Colorado golf course explosion continues with 2002 openings

By David R. Holland, Contributor

GRANBY, Colo. -- When Grand Elk Ranch and Club commissioned PGA Tour player Craig Stadler and architect Tripp Davis to design a new golf course they never dreamed how inventive the duo would be.

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"One weekend Craig had a day off from his travel schedule and drove up to Grand Elk," Davis recalled. "I asked him to make some notes. When I arrived the next week the construction crew handed me this white, Nike prototype golf ball box with just a big swoosh on it -- Stadler's notes were written all over the box."

The Grand Elk development has evolved big-time since Stadler scribbled on that golf ball box and is just part of a boom in Grand County and in Colorado. Last year SolVista Ranch and Club opened the front nine of its course. The second nine will open late this summer near the resort's ski slopes. Another new nine, The Greens at Winter Park, is scheduled to be constructed near Pole Creek Golf Club.

This growth makes Grand County just another golf destination in Colorado.

"Grand County is still a great, down-to-earth resort area," Davis said. "It's nothing like upscale Aspen or Vail, but the people living here don't want to be like Aspen or Vail. The image is improving and changing shape. It's a world-class place for skiing and outdoors recreation -- now the golf possibilities are on the rise, too."

Grand Elk Ranch and Club is a 520-acre mountain resort costing $420 million. The community will include 800 residential units, a 35-acre retail center and a variety of recreational facilities. One of the things that attracted them to Stadler was the fact he is such an avid outdoorsman. Stadler moved to Colorado for skiing, hunting and fishing opportunities.

"Stadler has been great to work with," said Davis. "It is a pretty collaborative effort. We are pretty much on the same wave length about this layout. For a course in the mountains, the elevation changes are very subtle," said Davis. "At its highest point it is 8,020 feet and at its lowest it is 7,920 feet.

"The layout reminds me of the heathland outside of London, where you have a style of golf that plays through heather and gorse," Davis said. " But here we have lots of sagebrush. There are not many trees, the course plays along the valley wetlands and Ten Mile Creek and has huge mountain backdrops. The front nine goes up into the hills while the back nine travels along wetlands."

Aside from Tripp Davis and Associates, golf course builder Joe Niebur of Colorado Springs struck the deal that paired Stadler with Davis. Niebur, who is building the course, is also a part owner in the venture.

The course, which is due to open in August 2002, will feature dominant bentgrass greens and tees, a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture in the fairways and fescue in the roughs. Native grasses and sage will skirt the fairway edges. (,

Courses Opening in 2002

Also in Grand County is SolVista Golf & Ski Ranch, formerly known as Silver Creek. SolVista unveiled nine holes of its 18-hole layout designed by Mike Asmundson last June. The back nine of the 7,200-yard par-72 public course is scheduled for completion late this summer.

Located along the Fraser River, SolVista has an open front nine with natural obstacles comprised of wetlands and native vegetation. The back nine moves up toward the ski slopes and has more elevation changes.

Asmundson's resume includes the Coeur d' Alene Resort Golf Course, in conjunction with Scott Miller Design, along with the complete restoration of the historic Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, CA. (

Red Sky Ranch in Vail unveils the first of two 18-hole championship golf courses June 14. The first 7,200-yard course, par 72, was designed by Tom Fazio. The design for the 7,600-yard second course, par 71, is currently being finalized by Greg Norman and is projected to open in 2003.

Resident guests of various Vail Resorts' lodges in Vail and Beaver Creek will enjoy access to golf at Red Sky Ranch. Guest play will be accommodated on the "designated guest course" which will alternate between the two courses. (

Vista Ridge Golf Club, designed by award-winning golf course architect Jay Morrish, will open late this summer in Erie. The first several holes play west towards the Rocky Mountains, offering views of Long's Peak, the familiar backdrop in the Boulder area.

Morrish says Vista Ridge is "wide-open prairie and features lots of native areas, creative bunkering and prairie grasses."

But the marketing word on the course says its "gorgeous" with sandtraps galore on an impressive 232 acres. "It's a full 30-percent larger than the typical 18-hole course, with broad fairways that provide a generous landing area for your drives and lots of distance from the homes that border the course."

Vista Ridge, which was in the news last fall because of some acts of vandalism on the course, certainly picked golf's best for its partners. Troon Golf will manage the course and The Redstone Group of Denver is constructing it.

