DURANGO, CO - Prospectors rushed here in the 1870s to rummage over the hills, said to be ladened with silver and gold.
The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad came nine years later and laid out the Old West downtown complete with gas street lamps and saloon girls.
When Louis L'Amour, the western novelist visited, he stayed at the historic Strater Hotel, where you can still book a room. Old-timers say he always asked for the room directly above the Diamond Belle Saloon, Room 222, because the honky-tonk music helped set the mood for his novels of the Old West. Some say a good part of his Sackett's novels were written at the Strater.
Today, Durango still has its Old West downtown, but it is known more as a year-round playground. Ski in the winter at Purgatory, play golf, fly fish, take jeep tours, hike, mountain bike, take glider rides, go rafting, play tennis and go horseback riding in summer.
Heck, you can do all that just by talking with the Concierge at The Cliffs at Tamarron. They will set up your day trip to Mesa Verde National Park and a train adventure on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
But by all means don't miss golf at The Cliffs at Tamarron.
Arthur Hills designed this 6,885-yard par 72 in 1975 and it is surrounded by the towering Hermosa Cliffs, rising 3,000 feet in the blue southwestern Colorado sky. The resort is also 1,300 feet uphill from town making the temperatures 10 degrees cooler than the city, 18 miles away.
Just recently Tamarron Properties purchased the 750-acre resort, formerly owned by Sheraton, and each hotel room, perched on a cliff, faces the layout and sports a huge picture window that urges you to pull-up-a-chair and observe the scenery and golf.
The new owners have broken ground on a new clubhouse and have plans for an additional nine holes, set for opening in 2004. At that time the existing 18 will be retooled, one nine at a time, so 18 will be open during reconstruction. By 2006 the resort will have 27 holes open, but may only be open to limited public play in the future. A much needed new practice area will also be constructed.
"Most people think holes 14-17 are as pretty as any stretch of holes anywhere," said David Zalbowitz, head golf pro. "I only use my driver about four times during a round here, so it doesn't really play that long. Put the driver away, but you will use all your other clubs during a round. Keep the ball below the hole by all means - the greens can be slick."
Most golfers come here to admire the scenery, enjoying a round even if the scorecard has a high number. Hills' routing takes you through Ponderosa pines, gambel oaks, on bluegrass fairways, past lakes and bunkers. All the while you are straining your neck looking up at the Hermosa Cliffs and the mountain vistas of the surrounding San Juan National Forest.
The names of the holes celebrate the history, geology and wildlife of the area - Mesa Verde, Elk Crossing, Broken Arrow, Iron Horse, Needles, Baker's Bridge, Gun Barrel, Black Bear, Cliff Palace and Marmot Run are a few.
Grab your camera for No. 1 and your 200-yard club. This par 4 requires a lay-up before a drop in the fairway through a natural area. A lake guards the left and a huge bunker will catch anything short. Then take your camera behind the lake for an awesome photo.
The signature hole is also a controversial one. Formerly No. 16 before they switched the nines, this hole named "Cliffhanger" is now No. 7 and 440 yards. Hit a tame draw about 225 yards and you could come to rest at the precipice of the cliff. You are now looking down at the green in perfect position. If your tee shot wasn't so exact you will have a sad walk to the edge of the cliff to see where you are going. You have yourself a blind shot.
If you enjoy just being in a spectacular location like the San Juan Mountains, and the chance to see a deer, elk or marmot on the fairways, a blind approach shot won't bother you that much.
40292 Hwy 550
Durango, CO 81301
Tel: 970-259-2000 or 800-678-1000.
Green Fees: Mid-season $125 before noon. $100 afternoon and $75 after 4. Fall season, $100 before noon, $75 after 12 and $50 after 4. Call for specials or any recent price changes.
Directions: From Durango, take Hwy 550 going north for 18 miles to the course and resort, look for the entrance on the right side of the highway.
Awards: Conde Nast Traveler June 2000 issue: "50 best golf resorts in the U.S. Caribbean and beyond". Golf Digest: "Top 50 Resort Courses in America." Golf Magazine: "Top 100 Golf Resorts in the World" Links Magazine: "Top 75 Golf Resorts in North America."
Tamarron's resort accommodations are designed to bring the outdoors in and provide the a venue for rest and relaxation. From deluxe guest rooms in the main lodge to executive suites on the resort grounds, each room is appointed with amenities such as separate sitting areas and kitchens all with cliff views. Call for golf packages. You are only eight miles from Purgatory, so you can stay here for your winter ski vacation, too.
Where to Dine: The Antlers Grille has breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers award-winning cuisine and all new menu items that include the classics as well as specialties with a regional twist. The restaurant setting is inspiring, with 40-foot tall windows overlooking the forest and rock fireplaces.
After skiing or golf you can grab a beer and some nachos at the Cactus Cantina, where you find Mexican dishes made to order and the picnic deck overlooks the golf course. The golf Pro Shop snack bar also serves lunch.
Did you know there are non-stop flights to Durango from Dallas-Fort Worth? Check out www.flydurango.com. Also come ski at Purgatory and stay at the Durango Mountain Resort, a place for Jeep Tours, guided fly fishing and mountain biking in summer. Log on to www.durangomountainresort.com or call 800-525-0892 for information.
Historic Hotel: Originally constructed in 1887, the Strater Hotel offers 93 Victorian-styled rooms. Hand-screened wallpapers, one of the world's largest collections of antique furniture, one of America's few remaining authentic Vaudeville melodramas and the Southwestern Colorado Rockies all frame the hotel experience.
In 1879 Durango was designed to be the most modern city in Colorado. Signs of progress began to appear everywhere in the late 1880s and early 1890s, including the four-story brick Strater, electric lights with a home-owned electric company, telephones, electric trolley and a three-story "sky scraper", the Newman Building, with an electric elevator.
699 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301
Par 3's: 3.8
Par 4's: 3.8
Par 5's: 3.8
Practice Facilities: 2
Club House/Pro Shop: 3.1
Pace of Play: 3.8
Resort Hotel: 4.1
Overall Rating: 3.7