Boondocks Recreation at Grandote Peaks Golf Course

By David R. Holland, Senior Writer

LA VETA, Colo. - There are a lot of advantages to golfing, skiing and living in the southern Colorado Rockies. You can do almost anything recreationally all by your lonesome. It's a lifestyle hermits love. On a Monday at mid-morning there were 10 cars in the parking lot at Grandote Peaks Golf Course. Just 12 miles south to the tiny resort ski town of Cuchara, folks have been know to traverse the slopes and count the number of other skiers on 10 digits.

If you go

Call it boondocks recreation. Destination golf. Whatever you call it -- it can be heaven if you love to get away from the crowds. Oh, the crowds show up, naturally, but that is more likely to happen on the weekends. The course is rated four stars by Golf Digest and 16th best in Colorado.

Grandote Peaks is located in the Huerfano County town of LaVeta, population 700. Its spectacular scenery includes the majestic Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo range. Climb to tee box No. 1 and your panorama is the West Peak, which rises 13,600 feet, and if you look closely, the Cuchara Valley Ski Resort is in the distance. Your scenery quota for the day can be checked off and the round hasn't even started.

No. 1 is a dogleg-left par-5, 570 yards from the back. Depending on the wind, a big hitter can reach it in two, but once the duffer reaches the fairway there's one thing that opens his eyes wide -- just off the 2-inch first-cut rough -- just a few feet off the cart path -- is knee-high, ball-grabbing, never-find-the-ball native grass. And your "rough" on some holes is the fast-moving Cuchara River. The duffer knows this is going to be a long day.

"What I really like about this course other than the scenery," said Cuchara resident Jim McCandless, "is that this is a tough course. The rough will get you eventually."

There are two small bunkers short of the green, but none surrounding it. So enjoy, because there are a total of 40 more bunkers up ahead and some of these partially surround select greens.

The second hole not only has a hard-to-see landing area, but you must drive through a chute. It is wet to the left, then the river crosses the fairway and curves to act as a boundary running along the right side of the fairway. It's 389 yards and if you don't hit the fairway, you are in deep trouble.

The best birdie chance is the par-four, No. 4, which is 310 yards in length, but has a deep bunker guarding the front entrance. Take advantage, because the Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish 1987 design, has 11 holes with water that comes in to play.

The finish is arduous -- if you are braindead, brace yourself. No. 15 is the third toughest hole, No. 16 is ranked fourth hardest and No. 17 is ranked toughest ... a 458-yard par-four into the prevailing southerly wind. No. 18 is a 522-yard par-five with water crossing the fairway and a lake guarding the right side toward the green.

Grandote Peaks has four tee box selections. The black measures 7,085 yards and from the red ladies' tees it is 5,608.

If there's a negative to this layout it is that many locals can't afford it. The cost is $45 on weekdays and $65 on the weekends. Carts are $22 for 18 holes. However, new management has lowered season passes, including one $600 season pass, which includes a restriction of play after 2:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and before 1 p.m. on Sundays. The cost is $800 for a couple.

That's a step in the right direction, but thunderstorms are prevalent during those times. Still, locals would like to see a special daily Huerfano County resident rate and an even greater savings for resident seniors. Huerfano County is one of the poorest in the state.

The course has bent grass greens and bluegrass fairways. Because it is a semi-arid climate, course superintendent Wayne Smith said they pour 650,000 gallons of water on the course daily, when it doesn't rain. "We are improving the course all the time," Smith said. "This year we are upgrading the irrigation system and improving the cart paths."

"We got some winter kill this year, so we have some bare spots on the fairways and greens," said McCandless, "but by the end of June the course will be in great shape."

Dawne Kortgaard, winner of the 1998 Colorado Women's Open, is the head pro. She was a touring LPGA player in mid-1980s.

Grandote Peaks is three hours south of Denver. To reach the course from northern Colorado, take I-25 south to Walsenburg, then go 11 miles west on U.S. 160. Watch for the left turn from U.S. 160 on Highway 12 to LaVeta, which is four miles south. The course is on the south side of town. LaVeta has a private airport, but the nearest commercial airports are in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

The course is closed mid-November through mid-April.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Senior Writer

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 at @David_R_Holland.


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