You might not think "golf" when you think "Colorado," but the state has some celebrated courses, including four on Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play" list.
Colorado is known for a number of things. Skiing, of course. Mile-high air that can have a visitor puffing up stairs - and fresh mountain air.
Golf probably isn't even among the first two dozen things that come to mind.
But maybe it should be.
For Colorado placed four golf courses on Golf Magazine's latest "Top 100 Courses You Can Play" list. That may not sound like many at first, until you consider that dreamed-about powerhouse golf destination state Hawaii and everyone's favorite underrated, unsuspected golf hot spot Michigan could put only three courses each in the Top 100.
Well, that may give you reason to question the Golf Magazine rankings, it also undeniably underscores how good the very best public golf in the Centennial State is. And why not? There are few states with more dramatic topography than Colorado with mountain ranges galore.
The best Colorado golf courses take advantage of this, taking golfers where they've seldom been before. Including on climbs that seem more fit for a ski lift than a golf cart.
That's certainly the case with the No. 1-rated Colorado course, Red Sky Ranch & Golf Club's Norman Course (No. 24 overall in America in that Top 100). This is 7,580 yards of He-Man golf that's right near the legendary Vail and Beaver Creek Mountain Ski Resorts.
You have to work to play Red Sky, too. It was open from May 23 to Oct. 12 this year. The only thing shorter than your chances of playing an entire round (or even a nine) without losing a ball at Red Sky Norman is the golf season in the heart of the Colorado mountains. It also costs $250 to play Red Sky Norman any time of the day, except for when it's $195 the four weeks a year the club considers shoulder season.
For that, you do get to shoot toward the mountains (they tower in the not-so-far distance on a number of holes) and over rocky outcroppings that give the course the rugged feel you'd expect.
Red Sky also has a Tom Fazio course, which didn't make Golf Magazine's Top 100, but is showy in its own right, bringing more forest into play.
The second Colorado course in the Top 100 is farther from Denver than Vail, but it's a little less mountainy. Lakota Canyon Ranch & Golf Club (No. 75) tries to stay open nine months a year (a near eternity in Colorado) and is three hours from the Mile High City. This Jim Engh design plays through rugged western Colorado canyons.
But being a little lower can result in some impressively daunting looks right up towering rock. The price is also a lot less steep in this less trendy locale (no ski bunnies or European barons here) with Lakota Canyon's greens fees maxing out at $95.
The Broadmoor Golf Club's East Course, the next Colorado course in the Top 100, coming in at No. 80, brings a much more traditional resort setting. This resort happens to be set just outside of Colorado Springs, though, which many experienced travelers will tell you is by far the best city in Colorado - one that brings a great blend of nature and cultural things to do.
At Broadmoor, you have three courses to play, but it's Broadmoor East that steals most of the attention, having hosted six major United States Golf Association tournaments, including the first big wins of both Jack Nicklaus (the 1959 U.S. Amateur) and Annika Sorenstam (the 1995 U.S. Women's Open).
This course is a combination of holes that Donald Ross designed for the original Broadmoor course that opened in 1918 and holes designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1965.
If you're looking for something a little more out there, The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa (No. 96 on that Top 100) could fit the bill. Facing the Colorado National Monument and its overpowering pink and red sandstone face rock walls, Redlands Mesa brings you higher in a state known for its elevation.
Eleven of the 18 tees are on raised plateaus in this Jim Engh design. It's in Grand Junction, Colo., a town near the Utah border that's 150 miles from Vail.
It turns out that Colorado's four Top 100 courses can teach you a little bit about the state's geography, too, while blowing away all those preconceived notions on how golf fits into this Rocky Mountain state.
The issue hit newsstands Aug. 15. Click here to see the complete list.
September 1, 2008