Jim Engh's Colorado

Monday July 16th, 2007
Wild ride: The 14th hole at Red Hawk Ridge.
Dick Durrance II

Architect Jim Engh has single-handedly raised the bar for golf in Colorado, from the ultra-exclusive Sanctuary course in Sedalia in 1997 to his most recent effort, Lakota Canyon Ranch in New Castle, which has already cracked Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play. His design philosophy is simple: He wants you to have fun. And you will. His imaginative courses combine visual beauty and unpredictable quirkiness. Here are a handful of Engh's Colorado tracks that will make your next trip to the mountains a real blast.

\nRed Hawk Ridge Golf Club
Castle Rock (1999)
6,859 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $54-$79; 720-733-3500,
redhawkridge.com | GOLF.com Course Finder Profile

\nFans of the Engh style will love this track 45 minutes south of Denver. Dramatic downhill par 5s bookend the round, but the contouring is more subdued than on his later projects, with flatter greens, softer mounds and more visible sand, making for more playable, if less adventurous, shots. At 6,400 feet, into-orbit drives are the norm from the elevated tees.

Ambience
Challenge
Value for money

Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club
New Castle (2004)
7,111 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $65-$85; 970-984-9700,
lakotacanyonranch.com

\nNew Castle could refer to the remarkable number of homes popping up on the back nine at Lakota Canyon, but purists shouldn't despair. The houses don't detract from one of the state's greatest closing holes, the downhill, risk/reward, 557-yard par-5 18th, which goads optimists to bang a second shot over a scrub-filled canyon to a generous green guarded by a pot bunker to the left and by an extension of the canyon to the right.

Ambience
Challenge
Value for money

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa
Grand Junction (2001)
7,007 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $84-$100; 970-263-9270,
redlandsmesa.com | GOLF.com Course Finder Profile

\nThe most remote of Engh's Colorado courses — located near Grand Junction — may also be his best. Critics harp that too many houses have destroyed the layout's aesthetic appeal, but the playability and thrills have not been affected. Redlands Mesa rolls out one visually arresting hole after the next. As a quartet, the par 3s rank with the most memorable in the U.S., with holes 8, 12 and 17 offering vertigo-inducing plunges, each with its own character.

Ambience
Challenge
Value for money

Fossil Trace Golf Club
Golden (2003)
6,831 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $53-$75; 303-277-8750,
fossiltrace.com | GOLF.com Course Finder Profile

\nSerious suds guzzlers know that Golden, Colo., is home to the Coors brewing company, and you'll be ready for a cold one after dueling the 12th, a 585-yard par 5 that drops into a fairway dotted with sandstone pillars, remnants from a clay-mining operation that Engh retained. The severe bunkers feature grass biceps and skinny slivers of sand, but what you'll remember more are the incredible variety of holes, and the triceratops and palm-frond fossil exhibit that you can tour after holing out at 12.

Ambience
Challenge
Value for money

Snowmass Club
Aspen (2004)
7,008 yards, par 72 Greens fee: $120-$185; 970-923-5700,
snowmassclub.com | GOLF.com Course Finder Profile

\nPerched at 8,000 feet, this is Engh's redo of a 35-year-old layout that should have been called Snow-mess. Hamstrung in spots by preexisting corridors, Engh nonetheless delivered a raucous ride that engages at every turn. Warning: Conserve your energy early on, as the par-37 back nine is 414 yards longer than the front.

Ambience
Challenge
Value for money

TRIP TIPS

\n• Stay here

\nSnowmass Club in Aspen offers superior lodging and private-club amenities as well as easy access to Snowmass Village, which rocks in ski season. It's also convenient to Engh's noteworthy Western courses. Two-bedroom units start from $3,400 per week. 970-923-5860, alpineproperty.com

\n• Eat here

\nEngh's favorite locals' haunt is Bud's Bar, a friendly hole in the wall in Sedalia, just south of Denver, that has served the state's best burgers since 1948. Its prices ($5.20 for the Double Cheeseburger is the menu's priciest item) makes Bud's worth finding. 5453 Manhart St., 303-688-9967

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