‘The elements – the wind, the roll of the land, the firmness of the turf – shape how you will play this golf course. There’s very little dictation in the design. That makes for ongoing interest over days, months and years.’ Bill Coore
Set amongst the pine-covered hills and lush meadows of Parker, south-east of Denver, the Colorado Golf Club was designed by leading architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened for play in 2007. In demand and notoriously selective with their projects, the designers were clearly attracted to the undisturbed nature of this 1,700-acre property, and the fact that the golfing part of the development would be free from the encumbrance of associated housing.
Coore and Crenshaw were given great freedoms here, choosing to arrange their course across prime acreage through the center of the site. The routing is broken into two loops, each starting and finishing within the wooded hills and flowing effortlessly up, down and across the steady terrain. Both nines skirt the expansive lower meadowland before rising back into the more dramatic upper reaches, incorporating ravines, streams and a natural sandy wash along the way. Importantly, despite the size of the golfing area, by keeping tees and greens in close proximity the layout is easily walkable and has a distinct sense of intimacy and flow.
Throughout the round the undulating playing corridors are generous, but the greens are contoured to encourage golfers to flirt with punishing bunkers for optimum angles. The variety of green settings is exceptional, with some targets set on small plateaus, others built within shallow valleys, abutting hazards or benched into hillsides and shaped with bold false fronts. All rest comfortably within the surrounding terrain and provide intriguing options for both approach and recovery play. The bunkering is another feature, the unkempt and naturalistic style of the sand shapes resembling the famous traps on Australia’s Sandbelt. The strategic placement of bunkers across the flatter ground and on the short par fours is particularly impressive.
There are examples of outstanding design all over this property. The par fives tend to be strategically bunkered and offer multiple routes to the green, while the two-shotters are a mix of shorter fours with severe target areas and generously proportioned longer holes that cleverly provide advantageous lines to the golfer who can plan, and then execute, the appropriate drive. The par threes are also well constructed, particularly the short 2nd with its exquisite green benched into an attractive dune, and the longer 17th, played across an elbow of a river and into a picturesque right-to-left target.
Other areas worthy of special mention include the tremendous green complex on the strong par five 15th, its approach played from a falling fairway across a deep gully and into a large putting surface leaning steeply to the front. The previous hole is a mid-length par four that resembles the famous 8th at Sand Hills, your line from the tee determined by which side of the boomerang green the pin is placed. On the front nine, the 3rd is a rather unique par four with a plunging diagonal approach across a sandy arroyo, while the 4th and 5th, across the flattest section of the course, are subtle holes with wide fairways that can lull sleepy golfers into soft bogeys. The pronounced ridge through the right side of the 5th fairway, and the shaping of a green partly obscured for those driving too safely from the tee, are especially good. The highlight of the outward nine, however, is the magnificent par four 9th, played initially across a crest and then featuring a downhill, sideslope second shot into a mighty green perched on a shallow rise. Like many targets here, this one is boldly contoured to reject the slight mishit, either via its shaved false front or by feeding balls toward gaping traps on either side of the putting surface.
Previously used to raise Arabian horses, the land this course was built on may have lacked the glamour and obvious raw appeal of a Sand Hills or a Friar’s Head, but in the right hands it proved to be ideal for quality golf. Given the strength of the Coore and Crenshaw portfolio, it seems unlikely that the Colorado Golf Club will ever become their flagship layout, but it should further cement their reputation as one of the finest architectural firms of all time.