Arrowhead Golf Club: Golf on the Red Rocks

By David R. Holland, Contributor

LITTLETON, Colo. - Imagine playing golf in one of the more spectacular settings your mind can envision. The 18th hole at Pebble Beach most likely will come in to focus.

If you go

If you are a Coloradan with a passion for golf that vision might just be Arrowhead Golf Club located in Roxborough State Park just south of Denver.

Arrowhead Golf Club is by far the most photographed golf course in Colorado. Thank you Henry S. Persse for seeing the same vision more than 100 years ago. That vision however was 300 million years in the making geologically.

Around 1889 Persse was one of the original settlers of this spectacular front-range area that is famous for its dramatic red-rock formations. In fact, Persse's vision was of a resort with gardens, a hotel and golf links.

During the next several years, Persse acquired additional properties and in 1902 bought out the remaining partners, making him the sole owner of much of the land that would eventually become Roxborough State Park. The name Roxborough came from his families' estate back in Ireland.

Today, the golf course winds through the formations. Geologically, these formations were formed by erosion of "steep monoclinal sedimentary sections that resulted in a series of three major hogbacks and strike valleys, exposing highly scenic dipping plates, spires and monoliths. The formations are conspicuously red due to oxidation of iron minerals."

Huh? Yeah, yeah, let's play golf.

"Most people are just floored at the view just getting out of their cars in the parking lot," said Bob Persichetti, General Manager. "Then they get to the clubhouse and see the view from the restaurant. Some lucky golfers get to see deer, fox and even a bear. It is just a unique experience, a great layout with unique characteristics. This is not a cookie-cutter golf course by any means."

Robert Trent Jones II, the designer said: "When I first saw the site of the golf course at Roxborough Park, I was overwhelmed by the magnificent gifts that nature has bestowed on the property. The cathedral-like conglomerate rocks jutting up from the rolling terrain at the foothills of the Rockies is a majestic setting in which to establish a unique golf course."

Run by American Golf, Arrowhead has not always been praised to high heaven. The setting is worth the expensive ticket, but its bentgrass greens are under attack by poa anna and the 40,000 golfers a year alone could wear down a golf course. But these guys are trying.

There have been improvements made to the tune of $3.1 million recently. A new clubhouse to replace one that was burned to the ground, cost $2.1 million. And another million was spent on bunker reworking, improved drainage and maintenance.

Golf carts are equipped with the Global Positioning System, which keeps score, is your yardage book with tips and will actually tell you how far you have to the pin on your second shot.

"In the future we plan to enclose the patio of the On the Rocks Grille and increase the inside seating, replace the entire irrigation system and redesign all tee complexes in the next two to three years," Persichetti said.

Arrowhead hosts a grueling schedule of corporate and charity golf events. The John Elway Classic is played here.

"Thirty-five percent of our rounds are tournaments," Persichetti said. "In August we had 54 of these events (mostly 144-player touneys) and September is busy too. This is a tourist golf course and the majority of our players come from out of town. But we would love to hold a Nike event here or even schedule the Colorado Open sometime in the future."

The golf course has thick rough, many sand traps, narrow fairways, lots of water and greens that will challenge you. Most agree putts break toward Denver.

From the back tees Arrowhead measures only 6,682. The signature hole is the par-3, No. 13. From a tee box framed by the red-rock protrusions you must hit it 174 yards downhill. There's a lake behind the hole that is protected by two bunkers in the front.

The best birdie chance is the par-5 final hole. It is 543 yards, reachable in two, with a relatively flat green. Another par-5, the 454-yard 6th, is also reachable in two shots.

The No. 1 handicap hole is No. 4, a downhill beauty at 436 yards. It has an elevated green with a devious contour. In order to reach this green in two you have to rip a drive in a precise spot then go over a gully and water.

Once on the green you are surrounded by towering rocks and your voice will echo when you scream after three-putting this difficult green.

Aside from the views of the rocks you also have an excellent view of Denver from the par-3, 199-yard No. 3. Be sure to check out the left side of the green. It is nestled among and surrounded by the rocks.

On No. 7 you won't believe the break in this green. It's only 393 yards with a lake in front, but when the second shot lands your ball darts quickly to the right. You have to hit your approach well to the left of the flag.

"The scenery here is not to be missed," said Rick Rolater of Dallas. "It is a challenging course without being unfair to average players. The fairways are narrow in spots, but you can still hit them."

Opened in 1974, Arrowhead has been voted the No. 1 public course in the Denver area in the past, as well as one of America's "Top 75 Public Courses" by Golf Digest.

Back to our history lesson. Early settlers plowed the meadows between the rocks and planted crops. When this didn't work, they planted hay and even built an irrigation ditch above the field. During prohibition, Roxborough's remoteness made it a whiskey-running area because of the hiding places among the rocks and there was even a house of ill repute in the midst of the rocks. Gee, dance hall girls and a golf course, what a combination.

Arrowhead will cost you $110 from June through September and $85 the rest of the year. That includes golf cart, bag tag and range, but you can't use anything but irons (no woods allowed) off the plastic mats and turf.

Directions: From Denver take Interstate 25 south to C-470. West on C-470 to Santa Fe Drive. South on Santa Fe Drive to Titan Road. Turn right (west) on Titan Road and travel for 7½ miles. Follow signs to course.

Directions: Interstate Drive to Titan Road. Turn right (west) on Titan Road and travel for 7½ miles. Follow signs to the course. Coming from Colorado Springs take Highway 85 at Castle Rock and go north until you see the sign for Roxborough State Park. Go west -- you will have already seen the red rocks from the highway.

Arrowhead Golf Club (Resort)
10850 W Sundown Trail
Littleton, CO 80125
(303) 973-9614

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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