Pole Creek Golf Club: Mountain Golf at its Best

By David R. Holland, Contributor

Regional Staff Writer FRASER, Colo. - Standing on the ninth tee at Pole Creek Golf Club's spanking new "Ridge" layout may evoke daydreams. You might envision yourself as Jean-Claude Killy just as easily as Justin Leonard. This par-five, 561-yarder has a 110-foot drop in elevation. Hey, you could ski down this. Or you could blast a 300-yard drive.

Your panorama opens up a view of the entire valley. "The first time I saw the valley bisected by Pole Creek with meadows of wildflowers and the meandering perimeter tree-line, it was almost as if you could mow the tall grasses, set flags out and be ready to play," said Denis Griffiths, designer of Pole Creek's new nine holes, which officially opened for play on August 2. "The site is truly a natural."

Griffiths' new nine, expanding Pole Creek to 27 holes, was designed to be significantly different from the existing 18 -- most likely because it includes homesites. The Ridge fairways climb straight uphill behind the clubhouse and continue in a linking fashion. There's only one location where fairways parallel each other. Basically the layout goes up the hill and back down the hill.

The most impressive thing about Pole Creek is its management and friendliness. This team really wants you to enjoy your day, and that concern starts immediately when the starter, on this morning, Susan Meddick, gave each foursome a briefing.

She explains that groups will go off in 10-minute intervals (most courses go at a seven-to-eight rate). She will remind you of golf etiquette, tell you about all the yardage markers from the blue stakes to sprinkler heads, and that the color of the pins tell you what part of the green the hole is located (red for front, white for center and blue for back). She will also remind you that the back tees are for eight handicappers or better.

"That 10-minute interval is key," said Mark Westover, a teaching pro for Pro Golf Schools. "I live in Las Vegas during the winter and they continue to send golfers out at seven-minute intervals. Almost immediately, people start to back up and you have six-hour rounds. Here at Pole Creek the standard is four-and-a-half hours or less."

All this adds up to the following honors bestowed by Golf Digest: 1985 Best New Public Course in America, 1988 and 1990 Top 75 Public Courses, 1996 Top 75 "Upscale" Public Courses and 1996 the No. 1 "Place to Play" in Colorado.

On the existing 18, the "Meadow" nine opens with a simple short uphill par four. No. 2, a par five, at 534 yards, is a gem. There are lodgepole pines left and right framing the 13,000-foot peaks of the Continental Divide.

The most talked about hole at Pole Creek since it opened in 1985 is No. 7 of the Meadow nine. This 584-yard par five lets you cut the dogleg left off the tee (it's a 90-degree dogleg). But unless you place it precisely, you will have a downhill lie over a lake (just imagine how many balls are in here) to an elevated green or to a layup zone.

Remember Aggie jokes? This is an Aggie hole. It's also been called "squirrelly". Some have called this a wonderful, imaginative thinking hole. Others have said it is an awful hole that should be bulldozed. For an average player this is a double bogey. For an 18-handicapper this is at least a snowman or worse.

This hole is so frightful a marshall is stationed down the fairway to give yardage advice and keep the hackers moving. But again, that's to Pole Creek management's advantage -- another example of how this management team is thinking.

"Let me just say some people think No. 7 is unfair and leaves you little margin for error," said Westover.

"It forces you to play two good shots and it is definitely a hole you need to play at least a couple of times to know where to position your shots for the best lies. The first time I played it I made a birdie -- the last time I made a bogey."

The "Ranch" nine opens with a double-dogleg left -- a 593-yard par five. The Ranch measures 3,609 from the back and water comes into play of five holes. The Meadow nine is 3,498 yards and the Ridge is 3,603.

All three are par 36 with the Meadow-Ranch combination sporting ratings from 72.9/139 to 66.4/122 for the men and measuring 7,107 from the back. At 8,600 feet most agree the ball will travel 10 to 15 percent farther. The original 18 were designed by Gary Player and Ron Kirby.

This is typical mountain golf -- beautiful scenery, cool days and way too many downhill, sidehill and awkward lies. Most city folks think scenery and the cool mountain air are most important and that they can put up with looking at a crooked-lying ball all day.

Pole Creek is located an easy 12 to 15 minutes from the base of the Winter Park ski runs. It's 80 miles from Denver -- take I-70 West to Exit 232, then U.S. 40 through Winter Park and past Fraser. Look closely for a small blue highway sign and turn left.

Phone 800-511-5076 for tee times and plan in advance because this is a busy course. Also, if you want to play the new nine be sure and call before you go because management plans to rotate play the first year, not wanting to tread too much on the immature growth.

Pole Creek will cost you $80 during the high season from June 20 to September 12. Cart rental is $12.50. Season passes are available along with a twilight special.

Pole Creek Golf Club
P.O. Box 3348
Winter Park, CO 80482

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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