Vista Ridge will soft open in September 2002 with the grand opening set for April 2003. Clubhouse construction will commence this summer. (

Rio Grande Golf Club in South Fork is a private club with daily-fee opportunities, designed by Ric Buckton of Redstone Golf. The back nine opened last summer. The front nine, set to open this spring, was awaiting two pre-made bridges that cross the Rio Grande River. The bridges are now in place.

Measuring 7,600 from the back tees, the golf course winds its way along beaver dams and Alder Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande, down through Scottish Burn to the legendary Rio Grande River and then across the river for two more holes. The back nine has some elevation changes.

There will be a scenic 7.5 miles of cart path winding through towering Ponderosa pines and aspens, creating picturesque hikes for the non-golfers.

It's located at 0285 Rio Grande Trail in South Fork, telephone 719-873-1995. Take I-25 to Walsenberg exit. Go west on Highway 160 to Highway 149. Go north to South Fork. Exit on CR 15, go east one mile to course.

The Golf Club at Bear Dance, home of the Colorado PGA, delayed its opening last August until April 2002, weather permitting, at 4725 Western Evening Court in Larkspur. Go south on I-25 to exit 181. Turn west, take the frontage road four miles south to Tomah Road. Then go west and take immediate left on Bear Dance Road. Go south three miles to the clubhouse. Phone 303-681-4653. Green fees will be $75 with cart. (

Courses Under Construction, Planning

The Sienna Club at Rose Ranch, will be managed by Troon Golf in Glenwood Springs. This is a re-design of the old Westbank Ranch Golf & Country Club by Arthur Hills. The views of the Rocky Mountains surround the golf course, situated on the famous Roaring Fork River.

Four holes play in the upper valley and along the bluffs that overlook Rose Ranch 300 feet below. Holes three and four run alongside the rapids of the Roaring Fork River. (

The Greens at Winter Park capture the towering views of the Continental Divide adjacent to the 27-hole Pole Creek Golf Course just 12 minutes from Winter Park Ski Resort. The new nine-hole private golf course is being designed by Matt Eccles. You can call 800-274-8533 for more information on this Pole Creek Associates and RE/MAX Resorts of Grand County golf-course community.

Cherry Creek Country Club, is Denver's first private golf country club in 20 years. It's a reconstruction of the old Los Verdes Country Club, located on a 210-acre site off East Iliff Avenue just west of Parker Road.

Stacey Hart is the owner. He owned Los Verdes, which opened in the 1960s, and he operated Denver's public John F. Kennedy Golf Course at one time. The new course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son, Jack Nicklaus II.

Hart plans to limit the number of Cherry Creek memberships to 445 with the initial membership fee at $50,000. Besides the Nicklaus course, the facility will include a full-service spa and fitness center. The former Los Verdes club hosted 50,000 rounds a year during its busiest time.

Jim Engh of Castle Rock has been hired to redesign The Snowmass Club, which will be closed this summer. The new 18-hole, par-72 complex will include an entire retooling of the layout, practice facility and club house with a full-service restaurant and bar. Upon completion, Snowmass says "the new layout will be one of the premier courses on the western slope and in all of Colorado."

The course is anticipated to open in July 2003 with five sets of tees just below the ski slopes of Snowmass. (,

After 10 years of talk and red tape, the city of Golden broke ground on its first municipal golf course. Fossil Trace Golf Club is scheduled to open in the fall or summer of 2003.

Engh designed a golf course of 6,800 yards with the variation of swamp wetlands, flood-protection retention ponds, a former dump ground for fly ash and an old clay mine site.

But that's not the best -- it will also feature the 65 million-year-old tracks of a duckbilled Hadrosaurs, crocodile-like reptiles known as Champosaurs and carnivorous dinosaurs called Theropods and the track of a Triceratops.

A small group of "dinosaur-track huggers" protested at the ground breaking and former mayor of New York Ed Koch sent an e-mail with his concern.

The Eagle Landing Golf Course at 2401 Odelle Road in Montrose has been trying to open since 1997. This might be the year. New ownership will take the helm in March and they hope to open by the end of the summer. Telephone: 970-249-6060.

