The best holes in the high country

Jason Starr, Naomi Havlen, Phil Sandoval and Andrew Harley

Panoramic views. Strategically placed bunkers. Breathtaking scenery. Wicked water hazards. Every golf course has one hole that stands out from the rest. And here in the Colorado Rockies, such signature holes are not hard to come by.

With that in mind, we asked around (and played a round in search of the best holes in the High Country. Here are a favorite few:

Adobe Creek National Golf Course

Hole No. 5 (Old No. 14)

The par-4, 471 yard No. 5 is a long, flat hole that faces the Bookcliff Mountains, with the Colorado National Monument as a backdrop. The hole also features two strategically placed bunkers between the fairway and the final approach toward a highly sloped green.

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Aspen Glen Club

Hole No. 7

With an elevated tee box that features a panoramic view of the hole, No. 7 is tops at the Aspen Glen Club, says assistant professional Carter Jones. The tee box is several hundred feet above the fairway, and the island green ” with a hole 479 yards away from the gold tee ” is surrounded by marsh. The Roaring Fork River runs directly behind the green, and wetlands run along the left side of the fairway. “The view from the tee box is amazing,” Jones adds, “and it’s a tough hole.”

Aspen Golf Club

Hole No.18

At the Aspen Golf Club, the best is saved for last. Hole No. 18 remains a favorite even though it was redesigned last year to make room for the club’s new pro shop. The hole lies 410 yards from the gold tees, and the fairway has two large bunkers on the left and right of the landing area. From the gold tees, a long drive is required to carry those bunkers, says head golf pro Les Klahn. A 150-yard second shot is needed into a very small green fronted by a stream and surrounded by a lake. But the best part is the view: Looking straight at Pyramid Peak, the finishing hole leaves players breathless.

Battlement Mesa Golf Club

Holes No. 7 and 18

The par-5, 615-yard seventh hole features an elevated tee box with seven bunkers in the approach area, topped off by a water hazard to the right of the green. No. 18 is a “tough finishing hole,” according to club pro Johnny Crawford. The hole doglegs to the left from 180 yards out to the green. Along with another strategically placed water hazardto the right, the green has three different elevations leading to the hole.

Bookcliff Country Club

Hole No. 9

A 400-yard water hazard, starting 150 yards down from the fairway to the green, highlights the par-5, 587-yard ninth hole. The opposite side of No. 9 features a canal on the approach. Three fairway bunkers plus another sand trap on the left side approaching the green add difficulty to the hole.

Breckenridge Golf Club

Hole No. 8 of the Beaver Nine

The par-5 eighth hole of the Beaver Nine at Breckenridge best showcases the strengths of the club’s 27 holes. Views of the Tenmile Range are inescapable, and the wildlife for which the three nine-hole courses are named ” beavers, bears and elk ” play a role throughout the hole’s 580 yards. Trying to reach the hourglass-shaped green in two is a high-risk, low-reward proposition, advises Breckenridge golf pro Erroll Miller. The smart play is a long iron or fairway wood off the tee to a landing zone just short of a creek that splits the fairway. A mid-iron on the second shot will put the player just short of the beaver ponds, which run the right side of the fairway then cross just before the green. A short iron will fly the ponds to the green.

Chipeta Golf Course

Hole no. 13

Golfers can get duped into thinking this par-3, 200-yard hole is easy. Sight lines to the green are within eyesight. The trick to No. 13, according to Chipeta Golf Course staff, is the green. While the green’s slope sppears to be flat, there are spots throughout the surface that play either up or down. If golfers putt too hard, the ball will roll off into the rough, turning a good score bad.

Copper Creek Golf Club

Hole No. 17

Copper Creek’s par-3 17th hole is a 167-yarder lined with pine trees that frame the Tenmile Range. Errant tee shots will likely find one of the three bunkers that guard the green. Once putting, golfers have to negotiate a two-tiered green riddled with subtle breaks.

Cordillera Summit Course

Hole No. 15

This par-4, 371-yarder is ranked as the easiest hole on the scorecard. There’s one minor, little detail they forgot to mention about this dogleg-right hole ” there’s sand to the right. A lot. Bring a shovel. Seriously, this hole begins a fantastic finish at the Summit, where you feel like you’re golfing on top of the world.

