Amazing, the effect high altitudes can have on diehard golfers.
Take Telluride Golf Club for example. On St. Patrick’s Day (yes, the one on March), this sporty mountain course sets up a nine-hole track by spray painting fairways, greens and even water hazards atop the resort’s famed snow pack.
Instant golf course; every golf course architect should be so lucky.
It’s a fun and different experience for the members and resort guests. Yet it also is a reminder that beneath the layers of powder is a soon-to-be-lush green mixture of bent, blue and fescue (grass) ready to be discovered again.
That’s especially true in the Colorado Rockies, when golf seasons don’t begin until May. But good things come to those who wait – as Rocky Mountain courses provide some amazing views and breathtaking topography, while also throwing golfers off because of the altitude and elevation changes.
So what are some of the most beautiful mountain courses you will ever tee? Here are five in the Rockies that should be on every golfer’s must-play list this summer.
Telluride Golf Club
Towering pines, aspen groves and serene water hazards make this par 70 course a shotmaker’s paradise. Yet, it’s the views from the elevated tees of the 14,000-foot-high mountains and scenery that’s the talk of the 19th hole. The first tee sits nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, and tempts golfers to drive the green, while No. 17 demands golfers climb 92 steps to the tee, and hit a shot with some serious hang time. While it checks in at 6,600 yards, Telluride is no pushover; the challenge is just as pleasing as the views. The club and critically-acclaimed Inn at Lost Creek offer one of the world’s only “golf-in, golf-out” stay and play packages, starting at $170 per person, per night, available May 29 through October 4.
Banff Springs Golf Club
The summer of 2013 was devastating for the Canadian Rockies, as monumental floods wiped out many courses. Yet, Banff Springs in southern Alberta had all 27 holes open soon after the torrential rains. The 18-hole Stanley Thompson Course is named after the legendary Canadian course designer who built it in 1928. The layout winds along the Bow River and under the Rockies. In 1989, nine holes designed by Geoff Cornish and Bill Robinson were built. Besides the views and topsy-turvy terrain, golfers will remember the wildlife found at Banff Springs.
Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club
Another stunner in Alberta is Jasper Park Lodge, a Stanley Thompson layout often considered one of his finest works. Carved through the thick forest, Jasper Park Lodge wasn’t affected by the 2013 floods. Plenty of Kodak moments abound here, from panoramas of the mountains to the natural settings to selfies with moose, elk and – if one is daring – bears roaming the course.
Black Mesa Golf Club
Set in the Santa Clara Pueblo Range in New Mexico, Black Mesa is a Baxter Spann design that blends the ruggedness of the Rockies with Irish links-like scenery, especially when the native grasses are in full bloom. Black Mesa plays through dramatic sandstone ridges with its namesake feature visible from several vantage points. Sure, the setting looks more like a “Breaking Bad” episode than the “Winter X Games,” but that allows Black Mesa to be one of a few Rocky Mountain courses open year-round.
Raven at Three Peaks
Situated an hour from Denver and minutes from the upscale playground known as Vail, Raven at Three Peaks is a pure alpine golf experience. Designed by Tom Lehman and the Hurdzan/Fry Design group, the golf course boasts bunkering patterned after the distinctive style first introduced by Alister MacKenzie at some of his greatest designs. The course also features one of the strongest finishing stretches in Colorado.