Non–City Owned Courses
With their sprawling layouts and impressively appointed greens, these four public clubs merit a special look over their city-operated counterparts simply because of their more rural settings. On any Denver-area course, though, out-of-town golfers should keep in mind that the high altitude affects golf balls as it does baseballs—which is why the Rockies have so many more home runs when they bat at home. It's generally agreed that your golf ball will go about 10%–15% farther in the thin air here than it would at sea level.
Arrowhead Golf Club. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., this private course with rolling terrain is set impressively among red sandstone spires. It's 45 minutes from downtown in Roxborough State Park, which means that any members of your group who don't want to golf can hike nearby. The slow-paced play is made up for by allowing more time to spend looking at the spectacular scenery. 10850 W. Sundown Trail, Littleton, Colorado, 80125. 303/973–9614; www.arrowheadcolorado.com. $110 weekdays, $160 weekends.
Buffalo Run. A Keith Foster–designed private course and the site for the 2004 Denver Open, the bargain-priced Buffalo Run counts wide-open views of the plains surrounding its lake-studded course among its charms, which also include streams running through it and the Bison Grill Restaurant. Some of the greens play fast, and the exposed terrain can mean sloppy conditions after a run of wet weather, so call ahead for an update. 15700 E. 112th Ave., Commerce City, Colorado, 80022. 303/289–1500; www.buffalorungolfcourse.com. $27 weekends, $44 weekends.
Ridge at Castle Pines North. Tom Weiskopf designed this 18-hole course with great mountain views and dramatic elevation changes. It's ranked among the nation's top 100 public courses. It's in Castle Rock, about 45 minutes south of Denver on I–25. One of the course's distinguishing features is its commitment to pace of play; a series of programs have been implemented to help golfers stick to a schedule without cramping golfing styles. 1414 Castle Pines Pkwy., Castle Rock, Colorado, 80108. 303/688–4301; www.playtheridge.com. $115 weekdays, $145 weekends. Reservations essential.
Riverdale Golf Courses. It's two golf courses in one: Riverdale has the Dunes, a Scottish-style links course designed by Pete and Perry Dye that sits on the South Platte River and offers railroad ties, plenty of bunkers, and water; while the Knolls has a more gnarly, park-inspired layout. Both courses are shaded by plenty of trees, and you can't beat the price for this public facility maintained as pristinely as a private one. While you're here, be sure to peruse the on-site Colorado Golf Hall of Fame showcases. 13300 Riverdale Rd., Brighton, Colorado, 80601. 303/659–4700; www.riverdalegolf.com. Knolls $26 weekdays, $29 weekends for 18 holes; Dunes $39 weekdays, $48 weekends.
City-Owned Public Courses
Eight courses—City Park, Harvard Gulch, Evergreen, Kennedy, Overland Park, Wellshire, and Willis Case, along with Aqua Golf, a water driving range—are operated by the City of Denver and are open to the public. Green fees for all range from $25 to $37. For advance reservations golfers must use the City of Denver Golf Reservation System (on the Web or by phone) up to seven days in advance. For same-day tee times you can call the starters at an individual course. Reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance with a Denver Golf Loyalty card, free by visiting any Denver golf course location.
Aqua Golf. Two 18-hole miniature golf courses and a water driving range make this a fun spot for families and those looking to spend some time practicing. There are loaner clubs, as well as table tennis for those who don't golf. The clubhouse has a small snack bar, but you're also allowed to bring in your own food. 501 W. Florida Ave. , Overland, Denver, Colorado, 80223. 720/865--0880; cityofdenvergolf.com. $8 for 18 holes of miniature golf; $6 for 50 balls.
City Park. Since 1920, City Park's tree-lined public course at the north end of the park has been a popular go-to for an urban golf experience. The fairways are narrow but easily navigated, with welcome city skyline and mountain views from many of its mostly short, flat holes, primarily at the east end of the course. The Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science are almost within putting distance, so those in the group who don't want to golf have options. 2500 York St., City Park, Denver, Colorado, 80205. 303/295–2096; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $27 weekdays; $37 weekends.
Evergreen Golf Course. Situated 30 minutes from Denver and at an altitude of 7,220 feet, this public course offers golfers even more bang for their buck in terms of yardage–-but they may feel the extra exertion of walking along this rolling, public 18-hole executive course, as well. With its setting along Bear Creek in the midst of a pine-heavy forest, the course is a favorite byway for elk. 29614 Upper Bear Creek Rd., Denver, Colorado, 80439. 303/674–6351; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $25 weekdays, $36 weekends.
Harvard Gulch. For golfers on a time crunch, this 9-hole, par-3 beginners course–-the longest hole is 110 yards–-in South Denver is ideal. Low-key, walkable and completed in about an hour, the course features mountain views and tidy greens. If you're serious about golf etiquette–-including wearing appropriate attire, replacing divots, and yelling "fore"–-this is probably not the right course for you. Most folks here are just learning, but it's hard to beat the price and the convivial atmosphere. 660 Iliff Ave., South Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80212. 303/698–4078; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $9.
Kennedy Golf Course. The sprawling, rolling hills of this course feature magnificent mountain views and plenty of putting practice on the greens. Technically located in suburban Aurora southeast of Denver, the 27-hole regulation course has quite a bit of variety, with the short, tight Creek nine; longer, wider West nine; and a combination of both in the Babe Lind nine–-any two of which can be combined to make up your 18 holes. Miniature golf is on-site, as well. 10500 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora, Colorado, 80014. 720/865–0720; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $27 weekdays; $37 weekends.
Overland Park. Touted as the oldest continuously operating golf course west of the Mississippi–-it was once the Denver Country Club–-Overland Park has appealing city and mountain views as well as narrow but open fairways; small, easily read and well-bunkered greens; and fast play. The course is peppered with trees but sports only one water hazard, and the flat terrain makes for a fairly effortless walk. 1801 S. Huron St., Overland, Denver, Colorado, 80223. 303/698–4975; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $27 weekdays; $37 weekends.
Wellshire Golf Course. Designed in 1926 by Donald Ross and famously played by Ben Hogan, Wellshire Golf Course is known for its classic layout; small, slightly elevated greens; and intermittent mountain views. The foliage-heavy course is mostly flat and contains a handful of water hazards; fairways are narrow and sometimes run parallel to each other. The Wellshire has retained some of its old-time country club charm in the clubhouse and restaurant. 3333 S. Colorado Blvd., South Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80222. 303/692–5636; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $27 weekdays; $37 weekends.
Willis Case. Out of Denver's city-owned golf courses, arguably the best mountain views can be found at Willis Case, whose old-growth-covered, beautifully landscaped, gently rolling terrain can be found right off I–70. The first tee feels as if you are aiming straight for the Rockies, and the sloping fairways, guarded greens, and strategically placed bunkers make for moderately challenging play. 4999 Vrain St., North Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80212. 720/865–0700; www.cityofdenvergolf.com. $27 weekdays; $37 weekends.