GRANBY, CO - If you are ever on-site of a golf-course construction the first thing you realize is the designer/architect is going to look like he's ready to mow a green or fire up the weed eater.
He's not on-site in designer casual wear.
For a golf-course architect like Michael Asmundson, being on-site is all about getting down in the trenches - blue jeans, rubber boots, to negotiate the ankle-deep mud, and most importantly, a keen eye to make sure your vision is becoming reality.
The front nine of Asmundson's SolVista Golf & Ski Ranch layout, located in uncrowded Grand County, is called the Meadows nine. It opened in June. It's a beautiful, playable 3,630 yards at par 36 running along the Fraser River and visited daily by Amtrak, giving it a feel of the golf courses in Scotland or England.
There's a definite valley-floor feel, mountain-links character with native wetlands, grasses and water coming in to play. The greens have subtle breaks, which make them tricky to read, but overall this is a friendly layout you can score on.
"Everything is right in front of you," Asmundson said. "There's nothing tricky about it."
The back nine named The Ridge, is scheduled to open next summer. It runs back up toward SolVista's ski lifts and ski community (formerly Silver Creek) and has much more of an elevation change as it climbs into the sage valleys and draws of the property.
"We will have four holes up on the ridge and four valley-styled holes with lots of character and adventure," he said.
Asmundson, who lives in Scottsdale, AZ, has 18 years of experience working on numerous distinctive golf courses throughout the United States, Asia and South America. His resume includes the highly respected Coeur d' Alene Golf Course in Idaho, working with Scott Miller, and the complete restoration of the historic Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, CA.
"When you're in the mountains, you don't want to compete with the natural environment, but complement it. That's what the SolVista golf course does so well, integrate with the landscape," he said.
"I like to create a sense of illusion in the design by making what is in-between the tee box and the green perhaps appear closer than it really is. These subtleties encourage golfers to look twice before they swing and it is in those details that the course brings out the challenge for them every time.
"SolVista is intended to provide memorable, challenging golf for all skill levels. The last thing I want is for the golf course to punish players. I'll let them do that to themselves. SolVista has many unique features that have been incorporated into an adventurous golf experience."
Right in the center of both nines is Quarry Hill, where you can climb up and get a bird's-eye view of the whole project. "Quarry Hill is a glacial-anomaly," Asmundson said. "It's rare to find such a large sand and gravel deposit at high altitude. But it's a great view up there."
Most likely SolVista will use the Quarry Hill views for something - it would be a spectacular clubhouse setting, but a little too far from the base where the front nine starts. It will probably used for some "trophy" housing lots. Right now the sales people are using the hill to show prospective buyers the panorama.
When you visit SolVista you wonder how some folks back in Denver are talking about how Colorado's 10 new golf course openings in the summer of 2001 spell "over-saturation."
"I certainly don't think Grand County golf is going to provide more supply than demand," Asmundson said. "Maybe in metro Denver or Scottsdale they have reached that point. The big drawing point here is the affordability. This area is like Vail was 20 years ago."
Your round opens with a reachable par 5, 567-yard hole that descends with a slight dogleg right to a large and undulating green. Even if you reach it in two, birdie is no cinch. The hole is bordered on the right by Debarard Draw, a natural intermittent stream and wetland.
The 4th is a 413-yard par 4 that's a tough driving hole. It's a slight dogleg right, guarded by a huge Ponderosa pine on the right, but also in your view is a large irrigation lake that guards the left side.
No. 5, a 350-yard par 4 plays directly towards Strawberry Creek and a meadow to a heavily bunkered fairway approach and green.
The sixth is a 460-yard par 4 that goes into the teeth of the prevailing wind. The left side of the hole is guarded by the lake and natural wetlands while the right landing area present you with a huge bunker. Make a par here and you deserve congratulations.
The 430-yard finishing hole plays uphill away from river and back towards Quarry Hill and the clubhouse. The tough part is the approach to a huge green with a false front. Hit it a little short and you will funnel back off the green.
The back nine will have a series of collection ponds to negotiate and will also serve as water for the ski area's snow-making machines.
Brian Ryall, former vice president of the west chapter Colorado PGA in 1998-99, is SolVista's Head Golf Professional. Ryall has won several west chapter awards. He was most recently Director of Golf at Thunder Canyon in northern Nevada.
U.S. Highway 40
1000 Village Road
Granby, CO 80446
Tel: 970-887-2709 or 888-850-4615
Green Fees: Introductory 2001 rates, $50, weekdays. $60, weekends. Cart fees, $13 per person. Twilight, senior and junior fees available, call for details.
Directions: SolVista is only 78 miles from Denver. From I-70 take the Hwy. 40 exit to Winter Park. Go 15 miles past Winter Park and past Fraser to the entrance of SolVista on the right. Follow signs to the golf course.
The brand-new Kicking Horse Lodge condos are available for rent. Call 888-850-4615.
These units are the first lodging property to be built and managed by SolVista. Ironwood Builders, whose impressive resume includes projects in Beaver Creek, partnered with SolVista for this project, which was so popular with buyers that more than 90 units sold in the first two days of the real estate launch.
In spring 2002, SolVista plans to break ground on a new base village community starting with the 109-unit Twin Saddles Lodge. The SolVista sales team pre-sold 65 percent of the first phase of Twin Saddles in one weekend. The village will feature a mixture of retail shops, restaurants, condominium lodges and hotels, all crafted to fit with the setting and designed in a western/alpine ranch theme.
A new quad chairlift servicing the lodges will be installed this fall, ready for use during the upcoming ski season. The lodges are situated on a ridge with sweeping views of the Continental Divide and overlook the back nine of SolVista Golf Club.
Golf Packages www.solvista.com/lodging/.
Just Beyond the Ranch: You will find more than 600 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails throughout the Fraser Valley. There's also 1,000 miles of streams, 1,000 acres of high mountain lakes and 11,000 acres of reservoirs in Grand County.
Rocky Mountain National Park is just 25 miles north and home to herds of elk, deer, moose and coyote, not to mention miles of hiking trails and great sightseeing.
Practice Fac.: A
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Temp
Quiet Factor: A+
Pace of Play: A
Resort Condos: A
Overall Rating: A