Walking Stick Golf Course: A Links Bargain in Pueblo

By David R. Holland, Contributor

When playing golf what is important to you? Scenery, trees, the condition of the course, the degree of difficulty or the value?

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Sometimes hype, advertising, or publicity can tell us one thing when our underlying thought is completely different after we've seen the course in person. What's ugly to some is beautiful to others.

Pueblo's highly-praised links course is rated one of the best and most affordable in the USA.

Take Walking Stick Golf Course -- since this city-owned links-style course was opened in 1991 it has been heaped with praise. Golfweb says it's ranked No. 10 Most Affordable Public Golf Course in America. In 1995 Golf Digest gave it four stars and its Top 5 ranking in value and difficulty. Golf Digest ranked it No. 8 in America for best value.

A description? Walking Stick is beautifully maintained, a formidable challenge, is a great value and was built on land uglier than a bald poodle. Three out of four ain't bad, right?

What is links golf anyway? It's basically treeless and Tom Kite once said of the British Open: "It's playing golf in a glorified cow pasture."

Before its ugly duckling to well-manicured transformation, Walking Stick wasn't even suitable for cows. Now, the fairways are excellent and, folks, they aren't smooth and flat. They are rolling, bumpy and have drainages flowing down to the many arroyos that are found throughout this 7,147-yard par-72 layout. (Links golf with mounds and rolling, bumpy fairways are synonymous).

Craig Stadler, who accompanied his son Kevin playing in a tournament at Walking Stick, said the greens were "funky". They are certainly a roller-coaster contour challenge. The bentgrass greens don't look very good this time of the year, but even though they look bombed out after 45,000 rounds a year, they are still putting smoothly.

Walking Stick is named for its abundance of native cholla (cacti) which when dead and dried has a skeleton that can resemble a walking stick or cane. Boy Scouts in the Southwest used them as slides for their neckerchiefs. In the old west cowboys "cussed" this land to high heaven. Try getting a leg brushed up against this stuff or worse being thrown from a horse into cholla. You've never experienced pain like that.

So you are saying the trendy Arizona golf courses are built on similar land and also have cacti. Saguaro are just a little more impressive than cholla.

Designed by Arthur Hills and Keith Foster, Walking Stick's course record 64 is shared by its Director of Golf Mike Zaremba, who has been here since its opening.

"Take advantage of the course on the par-5s," said Zaremba, a former Colorado Open champion, "because the par-4s are tough. People are always telling me what good shape the course is in and we get people in here from Denver and Colorado Springs and tourists from anywhere and everywhere."

You get a double shot of par-5s on holes No. 4 and 5. The fourth is a 544-yard dogleg left with an arroyo down the entire left side. The fifth is reachable in two, but the green has two dramatic tiers. If the pin is on top and you are on the lower tier this is one tough putt to get close or vice versa. No. 6 is a 197-yard par-3 that has a long bunker well below the putting surface on the left.

No. 13 is the hole your best birdie chance since the 489-yard par-5 is wide open. The other par-5 is No. 15. It's 545 yards, the fairway has extreme dips and there is a lake guarding the green. Unless you shoot for the far right, you have to negotiate this water.

One reason the course is in great shape is the climate. Pueblo resembles parts of Texas in summer climate. It's hot. Summer temperatures can hit 100 and the winters are milder for Colorado.

Les Carter of Pueblo said: "This course is always in good condition. The fairways are super nice and the greens are wonderful. And you won't believe some of the pin placements -- they can be really tough."

And, oh yeah City of Pueblo -- are you going to build a westbound Highway 50 exit from the Walking Stick area any time in this century? Don't think so. Let's shoot for next century.

Walking Stick Golf Course 4301 Walking Stick Blvd. Pueblo, CO 81001 (719) 584-3400

Directions: I-25, Highway 50, one mile east to the exit at the University of Southern Colorado. Go left over Highway and follow the zig-zagging road, watch for Walking Stick signs. Clubhouse on your left. Or take I-25 to exit 101, go East on Highway 47 1 ½ miles to Troy Ave., left to course.

Greens fees: weekdays: residents $17.50 weekdays, $19.50 weekends. Non-residents $22 weekdays, $24 weekends. Cart $18.

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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