Experience the Front Range at Indian Peaks Golf Course

By Nate Nalbandian, Contributor

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - When I speak to friends that have never visited Colorado I find that they are generally under the impression that the weather is almost always cold and that there is snow on the ground for most of the year. Golf, they assume, is not high up on the activities' list. After all, it is the Rocky Mountains and all people do in Colorado is ski.

They are surprised, then, when I contradict these misconceptions by telling them that I have played golf in the Front Range on January 1st or 2nd a few times in the past couple of years in temperatures from 60 to 70 degrees. In fact, almost any day the sun is out in the Denver and Front Range area is a good day to be out and even better to be playing golf.

Many tracks in the area stay open year round and offer excellent golf at great rates, especially in the off-season. One such course is Indian Peaks Golf Course. At 6,617-yards, this public course located in Lafayette, Colorado this is one of my favorite courses in this area. Indian Peaks is a Hale Irwin Signature Course and, as you may or may not know, Irwin is an alumnus from the nearby University of Colorado at Boulder.

Another great attribute of this course is the view! Set a couple of miles out from the base of the foothills you enjoy classic Front Range views of the snow-covered back mountains throughout the year. No matter how your round is going you can always step back, look around and return to your next shot just a little bit more calm thanks to the view.

Indian Peaks typifies Front Range golf. The course itself is fairly open with sweeping vistas and relatively few large trees compared to, say, North Carolina. Its openness is deceiving due to the tall wild grass that surrounds most of the course and makes it difficult to find an errant ball.

The design, however, does utilize the existing trees very strategically. For example, on the par-5 first, a dogleg left, a big driver has the option of going over a lake and cutting the corner over the out-of-bounds marker. However, he must contend with two huge oaks that leave a very narrow corridor to the fairway. These two trees have a habit of knocking low tee shots either back into the lake or out-of- bounds. For most of us, though, the safe play is a mid-iron safely to the bend in the dogleg that will take anything less than a par out of play.

Another result of an open design with few trees is that there are inevitably options for tee shots that can pay off big, if well executed, or leave us hitting three from the tee, if not. Similar to the first in that respect is the sixth, a par four dogleg left. From the tee you can see the green and it appears to be about 350-375 yards away as the crow flies, although the hole measures about 425 yards. It looks as if you could hit a decent drive and leave yourself with a moderate wedge to the green. However, about 250 of those yards include water.

The option between the very high-risk shot and hitting an iron and following the fairway, which leaves nearly 200 to get home, is to aim for a bunker around the bend in the fairway and on the other side of the lake. Don't worry, the shape of the lake allows some leeway, although you still need to crank it to clear the water. If all goes well you will end up with about 100-125 yards remaining. This hole is definitely a good opportunity for birdies.

The companion of a course with few trees is inevitably the wind. And on the front nine, which weaves its way through prairie-like farmland, the wind can be fierce. Although there are only slight changes in elevation on the front, a few holes may be changed dramatically by the wind, obviously depending on its direction. I have seen the par-4 384-yard 3rd reached from the tee with the help of a timely gale.

Conversely, the two par-3's, #5 and #8, are made very difficult to hit as they both run perpendicular to the normal path of the wind that generally rushes west to east down from the nearby mountains. Another weatherly quirk about this area is that, in the summer, it seems that a patch of rain and wind tends to move in at about four o'clock nearly every day. Curiously enough, this only lasts for about a half an hour at the most but remember to bring your raingear if you plan to be out around that time.

The back nine at Indian Peaks, I believe, outdoes the front. It is similar to the front in many ways yet differs in one respect most notably: hills. Typically golf courses in this area are located on flat, prairie-like land without many elevation changes.

Therefore, it's lovely to see a course in the area that varies from the norm. The par-4 tenth sets you up with a great downhill tee-shot as an opportunity to start the back well. And, although the next few holes are relatively level, holes from the 14th on build an uphill anticipation to my favorite finishing hole in this area.

If possible, try to get on the tee of the par-4 18th right around sunset. On a clear day the view is awesome! The 18th plays just over 400 yards, all downhill and is a great hole on which to make something happen, especially if you are in close competition with some friends. Be careful, though! Sometimes the anticipation of such a great driving hole is enough to give you your worst drive of the day.

Following your round, you may retreat to the clubhouse for refreshments on the deck overlooking the ninth hole and the mountains. Or, you may get right back into working on your game at the practice facilities which include an exceptional sandtrap area. The helpful and friendly staff will direct you to whatever you need, be it reservations for your next round or setting up your next lesson.

Playing the Indian Peaks Golf Course is a superb way to experience Front Range golf. The course is open yet challenging and provides top-notch golf for the best shot-maker as well as the tremendous slouch. With moderate pricing for this well-maintained public course, Indian Peaks is a staple of Colorado golf.

Nate Nalbandian, Contributor

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