Home » Travel Feature

On the road in Colorado: Downhill glory, towering drives highlight ski town golf venues

By David R. Holland, Contributor

VAIL, Colo. - There are scant opportunities today in the 21st Century to drive through a city or town anywhere in the world and have an opportunity to meet its first resident.

But anyone who knows Dick Hauserman, 87, can make that statement about Vail, the center of one the best skiresort areas on the planet.

Hauserman is one of the founding fathers of Vail. On Jan. 9, 1960, when Pete Seibert gathered a group ofnine initial investors for the first board ofdirectors meeting - a ski dynasty was formed. The dream ultimately became Vail Resorts Inc., America'slargest ski company.

The Vail logo you see today some 40 years later was Hauserman's vision - he also clearly saw a future forgolf.

"I was a recreational skier," said Hauserman, amarketing executive who moved to Vail from Cleveland," but first and foremost I was a golfer."

The Hauserman Building was the first in town - hometo Vail's first ski shop. In that initial year ofconstruction he faced muddy roads in the spring and no television.

Vail was so much in the boon docks that the early settlers, many hardcore sports fans, had to drive all the way to Glenwood Springs to see the NFL games. Someeven climbed the ski mountain with antenna, TV and generator to search for reception.

With his golf background, Hauserman didn't waste timeletting the board know that they needed to think aboutsummers.

In 1963 Robert Trent Jones and son Robert II made a visit, followed by Press Maxwell of Dallas, but it is Ben Krueger, who got credit as architect of what is today's Vail Golf Club, the first of the ski town golfcourses in the Vail Valley. It opened in 1966 andHauserman, Siebert and Rod Slifer all contributed to the design.

"Also, few people today realize that in the summer of 1968 there was the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy locatedin what is now Eagle­Vail. It drew more than 500 boys between the ages of 12 and 17," said Hauserman.

Palmer said it was five years ahead of its time. It didn't last.

What did last and prospers to this day is world-classgolf. "Unbelievable," is what Hauserman says today ashe thinks about the Vail Valley's ever-growing list of quality golf courses. The story is told much better by Hauserman in his book "The Inventors of Vail".

Even TigerWoods came here as an 11-year-old to playin the U.S. Junior Amateur at Sonnenalp Golf Club in Edwards. And you too can take an amazing golf vacation along theI-70 corridor from Denver into the spectacular mountains of Colorado. Ski town golf courses dot the landscape along this interstate.

Start the trip with a look at award-winning Jim Engh's newest opening - Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden,which is your foothills departure point westward from the Mile High City into the Rockies.

Looking for ritzy? Don't miss Beaver Creek's Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, where you can get preferred tee times at the exclusive RedSky GolfClub's just-opened Norman Course and the two-year-old Fazio Course. The fun Robert Trent Jones Beaver Creek Golf Club is also handy.

Another option is to continue down I-70 past the VailValley through remarkable Glenwood Canyon to Glenwood Springs where non-members can play Ironbridge Golf Club, the brand-new Arthur Hills-designed private beauty on the banks of the Roaring Fork River. You must stay in The St. Regis in Aspen for this opportunity.

Here's a capsule look at the majesty of the Rockies and a few of its golf options.

Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden

Situated in the shadows of Table Mountain, imagine the chimney of a brick kiln that was left in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 No. 1 right in sight-line ofyour second stroke.

Better yet, imagine a fairway with 20-foot tall pillars of sandstone dotting the green pathway of thepar-5 12th. Here is a reminder of the property's quarry heritage - clay mining equipment remains on the site where 64 million years ago fossils of palmfronds, other leaves, bird tracks and triceratops footprints were cemented in time. A split-rail fence near the green leads you to the viewing area for the fossils.

Located minutes from the Adolph Coors Brewery, this 6,831-yard, par 72, is another example of the excellent municipal golf courses being built today. Avoid the 10-foot deep squiggly bunkers, pumped up by thick-grass muscular mounds that are found throughout the layout along with other pot holes and even a punch bowl green. Engh is known for steep, thick-grass green rears, but this one even has a couple of low-lying collection areas behind the putting surfaces.

Breckenridge Golf Club in Breckenridge

It's Jack Nicklaus' only municipal in the world and cart-path only has created one of the best conditioned27 holes in the mountains. Perfect fairway lies are needed because the Elk Nine is a definite challenge with big forced carries across creeks and rocky ditches and through alpine meadows. You must even a void a beaver pond in sight of the Ten Mile Range.

The journey begins at the Clubhouse situated at 9,324in elevation and climbs into aspen groves and fairways lined with lodge pole pines, unforgiving native grasses and sagebrush. The Beaver and Bear Nines opened in 1987 with the Elk opening in 2001.

Daytime temperatures will cool you, but the Nicklaus Tees on the Beaver-Bear 18 plays to a tough 7,276 yards with a course rating of 73.3 and a slope of 150- one of the sternest in Colorado. Don't expect a pushover, do expect to pay attention all day on thistough layout.

The Raven at Three Peaks in Silverthorne

Tom Lehman consulted with Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fryon this remake of the former Eagle's Nest Golf Club. The magnificent views include the Three Peaks in theGore Range, Buffalo Mountain, William's Fork Range and Ptarmigan Wilderness, Highline Creek and the Blue River just a short drive from the ski areas of Copper Mountain, Keystone and Breckenridge. The Alister MacKenzie-like bunkers, some with thick grassy edges, will remind you of the olden days of traditional golf.

