The River Course at Keystone in Colorado: A mountain vista oasis
KEYSTONE, Colo. -- Those that make the drive in the winter during ski season will appreciate that same scenic drive all-year round to play around a golf on the River Course at Keystone but this time minus the traffic jam or snowstorms. The River Course is located just west of the Keystone ski area, with the front nine weaving in and around the Snake River Valley along U.S. 6.
The River Course is a semi-private/public resort course. The course architects are Hurdzan and Fry. Their course designs are quickly gaining a reputation in the Denver metro area with incorporation of the environmentally sensitive areas of courses. (The Heritage Golf Course at Westmoor is another of their recent designs.)
I cannot begin to relate the magnificent views available to the golfer from any of the 18 holes of the River Course. Snow-peaked mountain vistas, clean mountain air, rapidly flowing mountain streams and elevated greens are just a few of nature's gifts you'll receive on this course. Fairways are in excellent shape offering you its wide, inviting fairways, and frequently tall evergreens protect both right and left sides.
Each hole presents a magnificent view of the mountains and/or the mountainous terrain and will momentarily make you forget that you are playing golf and not sightseeing. Photographing opportunities abound, so make sure you tuck your camera in your bag.
The first tee box faces east and is elevated 150 feet overlooking the fairway. The Grays and Torreys peaks, twin Fourteeners on the Continental Divide, loom in the horizon. The first hole is a par-5 551 yarder with evergreen bordering either side of the fairway. Once you lay up on the fairway, you have an approachable landing to an ample green with bunkers protecting both right and left at the front.
No. 4 doglegs left with bunkers and rolling hills giving the challenge. The tee box five gives you a narrow opening fairway with a blind shot over the hill. Shoot for the target pole, which is 281 yards away for black. Beware the carry hazard of creek with brush and weeds on the bank at 331 yards. Once you pass this, it's downhill to protecting fairway bunkers at the cart sign and at the green.
Teeing off over the rapids of Snake River at No. 7 presents interesting nature background music, but it also challenges the golfer from 195 yards at the back tee. Beware -- too much on this green will send you into the river behind the green. In the background is Buffalo Mountain, the hump-shaped peak rising above Silverthorne.
The back nine is just as intriguing as the front. No. 10's straight blind over hill shot presents a challenge with pines lined up both sides of the fairway and bunkers protecting the green. Another elevated tee is at 11 with rolling hills sloping to a dogleg-right par 4 with bunkers protecting the dogleg and the green. Over-driving here could end you up in the woods behind the green, too.
The par-3 12th is a slight-left dogleg with woods on the right and bunkers protecting the green but fairly approachable from the back tees at 209 yards and the forward tees at 124. Hole 13 is another gorgeous hole -- this time an uphill par 5 battle with a sand trap just over the hill and right at the 225 marker. A long green is well protected by bunkers.
Keeping your drives to the middle of the downhill fairway and avoiding the bunkers to the left of the green attains hole 16's par 4, the largest vertical drop in North America. And what a finish is in store for you at hole 18. A par 5 is a drive off an elevated tee downhill. Then the fairway begins its uphill climb at about mid-fairway. Bunkers protect this entire fairway at just the right position to make you nervous. Forget about the game, and enjoy the view, and the rest will come on this finishing hole.
Overall, from the forward tees for the higher handicaps, the course is forgiving and fun yet challenging enough from the back tees. The five level tees give all players with different levels of game an enjoyable golf round. The yardage ranges from 6,886 to 4,762, and the par is a men's 71/ladies' 70.
This is a must-play Colorado golf course. You'll leave the Rivers Course at Keystone with a smile on your face, a continuing love for the game of golf and an appreciation of the Rockies.
February 2, 2012