Golf Vacations Magazine

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Colorado’s Ironbridge Reborn

Golfvaca August 24, 2015

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO – The Lost Horizon is a beautiful, rugged, trailblazer-like stretch of four golf holes starting the back nine of Ironbridge Golf Club.

It is for adventurous, ravine-crossing, proficient golfers and begins after a one mile cart climb in elevation from the clubhouse high above the Roaring Fork Valley floor.

But beginners and hacks can find solace in just experiencing a golf club that includes the famous Roaring Fork River and an incredible view of 12,966-foot Mt. Sopris off in the distance toward Aspen.

Irongbridge was born in 2003 as an Arthur Hills Master design, but there’s history here.  It was first the nine-hole Westbank Golf Course that included two-acre lots within view of the Roaring Fork.

The Sienna Club at Rose Ranch was the first name tossed around when the expansion to 18 holes commenced — then The Club at Ironbridge opened as a private course. There was a grand opening with Hills attending, saying “this course comes alive with sienna-colored cliffs encircling the 18 holes and the Roaring Fork River, blending naturally into the riparian and mountain environment.”

Seven holes of the old Westbank layout were zapped and the new routing, a hefty 7,224 yards at par 72, was laid over sections of the old routing. There’s a meadows front nine that skirts the trout-laden Roaring Fork River and a mountainous back nine that climbs into ravines lined with piñons and junipers 300 feet above the river valley.

Well, hard times followed with bankruptcy and a change of ownership.

Today members and the public can tee it up at Ironbridge. And the club even has an instant celebrity in Director of Golf Doug Rohrbaugh, 53, who qualified this summer for the Senior PGA Championship in French Lick, Indiana, and also played in the U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento, California in June. He’s had 25 years as a teaching pro and worked as director of junior golf in Aspen.

“I think the first golfers who played back in 2003 gave it a WOW,” Rohrbaugh remembered. “But then they said it kicked their back side.”

The softening of Ironbridge

So the new ownership hired PGA Tour star Tom Lehman, a Colorado lover, to “soften” the routing and make it more playable for mid-handippers and novices.

“One of the first things Lehman pointed out was Augusta National has 44 bunkers and Ironbridge had around 70,” Rohrbaugh said.

So the bunker count went down to 40 and some bunkers that pinched in fairways were eliminated. If a bunker was deemed “enormous” it was whittled down and sometimes eliminated.

“We also created more options for golfers to run the ball on to greens,” he said.

On your first visit you can’t really imagine what is ahead on that cart ride to No. 10. “I think most people have no idea what they are about to see,” said Rohrbaugh. “It begins four beautiful holes and golfers love how quiet it is up there.”

Pay attention as you enter The Lost Horizon

The 10th hole is the most intimidating visual, an uphill drive over a ravine. To be successful you must aim toward the right side of the fairway because everything slopes to another ravine running left of the fairway. Then the green is elevated and contoured sloping toward the fairway.

The next three Lost Horizon holes are pure fun beginning with a par 3 of 161 yards, a handsome scene, with ravine left, and a rock wall holding the comma-shaped green in place. There are lots of ways to get in trouble.

From a lofty tee box No. 12 sweeps downhill and turns dramatically right. Don’t be surprised if a bear darts across the fairway. A perfect, long fade on this 435-yard, par 4 sets you up for an approach over a deep gully to an elevated green that is wide and shallow.

The 13th hole will test your mental prowess.  This 621-yard par 5 requires a deep tee shot and then a decision. Do you lay up or go for a green over a huge ravine with the fairway on the other side heading right with a fade toward the putting surface.

“When you emerge from The Lost Horizon to holes 14-18 you get another look with few trees, strategy and views of Mt. Sopris,” Rohrbaugh said. “Actually, it is almost like there are three sections to the course with the front nine in a meadow with holes in sight of the Roaring Fork. There are no gimmes.”

The front nine’s pasture setting has water in play and plenty of ways to get in trouble. Every par three is a solid hole and has water in play, a ravine or a flag that can be tucked and almost hidden.

Management is billing Ironbridge as an “Arthur Hills course refined by Tom Lehman”.  But as the locals refer to it as “the best kept secret in the Roaring Fork Valley” members and management are stressing that time at Ironbridge is a lifestyle.

Ironbridge includes two streams, five lakes, three tunnels, 19 bridges and more than eight miles of continuous cart path. Don’t even dream of walking the back nine which includes tee boxes that climb up and dives downward with red-hued mountain vistas.

Check out the Recreation Area with a family pool, hot tub, kids’ water park, kids’ climbing wall, basketball, tennis, playground area, and clubhouse. Take a hike on the four miles of paths, suitable for biking, too. Then throw your fly into the Roaring Fork or the catch-and-release trophy fishing ponds.

The Ironbridge Grill, serves lunch and dinner, and is open to the public. The menu for the elevated, casual fare features fresh, organic, and local ingredients. Sandwiches with free-range chicken, burgers with grass-fed beef, and organic salads with house-made dressings are just a few examples of menu items.

When you call to book a tee-time ask for Stay and Play packages. Ironbridge rounds never exceed $100. Twilight rounds run $49, and kids play free after 2 p.m. (www.ironbridgeclub.com)

Best of all just stand on the beautifully manicured and conditioned fairways and do a pirouette. The views of the red-hued mountains, the river, and Mt. Sopris will make you think of a John Denver song.

Is Ironbridge one of Colorado’s best kept secrets? You bet.

Visit Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs, established in 1888 by Walter Devereaux, is one of Colorado’s top five tourist stops and is famous for several reasons.  First is the world-renowned Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, more than 100 years old and the world’s largest. Swimmers pick from two pools — one at 90 degrees and the other at 104.

Secondly, this is the final resting place for Doc Holliday, who scrambled all around the state back in the 1880s, as a sometime dentist and full-time hooligan and gambler. It was probably his only taste of heaven — there were 22 saloons in a two-block area. Tuberculosis claimed him and annually many still visit his grave. He came hoping the hot springs would cure his ails.

Third, some claim that the Teddy Bear was invented here. President Theodore Roosevelt, as the story goes, came to Glenwood Springs in 1905 to hunt bear in the area forests, and when he struck out on a bear kill he returned to the Hotel Colorado where the staff wanted to make him feel better. They presented him with a hand-made stuffed miniature bear.

Where to stay

Book a suite at The Residence Inn Glenwood Springs (Marriott) and enjoy full kitchen, living room, work area, free wi-fi and the Mix on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings including complimentary food and beer or wine.  A full, hot breakfast is also included in the price. Address: 125 Wulfsohn Rd, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601 Phone: (970) 928-0900

Story by David R. Holland

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