Measuring 7,413 yards, par 72, from the back tees, ther outing will challenge you as it provides awesomescenery, aspen groves, brooks, lakes, dramatic downhill strokes, the flight of an eagle overhead and the huge osprey nest at the end of the third hole.

Red Sky Golf Club's Norman Course in Wolcott

Greg Norman's first Colorado design opened this summerwith a foursome of The Shark, John Elway, Dan Marinoand Denver Broncos' head coach Mike Shanahan. It'sjust over a ridge above the Fazio layout that opened ayear ago.

Measuring a brawny 7,580 yards from the tips at par72, this belle traverses aspens and junipers, uphill and downhill, past red-rock outcrops, through deep barrancas, boulder-strewn water features and present stightly-mown bentgrass areas encircling perplexing contoured greens.

Norman's layout, with views of Vail's back bowls and Castle Peak, is considered tougher than the Fazio layout, but not by much. Fazio's is friendly tee-to-green, but is three-putt city. Have fun with Norman's 283-yard downhill par-3 16th. Midwesterners hitting an 8-iron from the Gold Tee's 210 yards can boast when they return to flat land. This one has sideboards left of the green that will propel your ball toward the hole.

"What's unique about the Norman Course is that everyone will hit at least one heinous shot during their round that turns out good because of the contours," said assistant pro Don Kara.

Guests of Vail Resorts play on the "designated guestcourse" which alternates between the two courses. The Club is also distinguished by separate Member and Guest clubhouses. Give it another year for maturity. Also check out the Chuck Cook Golf Academy.

Ironbridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs

This new routing, a hefty 7,224 yards at par 72, was laid over seven holes of the old West bank Ranch Golf Club with a meadows front nine that skirts thetr out-laden Roaring Fork River and a rugged back side that climbs into ravines lined with piñons and junipers 300 feet above the river valley.

No. 10, 457 yards from the back tees, requires a forced carry for all except the ladies over a huge rocky gorge to a fairway receptive to a draw. The four alpine holes are stunning and fun to play. Andyou will be amazed at the perfect conditions for a new course.

Named for the historic old iron bridge crossing the river nearby, Iron bridge includes five lakes, two streams, 19 bridges, three tunnels, and more than eight miles of continuous cart path. Don't even think about walking the back nine which includes cliff-dive teeing grounds and red-hued mountain vistas.

Where to play

Fossil Trace Golf Club
3050 Illinois St.
Golden, CO 80401
(303) 277-8752

Breckenridge Golf Club
0200 Clubhouse Drive
Breckenridge CO 80424

Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks
2929 Golden Eagle Rd.
Silverthorne, CO 80498
(970) 262-3636

Red Sky Golf Club
Norman and Fazio Courses
376 Red Sky Road
Wolcott, CO 81655
(970) 477-8400 or (877) 973-3759

Ironbridge Golf Club
410 Ironbridge Drive
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-4300 or (970) 384-0630

Other golf options near the I-70 corridor

Beaver Creek Golf Club
(970) 845-5775,

River Valley Ranch
(970) 963-3625, rvrgolf.com

Copper Creek Golf Club
(970) 968-2882,

Keystone Ranch Golf Course
(970) 496-4250,

Keystone River Course
(970) 496-4444,

Cordillera, The Summit Golf Course
(970) 926-5300, www.cordillera-vail.com
Also check out Cordillera'sMountain, Valley and Short Course

Vail Golf Club
(970) 479-2260

Eagle-Vail Golf Club
(970) 949-5267 or (800)341-8051

Sonnenalp Golf Club, Edwards
(970) 477-5370

Eagle Ranch Golf Club, Eagle
(970) 328-2882 or (866)328-3232

Cotton Ranch Golf Club
Gypsum, (970) 524-6200 x2,

Where to stay

The rustic Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain is your pass to golf at Red Sky Golf Club. It was recently named to the Conde NastTraveler "Hot List" of new hotels. The 237-room resort offers panoramic mountain views and unlimited year-round activities such a skiing, golf, hiking, mountain biking and cultural events.

After a day in this Rocky Mountain lodge-styled play ground, relax and rejuvenate in the 21,000-squarefoot Bachelor Gulch Spa. Service and food at Remington's is unparalleled. Call (800) 576-5582 forinformation and packages. Log on to www.vailresorts.com for other options and discover fractional ownership opportunities on www.ritzcarlton.com.

In the Glenwood Springs area stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Carbondale and don't miss playing River Valley Ranch, just minutes away. Call (800) 228-5150 and ask about their golf packages. Complimentary continental breakfast is included.

The Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge has golf packages for Breckenridge Golf Club. Call (800) 288-1282 for information and reservations. Located on the ski slopes, your room includes a great view, sitting area, small refrigerator and kitchen ready to prepare your own meal.

Where to dine

Breckenridge Brewery

Gore Range Brewery

Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch
Beaver Creek

Grouse Mountain Grill in the Pines Lodge
Beaver Creek

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
Dates: January 1, 2018 - March 31, 2018
Framed by the stunning peaks of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, our private Pete Dye-designed course is one of the top golf experiences in Colorado.
Price range: $160