Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth is worth the drive from Denver
ELIZABETH, Colo. -- A drive southeast of the metro area will find one of the best-hidden secrets in town, Spring Valley Golf Club.
OK, it's a long drive southeast, on the outskirts of Parker with an address of Elizabeth, Colo., and when you're behind the wheel, you can't help but think, "There's no way there's a good course this far outside of town." I had the same thought. I was wrong.
Spring Valley is a course well worth playing, full of challenges, without the hassle of the typical urban setting.
Elbert County's Spring Valley opened in 1997, the creation of architect Ross Graves. There were no rave reviews that I could locate and no apparent hum in the golfing industry when this course opened, and the only reason I can come up with for the apparent lack of talk is that Spring Valley is just too far from the hubbub of suburbia Denver. A crying shame, if you ask me.
A fellow golfing buddy of mine alerted me to this course, well off the beaten path, and since I'm an adventurer at heart, I took his advice and set up a tee time.
Even this far from Denver, there are new homes and subdivisions springing up left and right, filling in the once wide-open spaces of this newly discovered area. In this case, wide-open signifies the land hasn't been infiltrated with homes and businesses. There are valleys and flat areas, but the tight fitting urban developments just aren't here. There's hope for those golfers that want to get out of town but not give up their golf game.
In 1990, Elizabeth's population logged in at just over 818; today it has doubled largely due to city residents yearning for the peace and quiet of the country while maintaining a drivable distance of a city's amenities. Even with the "surge" of population, Elizabeth and Elbert County can still be called the "country."
Once you actually arrive at the course, driving for what seems like miles of endless highway and blacktop while listening to, and oftentimes fighting, the endless traffic jams and accidents on the radio, the course itself rises in the horizon like a water oasis to the thirsty desert wanderer. Spring Valley Golf Club is the course to play out here in the middle of nowhere, and really one of the sparse golf offerings for this still rural locale.
Upon arriving at the clubhouse, open spaces and rolling hills surround you. What you won't see are homes stacked on small lots crowding the course fairways. A couple of farms surround the course -- that's it. In fact, Spring Valley G.C. was etched out of farmland; evident in the few farms and plowed fields a stone's throw from some of the holes.
The clubhouse is state of the art. An upstairs restaurant offers a first-class dining experience. The downstairs bar is laid-back with tables scattered throughout and on the patio, as well as a bar to belly up to and order your drink. The pro shop has a good selection of clothing and golf supplies, and the staff is more than friendly. I had a mid-week tee time, and even then, the course was hopping with activity. Even so, tee times are not stacked so close together, like you might see in Denver, that your golf game becomes longer due to the waiting times on each hole.
The entire course looks deceivingly conquerable. It may not have the great heights of elevated tees like other Colorado courses, but the challenge is still more than ample. After all, this is Colorado -- elevation is still used to the golfer's advantage, or should I say disadvantage? Most of the course fairways are open, but rolling valleys, canyons, doglegs, trees, water, native grass, and bunkers create enough obstacles to keep your mind firmly on your playing. The scent of wildflowers, especially lilacs, is at times overpowering, and always adds beauty and color to the edges of the fairways and near the greens.
Spring Valley Golf Club's front nine
Hole No. 1 opens up your first opportunity with a par 4, 426-yard open fairway with loads of room on the left with a bunker on the right at 150-yard marker, shooting off the top of one of the many rolling hills you'll see.
The front nine continues along this same pattern with challenges galore. The bunkers are wide and sandy gravel, not a good combination for getting out. Bunkers are strategically placed, as if the architect played a few rounds first and choose the bunker locations by where his ball usually landed. This course serves up parable holes and does give birdie opportunities, but it isn't an easy task handed to you on a silver plate.
Hole No. 8, a 421-yard par 4, uses all the challenges available. A sharp dogleg left skirts native grass and trees galore all along the left of the fairway and the green. The fairway is wide open and the right is clear of obstacles. Too much of an approach shot will end up hitting a tree that spreads its limbs wide and tall protecting the back of the green.
If you're hungry at the bend, you'll have time to stop off at the bar. The bar serves up a buffet with hot dogs and brats already hot and ready to go. Just add the condiments, grab your bag of chips and a drink and you're on your way. There is cart service and it does come around often enough to replenish your drinks along the way.
Spring Valley Golf Club's back nine
The back nine starts with a bang, a straight, tight fairway on a slight incline with trouble both left and right and a well-protected green. Another huge tree stretches its shade and limbs slightly over the left edge of the green. Definitely a great example of a hole that is not as easy as it looks.
Oh, did I mention trees? Trees, trees and more trees crowd these fairways and protect many of the greens. Spring Valley has a virtual tree farm with the fairways and greens designed through the middle of many groves of trees. Hole 15's bunker even has a tree growing out the middle of the bunker.
The signature hole, No. 17, is a 212-yard par 3. Your shot must be accurate as the green is nearly an island surrounded by a creek and marsh, and you guessed it -- more trees.
The finishing hole, 18, contains the suction power of a lake on the right, seemingly out of play, but surprisingly may be an obstacle. (This same lake is shared with hole No. 9.) Bunkers surround the green and are deep, wide and tall, leaving a small landing area.
Since you've traveled out of Denver, make an overnight or weekend trip of your golf game. Stay and play in southeastern Colorado and see some of the sites. These small towns don't offer much in the way of overnight accommodations, but a few minutes away there is Parker, a bustling suburb of Denver with loads of restaurants and hotels.
A little farther down the road near Franktown is Castlewood Canyon State Park, a day use park with canyon trails, picnicking, rock climbing, and a great Outdoors Colorado nature program. This might be a little bit more of a jaunt, but definitely an opportunity to see more of the Colorado outdoors.
For those that live and breathe in the rat race of Denver, the constant struggle with traffic, too many people, too many homes and not enough tee times, I have the answer for you. Get out of town and explore the possibilities that Spring Valley has opened up for golfers.
May 6, 2002