Copper Creek: Beware of Bears Lacking Golf Etiquette at 9,700 Feet

By David R. Holland, Contributor

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO -- You have just stroked one down the fairway at Copper Creek's No. 9. As you approach the ball from the left side of the fairway it dawns on you that the big black fur ball sitting on the green is a bear.

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What do you do? A) Try to act casual as you walk to the green and ask the bear politely if you can play through. B) Go ahead and hit it, taking a chance that Smokey isn't ticked off when your ball conks him on the noggin. C) Seek the help of a ranger or go to the pro shop for assistance.

The answer is C.

This actually happened. "The bear wouldn't budge," said head pro David Twohig. "He just sat there for the longest time. We finally called the Copper Mountain Fire Department and they got the bear to leave."

Talk about a fire department kitty-up-a-tree story. Big kitty.

Expect anything when you are playing golf at the highest championship golf course in North America. At 9,700 feet, Copper Creek can seem suspended in the air. Towering 13,000-foot peaks of the Ten Mile Range and Gore Range surround you. One of the world's best ski areas is at your feet. And winter hangs on like a Brad Pitt groupie.

"In a recent year we had 24 frost-free days," said Twohig. "You can bank on it. We have the shortest golf season in North America. We have closed as early as Sept. 22."

Whew, do you think the superintendent has an easy job here? No way. Just when things are looking good and the greens fill in nicely -- bang. Jack Frost.

Still, with only four months of play, Copper Creek hosts about 16,000 rounds, but this was the first summer in three years that the entire 18 holes have been opened because of growing pains at the ski resort. A new Super Bee lift, Colorado's first high-speed six-person chairlift, was installed right through the old No. 1 tee box and near the No. 9 green.

Castle Rock golf architect Jim Engh was called in to redesign both. His new ninth hole is a short, strategic par 4 only 264 yards. At the end of the fairway the green is tucked to the right, guarded by trees. Big hitters can sky their tee shot over the trees on the right and reach the green. Shorter hitters need to place their tee ball down the left-center to have the best angle to a green that has deep bunkers surrounding it.

Copper Creek is a Pete and Perry Dye creation that opened in 1976. Railroad ties are in abundance, Dye's trademark, but the thing you will notice early in your round is how tight it seems. Some banana-ball golfers may never feel confident enough to pull out the driver.

Looking at the scorecard it is only 6,057 yards from the tips, at par 70, but it plays longer with the tightness and soft fairways.

"I get phone calls all the time from golfers wanting to know about the course," said Twohig, "and when I tell them 6,057 yards they normally aren't interested. But if they only come and try it out they will find it plays longer."

"Copper Creek is in a beautiful setting," said Rob Mohr of Denver. "There are spectacular views and lots of very elevated tee boxes. It is a tight design with pine forests and mountains that are snow covered until June. The fairways are in great shape but some of the greens are bumpy and slow. But I imagine it's a little difficult to maintain greens at 10,000-foot altitude. The staff is excellent -- after a brief rain storm, rangers found every golfer on the course and offered dry towels."

The front nine is a winding adventure through railroad-tie bordered lakes and alpine terrain with mounds framing the greens. It's strategic. You will need accuracy more than distance.

It's picture-postcard beauty when you make the turn and head up the mountain at hole No. 13, at the base of the A lift. This hole is a 508-yard par-5 and sets the tone. The rest of your round will be spent in the upper parts of the course among the huge trees and remnants of an old mining town.

No. 17 is a par-3 chute, 167 yards -- frame your shot and photo with the mountains reaching almost as high as you can gaze.

Copper Mountain, owned by Intrawest, is experiencing a "Renaissance", which will turn the ski resort into one of the best in the world. An influx of $500 million is being pumped into the resort, which includes Copper Station, Copper Springs Lodge, state-of-the-art snowmaking, and Copper's Center Village, complete with outdoor ice skating.

Copper Creek Golf Club
104 Wheeler Place
Copper Mountain, CO 80443

800-458-8386 or 970-968-2882, ext. 4653.

Directions: It's 75 miles from Denver. Take 1-70 to the Copper Mountain exit No. 195. Follow the signs to Copper Creek Golf Club.

Internet: Want a world-class ski opportunity? Check out or

Green Fees: Resort guests $75, includes cart. Public $85. Value season $50 and $60. After 3 p.m. $55 and $35 value season. Regular season is June 17 through September 17.

Where to Eat: Molly B's Rocky Mountain Tavern is located right next to the Copper Creek Golf Shop in Copper Station, a brand-new 40,000-square-foot day lodge.

Where to Stay: Wildernest is Copper Mountain's alternative lodging, with great deals on spacious condos, some with five bedrooms, washers and dryers and access to hot tubs.

Several of Wildernest's Dillon condos and townhomes are located steps away from Lake Dillon -- home to many outdoor recreational activities. Or you may choose to stay in Silverthorne or Frisco, where you can hike the miles of trails in the Arapahoe National Forest right out your back door. Copper Creek is just 10 minutes away.

Wildernest has rental properties throughout the Summit County area. Call 800-458-8386 or check out their internet site at:

Copper Mountain Golf Packages and Lodging:

Summer Activity: Spend the day biking, rafting, fishing or just basking in the sun. Copper Mountain has horseback riding, fly-fishing, tennis and various dining and shopping opportunities.

History: The Copper Mountain area was once known as Wheeler Junction and didn't become Copper Mountain until 1972 when the ski area was born. Wheeler? Actually there were two "Wheelers" and they were not related.

Judge John S. Wheeler came to Colorado for the gold rush. Lieutenant George M. Wheeler, headed the U.S. Geographical Survey under the War Department from 1873 to 1876.

One can imagine that when the Wheeler name was mentioned, folks would respond: "Which Wheeler are you talking about?"

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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