The Mountain golf course at Cordillera in Edwards, Colorado: Give credit to Hale Irwin -- and nature
EDWARDS, Colo. -- Trying to review a golf course such as the Mountain Course at Cordillera is a practice in restraint. You must be careful to keep the accolades in check.
Lower your guard for a second and gushy adjectives are apt to tumble out. Beautiful. Incredible. Fabulous. Lessen your vigilance for a moment and hype worthy of an infomerical spews forth. Panoramic. Unbelievable. Awe-inspiring.
The Cordillera Mountain Course stretches up and down a mountain in Edwards, near Vail, some 90 miles west of Denver. Pro golfer Hale Irwin gets the credit for the design, but the real praise goes to nature. From almost every vantage on the course, the views of the surrounding tree-covered mountain range are breath-taking.
The fundamental rule of keeping your eye on the ball becomes a challenge when there are craggy, snow-capped peaks and glittering white aspen trees all around. And if nature gets boring, there are scores of multimillion-dollar "cabins" lining the course.
But you won't pay the exorbitant green fee - steeper than the mountain slopes at $225 - just to go sightseeing. Great scenery sits outside any window in Colorado. You're paying to play golf. Once you've managed to focus on the course and not the landscape, you'll notice that Cordillera has a layout to match its surroundings.
Thanks to the sharp slopes, the thin mountain air (clubhouse elevation is 8,250 feet above sea level) and strategic use of water, golfers are forced to hit many different shots with every club. Uphill, downhill, sidehill. You'll face them all. At the end of each hole lies what probably will be the toughest greens for most golfers. They are slick and harder to read than a Chinese phone book. Even our caddie (required for each foursome of non-members) misread some putts.
From a playability standpoint, the best holes probably are the fourth, 14th and 18th. No. 9 is played dead uphill, deserving mention because the head pro said she'd like to blow it up. As for scenic choices, take your pick. No. 13 plays down a chute lined with aspen trees.
No. 17 is a par 3 with the green some 100-plus feet below with the entire valley as a backdrop. No. 18 is a long par 4 with the same setting.
The Mountain Course is just one of three courses in the sprawling, upscale Cordillera development. There is The Valley Course designed by Tom Fazio, and The Short Course designed by famed instructor Dave Pelz, which is so refined it can't be called a Par 3 course.
Then there is The Summit. Set to open next summer, it is being designed by Jack Nicklaus and will be perched on the ridge above The Mountain Course.
The Mountain Course is labeled as a private/resort course, accommodating guests of the adjacent 56-room lodge and spa. It is open to public play each day only after 2:30 p.m. depending on availability.
A golf course must be good to compete with the natural splendor of the Rocky Mountains as well as the outdoor activities that a giant resort like Vail has to offer. Cordillera manages to do it, even if the course is a challenge to both your wallet and your vocabulary.
July 1, 2002