Colorado: Roadtrip to Diversity

So you don’t think Colorado is that large of a state. Well, I just finished an 873-mile SUV journey to three distinct and different golf destinations. Someone once said if you stretched Colorado’s mountains flat it would be twice the size of Texas.

Now that’s a “stretch” but my road trip was unforgettable including northern Colorado’s Berthoud and Loveland, home of the brand-new TPC Colorado; the remote Ballyneal sandhills of the north eastern plains; and the purple mountain majesty of Colorado Springs’ 100-year old Broadmoor.

Test that Colorado 10 percent altitude bump at TPC Colorado and its 773-yard, Par 5

TPC Colorado made some memories come flooding back.  There was a day when I nailed a drive into the Principal’s Nose bunker at the Old Course at St. Andrews and that famous stacked sod bunker looked like a Colorado Mountain to launch a 60-degree wedge over.

But today this wasn’t St. Andrews, this was the new TPC Colorado and Larry Collins, former European Tour Player, Southern Cal Trojan Pac-8 champion and TPC Colorado General Manager, was there to help.  I approached my ball up against a 8-foot tall sodded face and asked if I was lined up correctly. No way I could see the flag. Larry said, “aim a little left – if you hit it correctly the slope of the green can give you a good result.”

Bingo, I cleared the face and the ball rolled toward the pin.

TPC Colorado in Berthoud (north of Denver) is the state’s first new course in a decade and although the infrastructure is a bevy of heavy-machinery beeps, movement and dust there have been so many members sign up that play is busy. The membership could number 250 by end of year.

The way Collins explains it they have been conducting a “whisper” campaign – word of mouth – not knowing how non-members would react to a $170 fee in such a construction site complete with portable pottys. The public can play on an availability basis.

The clubhouse, including pro shop and bar and grill could be finished by late October. Phase 2 includes community center, pool, fitness facility, full-service restaurant, member-only dining, and locker rooms. It can host weddings, banquets, and corporate gatherings.

But this golf course and its extensive practice range, short-game setup and putting green (and another unfinished putting green by the clubhouse) is ready for play.

Colorado native Art Schaupeter, a protégé of Keith Foster, has designed an interesting layout that is very long in yardage and design features. Views come from the Lonetree, McNeil and Welch Reservoirs and the Rocky Mountains and Long’s Peak – great for an 800-acre planned golf community.

Sod-walled bunkers like they have in the British Isles could not sustain the heat of a Colorado summer, so Durabunkers stacked and synthetic, give this course some character along with other styles of flashed bunkering.

The land only has 60 feet of elevation change, but the length is big even for high altitude.  It is 7,991 yards long at par 72, and features the monster 13th, a 773-yard par 5 – longest hole in Colorado and enough to test pros in an upcoming event yet to name a sponsor.

The second hole, a peninsula 238-yarder with Biarritz green is risk-reward along with three par fours that have the element of gamble. Then there’s the 10th, 377 yards of Riviera-inspiration – bunkers are numerous and the green is narrow and diagonal demanding proper placement of the drive and second shot. 

The 16th is a beautiful par three of 140 yards facing the reservoirs and mountain views, but Collins says each tee shot could be viewed by as many as 100 clubhouse diners. Maybe that’s why they named the hole “Center Stage”.

TPC Colorado is 49 miles north of Denver, 18 miles south of Fort Collins and located in a fast-growing bedroom community minutes from the famous old railway town of Loveland.

The road to Ballyneal – its rugged and dusty but worth the trek

Next stop on my journey took me to Ballyneal, a world-ranked walking only private course in the sandhills of northeastern Colorado, minutes from Nebraska, and situated in the extreme boondocks.

What a getaway.

Twelve years ago a youthful membership with purists leanings immediately were drawn to Ballyneal, when it opened in 2006. Tom Doak of Bandon Dunes fame designed the minimalistic masterpiece and the membership, comprised of walkers came from all over the United States. Members also came from Denver, 174 miles away.

And they walked – 36 holes a day – and retired to the clubhouse and restaurant for laid-back evening camaraderie.

But one day the question was raised. What happens when the membership at a walking-only course begins to age? The answer was build a 12-hole short course and it was named, fittingly, The Mulligan Course, not for a second chance shot, but for Ballyneal’s very first caddie – Charlie Mulligan, who has now passed on.

