Don’t put away your sticks
December 16, 2003
A large portion of the valley’s population has spent the past month praying to the snow gods. Some people pray year-round and, rumor has it, a group of 20-somethings from West Vail toiled away their summers in an attempt to get snow to grow on trees.
On the other hand, a few valley residents would trade their skis and snowboards for a winter of High Country golf.
So, for the folks sick of driving over the passes to play early-winter rounds in the Front Range, Rifle Creek Golf Course, Battlement Mesa Golf Club, and courses as far as Fruita and Grand Junction may be the answer.
Rifled putts, creeked drives
Rifle Creek Golf Course plays 6,235 yards from the tips, and is scheduled to remain open until Nov. 30.
Built in 1960, the front nine lies relatively flat, has a few doglegs and small, frustrating greens, as it winds through Rifle Creek.
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However, the back nine – built in 1989 – is a true gem, requiring target golfing over rugged terrain to larger greens – which hold more apparent undulations.
Rifle Creek has bent grass greens and fairways.
“The back nine is awesome. It runs up into the hills and calls for target golf,” said Rifle Creek course manager Pat Hayes, who has worked at the course for the past seven years. “Of the courses near Vail, it probably compares to Eagle-Vail because of the changes in elevation.”
The front nine has plenty of birdie opportunities. The best birdie chance has to be hole No. 7, which plays 299 from the blue tees, and is a driveable hole with a wide fairway but a small, slick green.
Rifle Creek’s signature hole is No. 14, which is a 405-yard par-4 set against the side of a mountain with elevated tee boxes.
“Hole 14 is a long, straight par-4 with a ditch along the left side and a hillside bank on the right, making the fairway only 30 yards wide,” said Hayes.
Burt Gillan, of Boulder, Ed Udry, of Lakewood, and Bob Reinhardt, of Gunnison, are a group of old friends who get together each year to make a golf tour through Montrose, Grand Junction, Battlement Mesa and Rifle Creek.
“We’ve known each other since high school,” said Reinhardt. “I’ve probably known this guy (Gillan) since 1967.”
Reinhardt was the only member of the group to find the fairway Thursday on the 13th hole.
“Our wives are ahead of us in a threesome, but they won’t let us play with them,” said Gillan.
Rifle Creek also offers a good, old greasy spoon next to the clubhouse, which serves burgers and fries, cold-cut sandwiches and a full-service bar.
Halloween motifs decorate the diner, and the kitchen entrances have quirky signs.
One sign reads, “When I die, bury me on the golf course, so my husband will visit me five times a week.”
Another sign reads, “We interrupt this marriage to play golf.”
Barring a wet winter, Battlement Mesa Golf Club in Parachute stays open all year except for the month of January.
The course plays 7,254 from the tips on top of a mesa, and overlooks the Colorado River.
“Last year, we had to close fairly early because of snow,” said pro-shop employee Gordon Elliot. “The quality of golf drops constantly with the weather, but if there’s no snow, we won’t close.”