GRAND JUNCTION, CO - The best new golf course to open this century in Colorado was not designed by Nicklaus or Palmer or Dye or Fazio or Jones.
It was designed by Jim Engh.
The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa is a pilgrimage through sandstone aboard a sliver of verdant carpet.
It's a downhill vista on 11 holes, a metal to urethane journey with the tawny edges of Colorado's Western Slope, where Rocky Mountains meet desert, always in the periphery of your vision.
It's a calming panorama at 4,600 feet in elevation, looking south to the pinks, reds and browns of the 800-foot cliffs of The Colorado National Monument, north to the gray-purple Bookcliffs and east to Mount Garfield and the Grand Mesa, the world's highest flat-topped mountain.
It's a championship tee-box ascension a mountain goat would love. Hiking boots would be helpful.
"When I first viewed this location I had that same excitement that I did at Sanctuary," said Engh, listed as one of "The 25 Hottest Architects of the Year" in the October 15, 1999 issue of GolfWorld Magazine.
"I considered Sanctuary (ranked No. 89 in USA's Top 100 by Golf Digest) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but Redlands Mesa was my second chance at the same kind of opportunity," said Engh. 'It's a great site with boulders the size of houses. Every time I visit this location I shake my head - it's kind of a moonscape on rolling terrain with large mesas and valleys."
The golfer will shake his head, too, and grab his camera. The artistry of Redlands Mesa cements Engh, 42, as the youngest star of the golf design business.
Redlands Mesa is an award-winner. The first award will surely be Best New Affordable Golf Course in America by Golf Digest. Green fees are only $50. Future awards? Top 100 in the USA is certainly within reach.
"Jim Engh has created a golf course that is one of the best in Colorado," said General Manager Michael Somma. "It is a great blend of land, nature and golf. I also like the feeling of power you get from the elevated tee boxes and the 11 downhill holes."
What is the public saying about Redlands Mesa? "The consensus of our comment cards say they can't believe the awesome use of the rock outcroppings and the terrain," Somma said. "They say it is spectacular, scenic, canyon golf with some of the best shot values they have ever played. It's challenging, but fair, and it includes some of the most unique design characteristics ever used on a golf course."
Engh's design characteristics come from being an artist with a landscape canvas, as well as being an architect. One wonders what Engh could have done with Arrowhead Golf Club, the spectacular red-rock setting in Littleton's Roxbury State Park.
This par-72 layout plays at 7,007 from the Monument (back) tees where you see Engh's artistry best as he weaved the course through sparse, twisted juniper trees, balanced rock balls and a myriad of jagged-boulder formations.
From the faultless bluegrass/ryegrass mix fairways, rolling mounds abound, and deep bunkers frame your path to the putting surfaces. Many of the bentgrass greens are set back into the sandstone monuments, giving the pin a framed look amongst a rock amphitheater.
Then, after holing out, the cart paths guide you to scene after scene looking back high above the hole you just finished, peering through a gap of stone framing the putting surface once again.
Redlands Mesa's splendid scenes start when you enter the parking lot, but No. 4, a par 4, 373 yards will get your heart racing when you climb to the championship tee box. Don't back up without looking, because it drops 100 feet. You could hang glide from up here.
The cliff perch gives you an view of The Colorado National Monument as the entire right side of this hole is a place of no recovery for golf shots.
No. 5, a par 5, 575 yards, requires a partially blind tee shot and bends dramatically right. The elevated green is protected by a native area to one of Engh's trademark exaggerated tiered greens. The lower portion is significantly lower than the upper part of the green.
The eighth is a par-3 beauty, 164 yards downhill playing over a large lake with a backdrop of stone. It might be hard to select the right club - too much and you face another Engh trademark, a severe downhill lie in thick rough pitching back down toward the water. Not enough club and you are in the front bunker or water.
On a course of many memorable shots, perhaps the one that will stick in your mind is No. 17. Again, the billy-goat climb to the top tee box reveals a 150-foot drop vista to a green 218 yards away, nestled in another natural bowl framed by rock. You will want to keep hitting, just to keep soaking up the stage.
Fans of Jim Engh can't wait to see what is next.
2325 W. Ridges Blvd.
P.O. Box 1328
Grand Junction, CO 81503
Green Fees: $50 every day. Resident $39, weekdays, $44, weekends. Carts $12 per rider. Discount passes, junior fees available.
Directions: I-70 to Redlands Parkway exit. Approximately 5.5 miles to Broadway. Left on Broadway approximately 1.5 miles to Ridges Blvd. Right on Ridges Blvd. Follow approximately one mile to Golf Club.
Engh's Red Hawk Ridge, in Castle Rock, CO, was named one of the Top 10 Best New Affordable Golf Courses in America in 1999 by Golf Digest. Sanctuary in Sedalia, CO, was named Best New Private Course in American, 1997, by Golf Digest. Sanctuary's No. 1, a downhill 604-yard par-5 was also named as No. 28 on Golf Digest's "America's Greatest Par 5s". Golf & Travel magazine ranks Hawktree Golf Club of Bismarck, N.D, No. 13 among its "40 Best Daily Fee Courses."
After 10 years of talk and red tape, the city of Golden broke ground on its first municipal golf course. Engh promises a golf course of 6,800 yards with the variation of swamp wetlands, flood-protection retention ponds, a former dump ground for fly ash and an old clay mine site.
But that's not the best - it will also feature the 65 million-year-old tracks of a duckbilled Hadrosaurs, crocodile-like reptiles known as Champosaurs and carnivorous dinosaurs called Theropods and the track of a Triceratops.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 2003, the course is yet to be named, but has to use "Dinosaur" in some form, right?
A small group of "dinosaur-track huggers" protested at the ground breaking and former mayor of New York Ed Koch sent an e-mail with his concern.
Golden plans to use all but one of the fossil sites and a palm frond also found will be on display in the clubhouse.
Engh's company has also been selected by The Aspen Skiing Company to re-design all 18 holes at The Snowmass Club. The new layout will address several existing problems in addition to creating a golf course to rival the other great courses in the Roaring Fork Valley, which includes River Valley Ranch, Aspen Golf Club, and three private layouts - Basalt's Roaring Fork Club, Aspen's Maroon Creek and Carbondale's Aspen Glen.
Other projects? Construction is underway for The Club at Black Rock on Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho. Engh also has completed design work for Montalcino at Napa Valley, a new 18-hole resort course.
Tullymore Golf Club in Stanwood, Michigan, another Engh design, opened this summer.
The Adam's Mark Hotel
743 Horizon Drive
Grand Junction, CO 81506
For Reservations or to ask about the golf packages call: 970-241-8888.
When you come to play The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa, stay at Grand Junction's newly remodeled premier full-service hotel. The Adam's Mark Hotel's upscale ambiance and premium level of service is a perfect complement to one of Colorado's best golf courses.
Call the Adam's Mark Hotel and ask about its golf packages. This elegant hotel is centrally located 15 minutes from the golf course and Colorado's Wine Country and just five minutes from historic downtown Grand Junction.
The Adam's Mark Hotel offers something for everyone. After a great game of golf, guests can relax in the heated pool and spa, play tennis on lighted courts, or exercise in the brand new health club. Then wind down for a dining experience at the brand new Deco Restaurant. In addition, the Adam's Mark Hotel features the Western Slope's largest big screen TVs at the Player's Sports Bar. With the wide variety of activities and services available, your stay at the Adam's Mark Hotel is guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience.
Practice Fac.: A
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: A
Use of Scenery: A+
Overall Rating: A