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Up in the Rockies
by Jonathan Gibbins

 

For obvious reasons, the state of Colorado carries visions of skiing, snow cabins, snowboarding and well, anything revolving around snow. In the summer however, the snow limits itself to the peaks of nearby mountains and the sports fan can enjoy many activities, with the golfer enjoying a veritable banquet.

The first stop for me was Denver, the state capital with tree lined streets and beautiful parks. It sits a few miles from the Rocky mountains and the best thing for the travelling golfer is the fact that the area boasts 300 days of sunshine a year (but at varying temperatures!).

The golf around this area has a great variety combining a desert feel, with parkland and links golf thrown in. Within two hours of Denver, there are over 200 golf courses. Many of the most beautiful are to the west of the city, high up in the mountains and this is where I find the Keystone Ranch Resort.

This peaceful and idyllic track was designed by Robert Trent Jones, opened in 1980 and claimed at the time to be the highest course in the world. The courses up high like this one tend to be longer because the ball travels further (10 percent) at high altitude, which can always cheer up a local hacker after a gaze at the yardage book. The variety of terrain is exemplified perfectly at Keystone with the course starting amongst thick forest, then plummeting down the mountain and finally settling in a peaceful meadow for the finish. But the variety doesnít end on the golf course because once the snow melts for the summer, all sorts of activities ensue. At Keystone, for example, there is sailing, hot-air ballooning, white-water rafting, barn dancing and even hay-wagon racing. According to the locals, the summers just fly by.

The next quick stop was at Breckenridge, the only municipally designed Nicklaus course in the world. The course is located in an old mining town which overlooks the Ten Mile Range where the views are just as popular as the golf.

Another lovely visit turned out to be Arrowhead, south of Denver in Roxburgh Park. The American golf writer Herbert Warren Wind described it as "the most splendid and spectacular setting for a golf course Iíve ever seen."

The setting is very unique because of the huge pillars of red rock that surface out of the rolling terrain which contrast with the lushness of the course. The only problem is that some wild and quirky bounces can come about if you get too close to the rocks.

It wasnít long before my eagerness to hit real mountain territory took over and I ventured west to Vail, one of Coloradoís best known ski resorts. It has five courses which again range vastly in character with two of them being completely private (one is Country Club of the Rockies where Nicklaus has a home on one of the fairways). The nicely named Beaver Creek is a resort course which (like many) requires you to stay in the hotel to play there. It is a marvellous layout on a mountain side with a river falling all the way through it and should not be tackled by anyone with ticker trouble.

Directly from Vail, the town of Aspen is only a few miles over snow topped peaks but the route by car is a winding couple of hours of pleasant driving. After this jolly jaunt, I arrive at Snowmass, a complex run by the Aspen Ski Company with an 18-hole course designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay. The area is 8,200 feet above sea
level which restricts the season from late May to early October. The Elk Mountain range surrounds you and you feel every inch of the 8,200 feet up gazing down at the scenery below. The course is a tough one with two par fives over 600 yards and a couple of long par threes with big drops. The challenge for the golfer here is to see how much air time you can generate on a shot, because the old joke of a high ball having snow on it as it comes down develops into reality on some high tee shots.

Flatter grounds await me in Colorado Springs, due south of Denver. It is the location for arguably the finest golf resort in Colorado, The Broadmoor. The name is always spelt with a small "a" at the course and in brochures, and the story attached to it is a gem. The former owner Spencer Penrose, a Philadelphian entrepreneur, once rode into a local bar called the Antlers on his horse and refused to dismount. The owner didnít serve him and as revenge, Penrose made the "a" in his hotel small and that they say, is history.

The resort has three courses to choose from and they are all championship standard with the East course staging the US Womenís Open not so long ago. The South course is very pretty and the West is arguably the toughest test of the three. But the East is nearest the mountains and that provides the
reason why it is the most popular course in the area. The facilities are first class with everything you could possibly need for relaxation and comfort.

A very refreshing thing about golfing here is the eagerness that everybody has to walk the courses, something that is very rare in most parts of the USA. The choice is yours on almost every course in Colorado although some mountain courses should be tackled in a buggy for health reasons.

The Colorado golf experience is something very special indeed. The views are breathtaking, you hit the ball further and the hospitality is exactly what the United States wants to provide. How can a golfer refuse?

Information:

Broadmoor- 001 719 634 7711

Arrowhead- 001 303 973 9614

Snowmass- 001 303 923 3148

Keystone- 001 303 468 4250

Breckenridge- 001 303 453 9104

Beaver Creek- 001 303 949 5750