is the daunting course layout with a personality you won’t find anywhere outside of the Rocky Mountains. Tight, undulating fairways hugging forested foothills, expansive marshlands and natural hazards and creek beds are Shining Mountain’s signatures, paired with its share of elevated tees and greens. Big tee shots are easy to come by this high above sea-level, but mishits will undoubtedly get you into trouble in a hurry.
The north face of Pikes Peak acts as your peanut gallery from the first tee; an inviting downhill par 4 leading you towards the foot of the mountains. The front-9 plays along a bubbling creek, winding through the forest and climbing up and down the foothills. There are plenty of scoring opportunities to be found, including at no.1, the short par 4 at no.3, and three par 3s at no. 4, 6, and 9. But safer plays will ensure you come out of the woods no worse for wear. You’ll want as few marks as possible on your scorecard heading into the turn, the back 9 can be a sobering experience.
No.10 can get the trouble started early with a tiered fairway descending to a blind green that’s protected by a manmade pond. Big hitters beware: chances of reaching the green in one are slim, but a long ball will definitely put you in the water. Play short for a manageable approach at the green with your second shot. You’ll want a strong start at 10 to keep your wits about you to find the 11th tee box. Though there are signs, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting lost as you follow a neighborhood dirt road for about a quarter-mile from the previous green.
One of Shining Mountain’s most difficult holes awaits at the no.13 par 4, complete with cascading island tee boxes and a needle-thin fairway boarded by forest on the left and a shear face of natural hazard leading down to the no.15 fairway on the right — anything but a draw or an arrow-straight drive is likely to be trouble. Speaking of the last par 5 of the par-70 layout, no.15 is also the longest at just under 600 yards. One of the few sure scoring opportunities after the turn, play right fairway all the way for an unobstructed line at the flag — left of center and you’re fishing for balls in the marsh.
You literally cannot avoid Shining Mountain’s coolest landscape feature, that being the crazy long wooden bridge traversing the width of the marsh. Get creative with your social media videos and you’re rumbling from end to end.
The signature par 3 at no.17 won’t let you forget what Colorado golf is all about anytime soon. Elevated tee boxes look out to large, welcoming green protected by another small pond, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the valley, forest, and America’s Mountain peaking out over the trees (pictured above). This is why we love this game.
Regardless of conditions, Shining Mountain is quintessential Colorado — mastered by locals but welcoming to all. Dedicated disc golfers can find a home here, too, a fun juxtaposition to see firsthand (just make sure you’re keeping eyes open on busier days). Green fees range from $30 to $41 for 18 with a cart ( $15 to $22 for 9), but keep an eye out for hot deals online for as low at $12 for 18 with a cart.
With a revived restaurant and bar and adjoining event space, the property takes full advantage of its natural beauty — home to big game, birds of prey and other wildlife, picture-perfect skies and the awe-inspiring sunsets of the Rocky Mountains. Add to that a scoreable challenge easily played in a short day-trip and for a reasonable price, and you can bet we’ll be back as often as possible.
There’s a reason why links is the oldest golf course design style, they got it right the first time. Depending on who you ask, the definition of a true links course may be up for debate — proximity to the ocean is a deal-breaker for some — but the most important characteristics of the design easily translate to many dry, desert-like landscapes. Colorado Springs (read: as land-locked as it gets) is home to a shining example of links-style design with Springs Ranch Golf Club, a true gem on the east side of town.
Springs Ranch (3525 Tutt Blvd, 719/573-4863, springsranchgolfclub.com) may be competing with two other golf courses located near the Powers corridor, Cherokee Ridge and Sand Creek, but its dedication to the natural landscape makes this course one of the most unique in town, now in the cleanup stages of a significant update. Native hazards are the greatest challenge players face, dominating the majority of the surrounding area. Pot bunkers are dotted throughout the layout set on top of the undulating dunes of the high desert. The scant amount of trees pose little threat and the sole water hazard is all but an afterthought.
“Undulations” may sound like a red flag, but the movement of the course isn’t nearly as drastic as some others we’ve played. Your worries should be focused on the natural hazards and pot bunkers. Overall, Springs Ranch is a very playable course; invitingly wide and with a number of scoring opportunities, yet still more challenging than it looks.
The recent course construction and severe storms — followed by an extreme hail storm so bad it prompted local course closures — left the course in a lot rougher shape it would be otherwise when we found it. The bunkers were left with a layer of gravel and sediment after a series of heavy storms — raking made them even worse — and a number of the greens were sporting significant hail damage.
The new layout can be a bit confusing as you make your way to no. 11. Even though the new layout is marked somewhat sufficiently, noticing a foursome on 18 teeing off over the cart path you’re traveling on is pretty unnerving. No. 16 and 18, the two other newly-updated holes, flow pretty easily.
Sand Creek snakes its way throughout Springs Ranch and is the most dominating feature of the no.12 par 4. Easily one of the most prominent hazards on the course, the deep ravine defends the green once players reach the end of the left-to-right curving fairway. Big hitters have a chance to carry the creek, but only if they’re really big hitters. A layup is the safest play for a look at GIR.
Home to the course reservoir, no.9 is another standout. The water becomes a big factor on the approach to the green depending on the placement of the pin — easy breezy if the flag is on the left of the green, more troublesome on the right. Playing too far right from the tee will cause you some trouble from the get-got. The conservative plays are all left-of-center, maintaining a clear path to the green regardless of pin placement. Fly the green and you’ll be looking at another awkward lie to get up and down from the hill on the back side.
Really, Springs Ranch isn’t about signature holes as much as it is a seamless, natural flow. The fluidity of the holes adds emphasis to its surroundings, allowing players to take in the expansive views of the front range and the features of the high desert, and really focus on the scoring opportunities at hand. Weekday course rates range from $16 (9 holes, walking) to $40 (18, with a cart) during peak season, $18 (9 holes, walking) to $45 (18, with a cart) on weekends. Twilight specials are offered as well, $12 for all you can play starting two hours before sunset (no carts) but you can find much better deals in the area.
Whether you’re a links traditionalist or simply a fan of classic course play, you’ll appreciate Springs Ranch’s ode to the origins of course design. In a place like Colorado, known for our mountains more than anything else, it’s refreshing to find a course unafraid to fully embrace a different kind of high altitude landscape, and add to the diversity of Colorado golf.