“I think this is a course that will be played at the end of the day,” said Dave Hensley, General Manager. “Maybe you had a disappointing 18 on the big course and decide you want to redeem yourself by hitting some better shots to finish the day before dinner.”

Mulligan features chop hills scrub between you and the “Doak-a-bolical” putting surfaces. Some are enormous with friendly bounces built in, but this will definitely test better golfers. The fun parts also include some huge, breaking downhill putts that will test your creativity.

The Broadmoor – 100 years of luxury, world-class golf

It was a man named Spencer Penrose who had a grand vision for Colorado Springs. He said it was where the west begins and he built a grand hotel with unrivaled beauty and luxury. European elegance and western hospitality was foremost. It’s timeless and has hosted Kings, Queens, world leaders and celebrities from all walks of life.

When famed architect Donald Ross finished what is now called Broadmoor East he said it was his best design to date and that portfolio included what is now Pinehurst No. 2.  Robert Trent Jones redesigned the East Course in 1958 and added what was called The Broadmoor Nine before returning in 1964 to complete the West Course — which is actually a conglomeration of Ross and Jones holes wrapped up in a new routing.

Today, the longest consecutive winner of the Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond awards for excellence continues to stand truer than ever to that original vision. The Broadmoor Centennial in 2018 is not only a reason to celebrate its history, but also to renew a commitment to offering the finest in facilities and amenities for the next 100 years to come. It’s a true renaissance.

The Broadmoor East Course

Few younger Broadmoor visitors know that in 1941, when Ed Dudley was named head pro, it began an impressive, historic period. Dudley spent his summers at The Broadmoor and winters as head pro at Augusta National. He stayed for 22 seasons and was responsible for drawing many of the Hollywood celebrities to the storied fairways.

The fourth hole is a 157-yard par three that certainly got Mallon’s attention in 1995. On the final day she took a triple-bogey six here, hitting into the water fronting the difficult green. If she had only made par on the hole or bogey, she would have bested Sorenstam.

No. 18, a 415-yard, par-4, doglegs right, with a pond 125 yards out, creating an approach with The Broadmoor Clubhouse in the foreground. In 1959 Nicklaus and Charlie Coe reached the tee all square.  Nicklaus hit 20 feet below the hole, but Coe made a tactical error — his approach flew the green creating a scary downhill return. Astoundingly, Coe chipped his third stiff. It was a gimme, but Nicklaus stroked in his birdie putt winning his first major one-up.

The Broadmoor West Course

In order to make way for the new Broadmoor West Residence homes, Nos. 1 and 2 were redesigned. The waterfall and pond were removed from the right side of the fairway on the opening hole and the green moved left of the former location. No. 2 has been reduced from a par five to a 435-yard par four with the tee box shifting left of the old location.  It also changes the West Course from a Par 72 to 71, measuring 7,158 yards from the Blue Tees.

No. 11 is a signature beauty set in a cove surrounded by evergreens and fronted by a menacing lake. The par-3, 232-yarder drops in elevation 100 feet, and the green is 30 yards deep and slants to the water. If you hit to the right side of the green you might get a good kick toward the pin, but you can also easily chip from the right and roll off the slick green. In a recent corporate outing, Sergio Garcia was present to join each group. One official watching said Garcia made one par out of a baker’s dozen attempts.

Beware of the twelfth green on this par-4, 490-yard dogleg right. It appears to be somewhat flat, but just watch as your chip from the front apron picks up speed as it rolls off the back of the green. The novice might think it is flat, but you are now going downhill back to the resort. No. 13 is a fun driving hole. It’s only 361 yards but fairway bunkers shrink the landing area and the approach is testy. A pond guards the right side to a devilish green that is teardrop-shaped.

Dining, lodging on a road trip

At The Broadmoor we dined at The Grille, Summit, Lake Terrace Dining Room and had drinks at The Golden Bee. At Ballyneal check out Happy Jacks in Holyoke and The Turtle Bar & Restaurant. I bunked down in The Terrapin Lodge. In Loveland we were hosted by Visit Loveland at the Embassy Suites and Door 222 for dining. Loveland’s micro-breweries include Verboten Brewery, Crow Hop Brewing and Loveland Aleworks.

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