Troon Golf of Scottsdale has also listed The Bluffs at CentriCom in Thornton as a new property on its Summer-Fall 2001 newsletter, but isn't ready to outline any more details. (

Colorado Golf Course Construction

From the National Golf Foundation web site

County, Facility, Type, Holes

Adams, Antelope Hills Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 18

Adams, Buffalo Run Golf Course, Real Estate, Additional 9

Adams, Regional Golf Course, Daily Fee, New Facility, 18

Arapahoe, Mira Vista Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Additional, 27

Denver, British 18 at DIA, Daily Fee, Golf & Hotel, New Facility, 18

Denver, Cherry Creek Country Club, Private, Real Estate, Reconstruction, 18

Douglas, The Golf Club At Bear Dance, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New Facility, 18

Douglas, Crystal Valley Ranch, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New 18

Douglas, Jackson Creek Ranch, Private, Real Estate, New 36

Douglas, King's Point Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 18

Douglas, Stroh Ranch, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New 18

Douglas, Stroh Ranch, Private, Just Golf, New 27

Douglas, The Canyons, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 36

Eagle, Gypsum Creek, Daily Fee, Resort/Real Estate, New 18

Eagle, Red Sky Ranch, Private Resort/Real Estate, New 18

Eagle, Ute Creek At Wolcott, Daily Fee, Just Golf ,New 18

El Paso, Red Rock Canyon, Daily Fee, Just Golf ,New 18

Fremont, Bear Paw, Daily Fee, Just Golf ,Combine Existing 9

Garfield, The Sienna Club at Rose Ranch, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18

Garfield, Stillwater Ranch, Daily Fee, Resort/Real Estate, New 18

Garfield, Stillwater Ranch, Private Resort/Real Estate, New 18

Gilpin, Black Hawk Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New 18

Grand, Grand Elk Ranch and Club, Daily Fee, Resort-Real Estate, New, 18

Grand, SolVista Golf and Ski Ranch, Daily Fee, Resort-Real Estate, New, Finish second 9

Grand, The Greens At Winter Park, Daily Fee, Resort-Real Estate, New, 9

Grand, Merryville Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New 18

Gunnison, Gateway Golf Course, Daily Fee, Resort/Real Estate, New 18

Huerfano, Walsenburg Golf Club, Real Estate, Combine Existing 9

Jefferson, Fossil Trace Golf Club, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18

Jefferson, Homestead of Fox Hollow, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18

Lake, Mt. Massive Golf Club, Just Golf, Additional 9

Mesa, Powderhorn Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18

Montrose, Links At Cobble Creek, Daily Fee, Resort-Real Estate, New, Finish second 9

Pitkin, Chenoa Golf Club, Private, Real Estate, New 36

Pitkin, The Snowmass Club, Daily Fee Resort, Reconstruction

Rio Grande, Trosper Ranch, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New Facility, 18

Rio Grande, Rio Grande Club, Private, Daily Fee, Real Estate, Finish second 9

Weld, Vista Ridge Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 18

Weld, Highland Meadows Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 18

Weld, Milliken Valley Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New 18

More Airport Golf? The British 18 at DIA

Imagine you are in Scotland or England playing golf on some of the world's most famous holes.

Your vision could come true, just minutes away from Denver International Airport, because Perry Dye has been hired to design The British 18 at DIA.

"This is a is a concept trademarked by Stacey Hart," said O'Brien McGarey of Denver's Dye Designs. "It will be a collection of 18 holes which are inspired by or reminiscent of existing, great golf holes in Scotland and England. The result will be a golf course that will offer a true links style golf experience.

"Dye Designs has already completed a project with this same concept called Royal Links Golf Club ( which opened in Las Vegas in 1998. The DIA property has gently rolling hills, which look like sand dunes, and is ideally suited for this concept. On true links land golf you won't find any ponds or trees. Also, there are regulations by the FAA and the Airport Authority, related to height and bird-waterfowl issues. This restricts the use of landscaping materials and water features," McGarey said.

"In addition to the 18-hole course, the project will include a state-of-the-art practice facility including a driving range surrounded by several practice holes. These practice holes will also serve as a ‘short course' for airport transit travelers. There will be a shuttle service available between the golf course and the terminal. Travelers will be able to come to the golf course, rent any equipment needed and then use the driving range and/or, time permitting, play 3, 6, 9 or 18 holes before departure," McGarey said.

Flintco Inc., the largest North American Indian-owned firm, plans a Hilton Hotel, spa and conference center at The British 18 at DIA. The golf course will be built off Tower Road on about 200 acres owned by DIA.

Dye Designs has two other courses in the planning stages -- King's Point in Aurora and Crystal Valley Ranch in Castle Rock. (

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.

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