The Divide at King's Deer: Home on the Range, uh Prairie

By David R. Holland, Contributor

MONUMENT, CO - Opened on July 19, The Divide at King's Deer, the newest golf course on the front-range prairie has something that stands out like a Ponderosa pine in a radish patch. It's called native grass and its green and amber and it waves in the prairie wind. Try to put a solid swing through this wiry stuff and it will turn a clubhead, twist it and stop it.

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On a journey through this 6,945-yard, par-72 layout you will see so much native grass you might dream about it and you certainly might lose your distance and depth perception.

What golf architect Rick Buckton of Red Stone Golf Designs has created here, just minutes east of I-25 from C-105, is a style of play that Director of Golf Jim Lipp calls "prairie links" golf. The only mature Ponderosa pines you will see are far in the distance with the view of Pikes Peak.

"Golfers look at the forced carries we have here and think it is farther than it is. He looks from the tee to a safe landing in the fairway and he might think it is 200 yards, but it's not. We have 18 forced carries on this course and none of them are more than 180 yards," Lipp said.

No. 3, a par-four, 455-yarder from the back, is one of those 180-yard carries, along with No. 14, a 569-yard, par five. The par threes all seem to be islands surrounded by the nasty high grass. And the planted stuff, the longish-rye rough swirls, and is no bargain either.

Lipp, who spent 10 years running the two Eisenhower layouts at the nearby Air Force Academy, said: "The first thing people tell me when they finish is they love it and the second thing is that it is a challenge. I think one of the most unique features is that there are only three holes where you can't see the flag stick (Nos. 1, 9 and 10)."

"What really caught my attention," said Mike Chaput of Woodland Park, "is the number of relatively short par fours that are tough."

No. 8 is a prime example. Only 343 from the back, there's a narrow landing area, with heavy rough left, and a drop-off and rough right. Then, if you hit the target on your drive, the second shot is shielded by a large mound to a green that has a high spot and a funnel-like area. The course description says: "Short and deadly, play tee shot to the left. High solid second shot is crucial to hold approach over the mound in front."

The very next hole is another example. It's a par 4, only 306 yards, but it's all uphill and heavily bunkered. But the real test is on this green. Just drop a ball on the back of this green and watch it roll.

"I thought it was a nice course," said Gary Findley of Colorado Springs. "I think it may be too short, but the greens are what makes it tough."

So what does a brand-new golf club do to attract your attention? There's the 10-minute tee off interval to start with. "We want to create a country club experience," Lipp said. "We want it to be enjoyable. Range balls and carts are included in the fee. We want everything to be consistent."

For the present the starter isn't herding golfers to the first tee. If the group makes it fine, but if they are a little late, no one is making a big deal out of it.

"Play may be a little slow on the first four holes, but then it gets better," Lipp said. "We have player's assistants not marshals or rangers. They will say: ‘Gentlemen (or ladies), I'm sure you are not aware of this, but you are a hole behind schedule. I'd like to act as your forecaddy for a hole or so to help you catch up.'

"The marshal process has been too adversarial for too long. And we don't want the player's assistant to force himself on anyone. If someone in the group says no, that it would make him too nervous to be watched, we will back off. We are here to help, not to yell at anyone," Lipp said.

The Pentcross bent greens are excellent for a course this new. "To me all the greens are putting consistently," Lipp said. "If you are going uphill you really have to hit it hard enough to get there. Once again I think the surround rolling terrain really plays a part in perception. This is where I think the architect really did a good job. No. 9 doesn't really look severe, but it is."

A new clubhouse under construction will be finished in late September or early October and will have every amenity. "We will have a restaurant that seats 90 people and can host a 144-player tournament with a meal afterwards," Lipp said. "We will have a full-service golf shop with cart staging from a split-level facility. Carts will be stored below the golf shop and restaurant.

"Bob Shows will be on staff as a Golfsmith trained club repairman and I'll be representing Henry Griffitt's fitting. Jack Baker, our head pro, will have state of the art teaching with video/digital camera system. So we think we will be able to attract players from Castle Rock to Colorado Springs during the week and as far as Denver to Pueblo on the weekends," Lipp said.

The Divide is offering a $900 Introductory Offer that expires September 6. The deal includes a 20-round Player's Card good any day. It includes 10-day advanced tee time reservations, one Player's Card tournament ($75 value), membership in men's or ladies' club ($75 value), Year 2000 USGA/CGA handicap ($40 value), personalized Player's Club bag tag, Player's Club golf shirt ($70 value) and additional 20-round cards can be purchased for $900 through the year 2000.

The Player's Card will normally be offered at $1,100 with additional 20-round cards purchased for $1,000. Daily rates are $55 Monday through Thursday and $65 Friday through Sunday. Twilight rate after 4 p.m. daily is $40. Rates decrease $10 on September 16.

To get there: From Colorado Springs take C-105 from I-25 and head east to Roller Coaster Road and turn left. From Denver take County Line Road and head east. Take a right on Roller Coaster Road.

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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