Summit County Feature
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It isn't easy to define "golf" in Colorado, because the topography varies so dramatically, from the rolling plains near the Kansas state line to the flat-top buttes and mesas at the western end of the state. In the Rockies, the state's central spine, the courses climb up and down mountainsides; in the foothills the fairways roll over more gentle terrain and over canyons; and down in the cities many layouts march back and forth in confined spaces.
Rocky Mountain Courses
Mountain golf has unique challenges, but vacationers flock to the high-country golf courses because of their dramatic scenery. "Aim for that peak" is an oft-repeated phrase. It doesn't matter whether you are playing the Jack Nicklaus-designed 27-hole municipal course in Breckenridge, the Club at Crested Butte, or the golf course at the Snowmass Club, there's bound to be a hole where that description fits.
Resort courses, often available only to guests, are spread around mountain towns from Snowmass and Steamboat to Vail and Telluride. For example, if you stay at certain properties in Vail and Beaver Creek, you get access to the Tom Fazio course (woven through sagebrush-covered hills) and the Greg Norman course (spread around a broad valley with shots across ravines) at the posh, private Red Sky Golf Club in Edwards, 15 minutes west of Beaver Creek. Even if you're not staying in a hotel that has preferred tee times at specific resort courses, a good concierge (or your own Web search) will obtain tee times at many entertaining courses, such as the Raven at Three Peaks in Summit County and Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club in Steamboat.
When playing high-altitude golf, you do have to deal with mountain lies and illusions. The thrill of a clean hit and watching the ball fly 300 yards downhill may be deflected by the agony of seeing a putt topple off the back edge of a green because you "knew" that the green tilted left, although it actually sloped right. Lowland golfers who come to the mountains to play golf quickly learn they may have to change club lengths and lofts, because balls fly 10%–15% farther in the thinner air and land on never-level terrain. Greens are especially difficult to read, because the ball will try to roll from the highest mountain peak to the nearest valley—unless the course architect foxes players by building up the green's lower end to counterbalance that pull. Ask the pro in the golf shop for tips before setting out.
If you aren't heading up to the mountains, there are plenty of public and semiprivate courses in and around the bigger cities. Some city-owned courses in Denver proper tend to be unimaginative layouts in confined spaces, but there's a variety of challenging and award-winning courses in the surrounding burbs, especially in Lakewood, Littleton, and Parker. On the western slopes, a big standout is the Golf Club at Redland Mesa in Grand Junction. This Jim Engh public course is woven among mesas and sand-color flat-top buttes.
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