Road Holes — 31 December 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Top Five: Colorado Mountains

Where’s the best place to play golf on the West Coast? We’ll give you hundreds of choices.

Golferswest.com continues its annual assessment of the Top Five courses to play within the 12 West Coast states and British Columbia. Today, the 25-part series focuses on: Colorado Mountains.

NO. 1 COURSE: REDLANDS MESA

LOCATION: Grand Junction, Co.

DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER: Take I-70 toward Grand Junction and get off on exit 70/Redlands Parkway going south. Turn left on Broadway then right on Ridges Blvd. Go two miles to Shadow Lake and enter the property.

PHONE: 970-263-9270

OPENED: 2001 (Architect: Jim Engh)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: redlandsmesa.com

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,007 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: The layout is surrounded by the Colorado National Monument, Grand Mesa, and Bookcliffs. There are some dramatic, breathtaking elevation changes with rock outcroppings, 41 bunkers and natural water features all around. Water comes into play for five holes.

It was voted the top public golf course in the state by Colorado Golf Magazine. Golf Magazine continually ranks it among the top 100 public courses in America, among its many tributes.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 17, par-3, 218 yards. There is a 150-foot drop from the tee to the fairway. The green is in a natural amphitheater of rock edges with a stunning mountain backdrop, a most memorable hole.

River Course at Keystone

NO. 2 COURSE: RIVER COURSE AT KEYSTONE

LOCATION: Dillon, Co.

DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER: The course is 90 miles from Denver. Take I-70 west and ext at 205, Silverthorne/Dillon. Turn left onto Hwy 6. It’s 6.2 miles to the course.

PHONE: 970-496-1520

OPENED: 2000 (Architect: Dr. Michael Hurdzan)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: golfkeystone.com

LAYOUT: Par 71, 6,886 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: You do get your views here. It’s like playing on mountain tops, a course you can’t walk but take it slow because the vistas are breathtaking.

Elevation changes begins with the first hole, a 100-foot drop, looking into the Continental Divide. Nearly every tee box is elevated to take advantage of the sights as well as your drives. You fly farther here. The front nine messes with the Snake River while the back nine cuts through a forest. There is a 194-foot elevation drop off the 16th tee. The 18th gives you 12 bunkers and an unobstructed view of Lake Dillon.

There is also the 18-hole sister course, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Keystone Ranch that opened in 1980.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 5, par-4, 363 yards. This is quite short – it’s a par-3 for women at 157 yards – but it’s treacherous. Most golfers hit short so as not to deal with a long water hazard. Then your approach must sail over the hazard to land on a small green protected by water in front and bunker in back.

NO. 3 COURSE: HAYMAKER

LOCATION: Steamboat Springs, Co.

Haymaker

DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER: Take I-70 toward Grand Junction. Get off on exit 205, N. Blue River Parkway. Continue on Colo-9 N to US 40/West Park Ave. Course is on the left.

PHONE: 970-870-1846

OPENED: 1997 (Architect: Keith Foster)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: haymakergolf.com

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,308 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: There are no structures on the courses. It’s just you and your slice and great views of the Yampa Valley and Mt. Werner.

The course meanders through the natural terrain of the prairie grasses and wetlands and a strong influence of links-style golf. The bunkers are deep and inviting. The grasses as thick and unwelcoming. And the trees absent, which is a good thing for many of us.

There are more than the usual number of risk/reward holes as the thin mountain air gives you more carry. But not much to think you can hit it 300 yards. Play safe.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 16, par-4, 424 yards. On your drive, there’s ‘the committee’ to welcome you. That’s a series of five bunkers along the right side of the fairway. Then as you approach the green, you’re biggest problem is finding a landing area. Certainly the green is the first choice but if you stray you find more sand. You have a wonderful backdrop of the Yampa Valley and Emerald Mountain.

Pole Creek

NO. 4 COURSE: POLE CREEK

LOCATION: Tabernash, Co.

DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER: It’s 67 miles from Denver, 11 miles outside Winter Park. Take I-70 west to ext 232, onto US-40 through Winter Park. Turn left at the 220-mile marker onto County Road 5. Take a right on County Road 51 and follow the signs.

PHONE: 970-887-9195

OPENED: 1982 (Ridge in 1999) (Architect: Denis Griffiths)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: polecreekgolf.com

LAYOUT: 27 holes (Ridge), par-36, 3,603; (Ranch) par-36, 3,497; (Meadows), par-36, 3,609 (four tee positions for each)

LOWDOWN: This is mountain golf, with gorgeous mountain vistas, elevation changes, cool, thin air at 8,600-feet and plenty of solitude, just you and your foot wedge.

Pole Creek has three separate nines to choose form, each a little different from the others. The Ranch and the Meadow generally traverse through lush terrain while Ridge is quintessential mountain golf in a higher elevation. There are five lakes around the course that come into play. Rocky Mountain National Park is just down the road. Views of snow-topped mountain ranges forming the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness. It has been rated the fifth best course in Colorado.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 9, par-5, 561 yards. An elevation drop of 110 feet, this plays shorter than its length. You feel like the ball travels forever on your drive because of the elevation and the thin air. It’s a pine-lined course all the way to the hole and it offers a fair shot at a birdie.

NO. 5 COURSE: EAGLE RANCH

LOCATION: Eagle, Co.

Eagle Ranch

DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER: Take I-70 west and ext 147. Turn south on Eby Creek Mesa Dr. Right on Hwy 6 to Sylvan Lake Rd. Take a left on Sylvan until you come to Lime Park Dr. Turn run and the course is on the right.

PHONE: 866-328-3232

OPENED: 2001 (Architect: Arnold Palmer/EdSeay)

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: eagleranchgolf.com

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,530 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: It’s situated in the Brush Creek Valley, surrounded Sawatch Mountains. It’s a rolling terrain, not steep elevations but uneven lies are common.

The ninth (490 yards) and 18th (460 yards) are demanding par fours that play together, on either side of a lake, and finish at sister greens separated by a beach bunker with sand washing into the water.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 12, par-5, 569 yards. You need to carry a bit of distance off the tee but that’s not a huge problem because of the elevation and thin air. Your second and/or third shots are difficult. There’s ditch running across the fairway about 300 yards out and a deep ditch guards the front of the narrow green.

– Bob Sherwin

TOMORROW: Hawaii

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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