By David R. Holland
There’s a view of the Rocky Mountains in its front yard and an 18-hole championship golf course in its backyard. That’s the Hilton Denver Inverness, which is also home to The Club at Inverness, one of the only semi-private golf courses in the Denver area.
This J. Press Maxwell championship course is beautiful, playable and challenging, requiring plenty of thoughtful approaches. It has gentle but unforgiving slopes, rolling hills and deep bunkers. Water comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes, and the golf course’s par-3 holes test the precision of even the best golfers.
Bill Clinton slept and played here and many don’t know that Andy North staged an exhibition here the week he won the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in 1978.
“The club’s first Director of Golf, Tom Babb, was a friend of Andy North,” said The Club at Inverness’ PGA Head Professional David Steinmetz. “North said the par-3 third hole was one of the toughest he’d ever played.”
When the course opened in 1974 many wanted to name it Cottonwood Country Club because Cottonwood Creek runs through the property, but Inverness was chosen because it is tied to a long golf tradition.
The late Babb, a Colorado Golf Hall of Fame member, arrived in 1973 from prestigious Seminole Golf Club in Florida and set up shop in a modular building at the new hotel and golf course situated in the middle of the Inverness Business Park.
When President Clinton visited in 1997 Babb gave him a golf cart tour, played some golf and gave him some swing tips.
Soon after Babb arrived a rookie quarterback named John Elway also showed up asking for some help on his game. The friendship continued until Babb’s death.
Former major league pitcher Rick Rhoden won his 23rd event on the celebrity golf circuit, finishing at 5-under-par to win the 1999 Inverness Hotel Celebrity Classic. Tournament officials estimated that close to 30,000 spectators were in attendance for the tournament, which was the seventh stop on the 13-stop Celebrity Players Tour schedule.
Inverness hosted the Colorado Open from 1992-97 and the design proved to be sneaky tough for the pros.
The Golf Course
This par-70, 7,057-yarder has a slope rating of 136. The par-3s are most challenging members agree, especially from the back tees. No. 3 is also guarded by water in front and measures 211 yards. No. 8 doesn’t have water, but it is 201 yards uphill and against the prevailing southerly breeze.
No. 2 is a par-five, 562-yarder, that requires a layup for the average golfer, in front of the creek short of the green. No. 13, a 418-yard par four, has a water carry from the tee to a dogleg left fairway and then another carry over water just in front of the green, which is guarded on the left by a huge cottonwood tree.
“I really like that this course is a challenge for all levels, but it’s fair,” said Jim Recht of Englewood. “It is well-maintained and is a good value for the members.”
As a designated “semi-private” golf course, only members and hotel guests can play here.
The golf course architect’s history
J. Press Maxwell moved to Colorado in 1958, living in Morrison, with frequent trips to his Alsoa Ranch near Basalt, until his death in 2001.
Maxwell learned his trade from his father Perry Maxwell, with whom he collaborated after time out for impressive action in World War II, flying 81 combat missions with the 15th Air Force.
Maxwell emerged as one of golf course design’s best. In 1960 Press served as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
In addition to designing or renovating more than 20 courses in Colorado — Inverness, Applewood, Boulder CC, Cherry Hills, Hiwan, Kissing Camels, Lake Valley, Pinehurst, Rolling Hills, Columbine, Denver CC, Lakewood and Patty Jewett — Maxwell’s work can be seen in many storied layouts around the nation such as Colonial in Fort Worth, Southern Hills in Tulsa, Augusta National, Austin CC, and Prairie Dunes in Kansas.
Hilton Denver Inverness upgrades a plenty
Longtime members and visitors frequented The Spotted Dog, the hotel’s bar, but it has been replaced by the Breckenridge Brewery Ale and Game House. It is part of a multimillion-dollar series of upgrades to the 40-year-old hotel and conference center since Denver-based Silverwest Hotels purchased it in 2015 and changed the name to the Hilton Denver Inverness.
Also revitalized are locker rooms, golf shop, spa, event spaces, bridal suite and outdoor areas.
Breckenridge Brewery Ale and Game House is open to the public, while members have their own lounge, from which they can order food and drinks from the restaurant.
The Garden Terrace is another local favorite where I enjoyed breakfast. Lunch buffets have an array of choices, à la carte menus, and views of the golf course. The award-winning Champagne Sunday Brunch features more than 100 offerings each week including prime rib and an elaborate shellfish display.
The Spa and amenities at Hilton Denver Inverness
The signature spa has seven treatment rooms, a relaxation suite, private hot tub, and a fire pit patio. Swedish and deep tissue massages are offered, including prenatal, sports, and couples sessions.
There’s a 24-hour fitness center, three tennis courts, sauna rooms, two pools (both indoor and outdoor) and a hot tub. The 302-room hotel has an Executive Floor Lounge, business travelers and select leisure guests will have access to complimentary breakfast and evening snacks.
Hilton Denver Inverness offers corporate guests more than 62,000 square feet of high-tech meeting space, with 43 flexible meeting spaces – all of which are certified by the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC). The hotel can accommodate 500 guests for meetings and 1,000 for social events.
The 5,400-square-foot ballroom can be divided into four equally sized rooms. Business travelers have a fully-staffed business center with administrative support services, graphic design and experienced technicians to assist with AV, computer, equipment and production needs.
Golf memberships are available in single, couple, families or corporate tiers. Check out the website for options (www.theclubatinverness.com). Members also enjoy preferred tee times.