Buffalo Run Golf Course: A must-play 'Western' course in Commerce City, Colorado
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Architect Keith Foster said of Buffalo Run Golf Course, "In time, (it will) become recognized statewide as a bold and powerful golf course: its inspiration ... the vastness of the ground, commanding views to the west and its link to golf in the British Isles."
Foster's prediction is right on the money. Buffalo Run Golf Course opened in 1996 to rave reviews. In 1997, Foster's debut was named one of the best, new and affordable public courses by Golf Digest. In 2001, CitySearch (Denver) named Buffalo Run a Top 10 public course (No. 10).
Foster's name might not be as well known as other architects, such as Palmer or Hills, but he certainly has gained his own stellar reputation in the golfing community. Before going solo, Foster did his tenure with Arthur Hills and worked on Walking Stick Golf Course and Legacy Ridge Golf Course. Buffalo Run is Foster's first solo course in Colorado. Other courses under his belt are The Quarry in San Antonio and Sun Ridge Canyon in Fountain Hills, Ariz.
North of Commerce City near Denver International Airport territory, Buffalo Run is a jaunt to get to and to find, especially with all the construction going on throughout the city, but it is a find well worth the hassle. Not only are the views spectacular and open to the vast country of the northern metro area and sweeping Rockies but also the price is half what other courses might charge. Kudos to the architect for his links-style course design, perfect for the flat land and surroundings.
Buffalo Run welcomes you with a Western-style theme beginning with the bronze statue of a buffalo in full gallop. This statue is a nostalgic reminder that these wide-open spaces used to be graced by the not-so-elegant stampeding herds of buffalo. The buffalo guards the bag drop circle and greets its golfers in the parking lot.
Once in the Western mood, you'll enter the spacious building which houses the clubhouse, restaurant and pro shop. High-beam ceilings and a full-height stone fireplace add to your welcome and the ranch-feel to the building. The merchandise is displayed throughout, blending the old with the new, such as modern-day clothing draped across antique golf clubs. Archaic golf equipment set alongside old Western boots intermingled with straw continue the look and feel of the Old West. Buffalo Run Golf Course would not be complete without the full-size buffalo head and pelt hanging on the interior walls.
The stampede to Buffalo Run includes many visitors as well as golfers that have chosen this as their home course. And why not? An 18-hole, link-style public course at an unbeatable price, Buffalo Run offers up challenges unlike other Denver metro courses. Measuring 7,411 yards from the back tees and 5,277 from the forward tees, every skill level of golfer is accommodated. There isn't one tree on this course, but water comes into play on five holes. Deep and wide sand bunkers come into play at every hole. If you find yourself in the latter, your golf game will definitely begin to enter the twilight zone.
The pro shop is definitely worth returning when your game is done. Rustic in style with dark wood and high-vaulted ceilings, the shop is filled with a wide range of shopping choices: clothing, shoes, belt, accessories and even clubs -- a golfer's delight.
The practice area is state-of-the art, especially for a public golfing facility, and the other perk is that its location is convenient to the first tee. The entire pace of a round at Buffalo Run is slow and easy, again fitting with the Western theme. Their tee times are not scheduled so close together that you find yourself breathing down the neck of the golfers in front of you and fretting about the golfers behind.
When I asked the rather young but very helpful staff for some course tips, the mutual consent was aim for the 150-yard marker, a tall, striped post in the middle of each fairway. Another suggestion was to make sure your approach shot to the green landed on the side of the flag.
Until I approached the first green, I had no idea how good that advice was. The greens on this course are long, deep, undulating and extremely challenging, and oftentimes hard to read, very much like the practice putting greens. If your approach shot to the green lands on the opposite side of the flag, your putt could end up being a frustrating 50 footer.
However, Buffalo Run gives all golfers many birdie and par opportunities, and these golfers will be the ones that play it safe. Hitting for the 150-yard marker, approach shots on the flag side of the green and balls that stay on the fairway and out of the water, bunkers and/or native grass are the simple requirements. Risks can be taken here and will be rewarded, but these risks can just as often add several strokes to an otherwise good golf game.
Buffalo Run Golf Course: The course
A memorable, possible secondary signature hole is the fourth hole's uphill, 181-yard par 3. A babbling brook winds the length of the hole through the middle of the fairway from the tee to the right side of the long green. The right side of the brook runs across several tiers and rocks cascading into mini-waterfalls. Deep, wide bunkers open up trouble on the right. With the wind in your back, a landing short will likely carry to the green. If you hit the bunker, beware, as the green is not as wide as it is long and it may carry to the creek that is otherwise not in play.
The consensus for the most memorable holes seems to be No. 13 and No. 14. Thirteen is another long par 3. At 260 yards from the back tees, most golfers will choose their driver. Best advice is playing it safe with a par mindset. There is plenty of room short and right -- anything else is a risk.
Buffalo Run's finishing hole is a beauty, and you have to play four hours to get to their true signature hole. Another blind shot over a hill requires your focus to be on the ever-present marker in the middle of the wide-open fairway. Once across the top, the fairway bends left at the lake beside the clubhouse to the bunker and water-protected wide green. This hole is a beauty and a tough, finishing par 5.
The day I played was a beautiful and sunny July day with only a slight but very welcome breeze. Because of the openness, I can only imagine how much the wind will affect your game on this course come fall or in the spring. Be sure to keep that in mind, depending on the time of year you choose to play.
Once your game is complete, the restaurant is topnotch with an open view of the course and an outdoor patio if you haven't gotten enough of the Colorado sun. The patio skirts the left side of the 18th hole, so you can look back and congratulate yourself on a good game or commiserate over a cold brew. The menu is not your typical choice of dried up hot dogs or club sandwiches, although these are also available for those die-hard golfers. The restaurant menu is impressive and tasty.
Buffalo Run Golf Course: The verdict
Some reviewers have suggested Buffalo Run Golf Course is only for those of intermediate skill or better, but I have to disagree.
The forward tees are perfect for beginners and seniors, presenting them the full range of a golf game and a challenge that at times can be frustrating but other times rewarding.
The challenge holds true for all levels of players with Buffalo Run's risk/reward opportunities, through extensive mounding, 65 strategically placed bunkers, greenside lakes and streams.
July 1, 2002