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Changes at Castle Pines North in Colorado, but it's still spacious fairways and devilish approaches

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- The Ridge at Castle Pines North has made some personnel changes, but the physical landscape remains virtually the same -- it's still probably the best public course in Colorado, and one of the tops in the nation for that matter.

The Ridge at Castle Pines North - no. 17
The Ridge at Castle Pines North sits on a beautiful slice of Colorado foothills.
The Ridge at Castle Pines North - no. 17Ridge at Castle Pines North G.C. - 18th

Darrell Fuston is now the General manager/Director of Golf and Kyle Kadlec is the head pro.

A spectacular golf course in spectacular terrain is still the places's main attraction, like a lot of Colorado courses. It's like something out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western with its uncompromising view of the Rocky Mountains, and intricate sandstone formations.

The course offers two very different experiences. Tom Weiskopf designed it so it has an open feel, with game trails left on the course for migrating elks to mingle with the golfers.

Each hole is named in its yardage book -- Sunrise, Summer Snow, Pronghorn, Elk Crossing and On the Rocks. The Ridge measures more than 7,000 yards (par 71) from the back tees.

"There are two distinctive nine holes of golf here at The Ridge," Fuston said. "The front nine is an excellent test and has more of a links-style feel. The back nine descends into a heavy forest of Gamble oaks and Ponderosa pines and is truly a beautiful nine holes of golf."

The front offers a birdie chance almost immediately, on No. 2. The 541-yard, par-5, but the No. 4 par-3 is more challenging: 165 yards downhill to a big, two-tiered green that will have you contemplating which club to use when the pin is placed close to the front.

No. 6, nicknamed "The Narrows, is really fun. You have to hit it straight -- off the fairway is dead. It's only 307 yards, but it's all uphill, and big hitters will be tempted to go for it all.

The seventh, "Calamity Jane," requires a 223-yard shot over a gully filled with oaks, and sandstone boulders. Hit the green or count on a double bogey. The critter sitting on a sandstone rock won't even flinch when you come up short in his habitat.

From the fairway of the 8th hole, you are on top of the mesa part of the ridge where you can see south to 14,110-foot Pike's Peakand to Devil's Head and Mt. Evans in the West. Northward you can see downtown Denver.

The signature hole is the 338-yard 15th. A towering ponderosa stands smack dab in the middle of the fairway, blocking your approach if you let the tree come into play.

The closing hole is the most scenic, with sandstone monoliths slabs offset by a gully, and a tee-shot carry of 170 yards to a safe landing.

"The 18th hole is consistently regarded as one of the finest finishing holes in the Denver metro area,' Fuston said.

The tee on the holes has been recently renovated, taking a rock outcropping out of play.

Overall, the course is deceptive: what appears to be easy fairway landings are offset by difficult approaches, with elevated greens with deep bunkers guarding contoured greens.

Golf Magazine called the course one of the top-10 courses when it opened in 1997, and it's been since ranked in the top 100 courses in America.

There are some rules changes as well. The club is no longer cart path only. Officials now allow carts the 90 degree rule, weather permitting.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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