Though Aspen and its environs, no surprise, have some stellar private clubs (including three of Golf Digest’s top 14 courses in Colorado), you don’t have to be a billionaire to play great mountain golf if you book a tee time at one of these public gems. Remember to call or check online for information on social distancing, mandatory masks, and other Covid-related measures before teeing off.
The club offers convenience; big views of Pyramid Peak, Mount Hayden, and Independence Pass; and clever routing that takes full advantage of the course’s limited acreage. That routing, as well as ponds and creeks that come into play on 11 holes, make club choice and strategy key at this city-owned muni that has the look and feel of a private club. Keep in mind: everything breaks toward the Roaring Fork River, away from Aspen. High-season (until Sept 8) rates: $180 for 18 holes (cart included); twilight rates and affordable season-pass offerings bring down the per-round cost considerably.
Designed by acclaimed course architect and Colorado native Jay Morrish, this Carbondale beauty offers views of Mount Sopris from every hole. The course plays along the scenic Crystal River—you must hit your tee shot across it on three holes. The rolling terrain rewards properly positioned drives with extra yardage and open looks at the well-protected greens. High-season (until Nov 1) rates: $99 until 1 p.m., $79 from 1 to 3 p.m., and $49 after 3 p.m., all with cart included.
Famed for its back nine, which starts with four dramatic holes tucked in a hidden valley, the course also boasts a solid front side, with two holes along the Roaring Fork River and ponds that come into play on five others. Designed by noted architect Arthur Hills and refined by 1996 British Open champ Tom Lehman in 2014, this semi-private course near Glenwood Springs merits the drive from Aspen. High-season (until Sept 30) rates: $129 for 18 holes (with cart), $79 after 3 p.m. and during October.
The Ranch at Roaring Fork in Carbondale has a nine-hole, par-3 course that’s perfect for getting kids started. Glenwood Springs Golf Club (glenwoodspringsgolf.com), affectionately known as “The Hill” for its location on gentle slopes above town, is a full-length, nine-hole locals’ favorite.
Thin mountain air adds length to golf shots. “In Aspen, it’s about a 10 percent advantage on your distance, so you’re going to be about a club to a club-and-a-half longer,” says Jim Pratt, head pro at the Aspen Golf Club.
This year’s hot new equipment: TaylorMade’s SIM Max Fairway club (shown) and SIM Max Rescue hybrid. Says Steve VanDyke, director of golf at River Valley Ranch, “The V Steel technology reduces turf friction and gives versatility in tight and difficult lies, and the multi-material head provides power with a high launch but low spin.” $300/$250