Cordillera Valley Course

Hole No. 10

Trying to pick the prettiest holes at any of the Cordillera course is sort of like trying to pick among the best vintages of Dom Perignon. But, for our money, it’s hard to beat this exquisite 147-yard par-3. If your tee shot is as gorgeous as the view of the Sawatch Range, your shot will be nestled close to the pin.

Cotton Ranch Golf Club

Hole No. 6

OK, maybe favorite wouldn’t be the right word for this hole, because the par-5, 568-yarder is a monster. There are two tiny landing areas and a gulch to cross to get to the green. Situated on Cotton Ranch’s Mesa, there’s brush to the right and left. Bogey’s a fine score here. Par’s great and a birdie deserves a day of national celebration.

Eagle Ranch Golf Club

Holes No. 9 and 18

When golf season starts, you think, “Yes, I get to play Eagle Ranch.” Then, you realize, “Oh, bleep, I have to play No. 9 and No. 18 there.” Situated side-by-side, split by all-too inviting water heading toward the clubhouse, these par-4s are worthy of Arnie Palmer, the course’s designer. With nine being 498 yard (yes, a par-4) and 18 at 478, parring both of these in the same round should leave you in a good mood for months. And, if you don’t, there’s always the 19th hole waiting for you at the end of these holes.

Eagle Vail Golf Club

Hole No. 10

Here’s a fun thing to do to a tourist if you’re a local. Take said tourist golfer to the back tees of No. 10 at Eagle-Vail (par-3, 208 yards) and look at his expression when he or she finally figures out where he our shit is hitting. The answer is way, way, way down, 250 feet or so. On this hole, you get to tell your friends you just hit your 8-iron 200 yards. Don’t bother to tell them about the gravity thing.

Glenwood Springs Golf Club

Hole No. 15

Affectionately known as “The Hill,” Glenwood Springs Golf Club hardly has a straight, flat putt to be found, says head golf pro Greg Gortsema. He considers the club’s signature hole to be No. 5: a 425-yard, par-4 hole with a fairway that slopes from right to left, into a rough and a treeline. “The trick is to stay in the fairway, and then getting to a green that plays like it runs away from you, since the land has settled over the years,” he says. “And it can be a difficult putt, but we’re known for difficult putting.”

Keystone River Course

Hole No. 1

A dramatic 100-foot drop awaits golvers on the first tee of Keystone’s River Course. The hole is a 551-yard par-5, which provides a good opportunity for a par or birdie. A fairway wood works off the tee, from which the Continental Divide is visible. Avoiding the hole’s five bunkers is key, as is not overhitting ” there are out-of-bounds areas both behind and on the left side of the green. A controlled second and third shot should give the player a putt for birdie and an ego-building score early in the round.

Keystone Ranch Course

Hole No. 18

The Ranch Course at Keystone finishes with a 589-yard par-5 with water lining the left side from tee to green. Playing safe between the water on the left and a bunker on the right is the best shot off the tee. The second shot, for those not feeling adventurous, should put the golfer in front of a bunker that guards the green about 120 yards before it. Then it’s a short iron to a slightly undulating green.

Lincoln Park Golf Course

Hole No. 1

Frustrations from golfers of all skill levels can rise quickly on this par-4, 415-yard starter hole of the nine-hole Lincoln Park course. Out-of-bounds areas begin at the 15-yard mark and continue down the length of the hole. The long, narrow fairway spills out to a penny-sized green, making approach shots tough.

Maroon Creek Club

Hole No. 12

Jon Strecher, head golf pro at the Maroon Creek Club, is a fan of hole No. 12, a tough 490-yard par-4 hole with a fairway that gets narrower the farther your shot goes. The second shot is played onto an elevated green with an out-of-bounds on the left, and seven bunkers that cascade down the hillside on the right. “It’s probably one of the three hardest holes in the state, in my opinion,” he says. “It plays into the prevailing wind, so it’s a monster.”

Mount Massive Golf Course

Hole No. 6

It’s on a nine-hole course, but the view of 14,421-foot Mounta Massive, the second-highest peak in Colorado (and the course’s namesake) from the elevated tee box on the sixth hole at Leadville’s Mounta Massive Golf Course is dead on. Course manager Craig Stuller says the best place to play the tee shot is down the left side of the fairway. A tree that sits on the right side of the fairway has ruined many a second shot. A narrow fairway that doglegs slightly left leads to a relatively flat green. Besides the narrowness, the main dangers are landing in a patch of rough that splits the fairway or flying a second or third shot into the woods behind the green.

