Pole Creek Golf Club, Golf Granby Ranch, Grand Lake Golf Course and Grand Elk Golf Club are four golf courses in cool Grand County, Colorado, that won’t disappoint, especially if your pocket book doesn’t want to be strained in a 65-degree, summer golf vacation getaway.
GRANBY, Colo. – Deep in the heart of Colorado ski country you can get chill bumps from just hearing that your view is the Never Summer Mountain Range.
But if you are seeking a “cool” golf getaway in the dead of summer – trying to escape sweltering regions of the U.S., welcome to Grand County, home to Winter Park, Granby, Fraser, Tabernash and Grand Lake.
This is down-home Colorado at its finest, with no less than six world-class dude ranches and four excellent golf courses.
Valet parking is non-existent.
Grand County Adventure: Getting here is half the fun
It’s only a 90-minute drive from Denver, but the scenery is majestic. Whether you are coming through Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park or along wiggly U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass you will be rubbernecking all the way. And even Amtrak’s California Zephyr skirts the edges of one of the golf courses – Golf Granby Ranch, where the back nine is near the ski slopes of Granby Ranch.
Grand County is home to two of the 10 Colorado roads designated as National Scenic Byways: Trail Ridge Road and the Colorado River Headwaters Byway. Trail Ridge Road is America’s highest continuously paved road. The 48-mile-long road overlooks peaks ranging from 12,000 to over 14,000 feet and 11 miles of the route zig-zags above tree line in the alpine tundra. Travelers encounter forms of life and climatic conditions also found at the Arctic Circle – so you have to come in the summer – the road is closed in winter.
The Golf Courses of Grand County
Envisioned by Jerry Jones, the guy who invented the highly successful “Ski The Summit” pass in the 1970s, Grand Elk Golf Club (7,144 yards, par 71), opened in 2002, was built as an outdoors getaway for golfers, fishermen, skiers, hikers and lovers of the outdoors.
The Craig Stadler-signature design routed by Tripp Davis, wanted a down-home attitude, too. That’s Stadler’s personality — a PGA Tour veteran who moved to Colorado just to be close to skiing, hunting and fishing.
Davis calls Grand Elk a heathland-styled golf course because it reminded him of historic Gleneagles in Scotland with a gentle roll of the mountain foothills located in a valley with rivers and streams. But gentle surroundings don’t equal an easy golf course – you have several opportunities to fire at greens just over a stream or wetlands that are difficult to see because of tall willowy shrubs or native grasses. The GPS comes in handy here.
Across Highway 40 from Grand Elk is Golf Granby Ranch, a Michael Asmundson design that opened nine holes in the summer of 2001. It’s a gentle front nine for the most part with some wetlands, the Fraser River and holes that skirt aspens and pines. The back nine opened in 2003 and rolls up toward the ski slopes through sage valleys highlighted by panoramic views of The Continental Divide. Nicklaus Design has done extensive back nine renovation, adding and redesigning several holes.
Nothing is hidden at Granby Ranch, which measures 7,196 yards at par 72. The greens have subtle breaks, which make them tricky to read, but overall this is a friendly layout you can score on.
The preeminent golf journey, however, is Pole Creek Golf Club, a 27-hole masterpiece. Pole Creek’s Meadow and Ranch nines (6,895 yards, par 72) were designed by Gary Player and Ron Kirby and the newest nine, The Ridge (3,564 yards, par 36), was laid out by Dennis Griffiths in 1999.
This is a slice of Rocky Mountain heaven — Golf Digest gave it acclaim immediately when it opened in 1985, proclaiming it as one of the Best New Courses in the U.S.
But what you might like best about Pole Creek is the down-to-earth staff, helpful rangers, earthy facilities and friendliness. The scenery is awesome with tree-lined fairways, elevation changes, dramatic doglegs and breathtaking views of the 13,000-foot Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness. Holes play down the valley, back up and have crossings of Pole Creek. Seven lakes and ponds will definitely challenge you.
Wrap up your golf vacation with one of Colorado’s true hidden gems. Grand Lake Golf Course is a 6,570-yard, par 72 that was cut through huge stands of 50-foot tall lodgepole pines, just minutes from spectacular Grand Lake, a trout fisherman’s paradise. Henry Hughes designed the front nine in 1964 and Dick Phelps arrived in 1978 to complete the 18 holes.
Situated at a lofty 8,420 feet it was once a lush forest of lodgepole pines, but sadly the pine beetle destroyed the stands of huge trees. But the new thinned out look almost makes it a new course. Now you have to deal with the thick rough that has grown lush with the added sunlight just off the fairways.
By David R. Holland