Ranch at the Roaring Fork

Hole No. 6

Another par-3, nine-hole course with a hole worth mentioning is No. 6 at the Ranch at the Roaring Fork. Away from the rush of traffic along Highway 82, No. 6 has a treeline and houses on the left side, and a tee shot over water, with more trees and bunkers protecting the green. “It’s the tightness of the shot that I like, and with the wind usually in your face it plays longer,” says head golf pro Brian Fuller.

Rifle Creek Golf Club

Hole No. 14

The uniqueness of the hole begins at the tee box. The elevated tees of the par-4, 405-yard No. 14 hole, according to club pro Steve LeDonne, are built out of old railroad ties. The hole itself is built into the canyon that surrounds the back nine. A stream runs along the right side of a narrow fairway, which spills out to a long, large elevated green that completes the hole.

River Valley Ranch Golf Club

Hole No. 2

If signature holes are the prettiest of the bunch, interim general manager at River Valley Ranch Daryl Dinkel likes hole No. 2: a beautiful shot with two lakes on the left-hand side and dazzling views of Mt. Sopris. On the right are bunkers in the style of designer Jay Morrish. But then again, Dinkel notes that hole No. 15 is their hardest ” 482 yards from the tee, there is a naturalized area 150 yards from the green that lasts for 30 yards. “Our signature hole is hotly debated: the hardest is 15, the prettiest is 2, but the most challenging is 12,” Dinkel says. Golfers will just have to decide for themselves.

Roaring Fork Club

Hole No. 6

Hole No. 6 at the Roaring Fork Club begins with a shot across the Roaring Fork River into a beautiful wooded corridor, said the club’s director of marketing, Stacey Schmela. A spring creek that runs through the club’s property is on the left side of the fairway, and the river runs on the right. A hit over the creek is needed to get to a fairly small green, and older, large trees in the area make for an enchanting experience. As a course designed by Jack Nicklaus, it’s not surprising that many of the holes are tough, Schmela said. “I’ve put a few into the water,” she said,” “but it’s a very cool shot.”

Sonnenalp Golf Club

Hole No. 15

Just a gorgeous hole and equally dangerous. From the tips, it’s 385 yards downhill and to the left. You can boom it off the tee, but there’s danger all around the fairway. The green’s just as tricky as the tee shot with the putting surface sloping toward two beautiful ponts. Beautiful, just as long as you’re not in them.

The Golf Course at Redlands Mesa

Hole No. 17

This par-3, 218-yard hole features dramatic tee shots with a 150-foot vertical drop from tee to green. The large green is surrounded by a rock amphitheater. Golfers will need to avoid the deep bunker located to the right of the green.

The Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks

Hole No. 16

It’s no coincidence that PGA professional Tom Lehman, who helped design the Raven golf course, is building a home near the par-5 16th hole. It’s the most visually stunning part of a course known for its beauty. From the tee box, panoramic views of the Williams Fork, Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges are available. Golfers will want to reach the corner of the right dogleg off the tee to give them a second shot at the green. Laying it up is the safe option, as the green slopes downhill and won’t hold a ball coming in high and fast. It’s not a particularly long or narrow par-5 hole, but the curvaceous green makes it a tough score.

Tiara Rado Golf Course

Hole No. 13

Playing anywhere from 120 to 135 yards, depending on which tee box a golfer shoots from, No. 13 is among the shortest holes in the area. What makes the par-3 hole tricky is a large lake directly in front of the green. Staff members advise golvers to air approach shots from below the hole, rather than shooting above it.

Vail Golf Club

Hole No. 6

Be careful on this par-4, 452-yarder if you’re playing it on Saturday. If you have a hook, your ball’s going to land on Vail Rugby Club’s pitch, and it’s not a good life decision to tick off a rugby palyer. So hit it straight with a draw that kicks in after the rugby pitch and that will give you a good 150 yards to a protected green. And, as you cruise by the pitch in your cart, it’s always local custon to yell, “Beat Aspen!”

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