Hole No. 11

Colorado Golf Club

As you head south from downtown Denver, the number of office complexes, shopping malls and other real estate developments gradually declines. You begin to see raw land and get a glimpse of what the region used to look like. And then, on the far side of suburban Parker, you come to pasture land, barrancas, scrub oaks and ponderosa pines. And it's here, at Colorado Golf Club, that you also get a feel for the game at its most natural.

Over a decade ago in central Nebraska, co-designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw fashioned a breathtakingly simple golf course called Sand Hills that was hewn out of the windswept dunes and grasslands of Middle American prairie. Now, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, they've created something equally evocative. Yet the genius of the private Colorado Golf Club-which opened in 2007 and has already been ranked number 25 on Golfweek's Best Modern Courses list-is that it's very traditional. The layout is a core (unified) sequence of holes, readily walkable, with wide berth given to fairways and lots of ground game options. And it's located within a sophisticated land plan that has only 142 home sites on 1,700 acres.

There's a decided nod toward Prairie Dunes here, the famed 1930s-era layout in Hutchinson, Kan., that has inspired so much of what Coore and Crenshaw do in their golf design. That look is evident in the par-3 second hole, only 154 yards to a potato-chip green sitting amid wispy, knee-high native grasses. It's a theme that recurs throughout the round.

At a mile above sea level, Colorado Golf Course's 7,604 yards from the back tees play almost 10 percent shorter than the posted distance, so when you get to seductive little par-4s like the 311-yard eighth or the 329-yard 14th, you feel you can have a rip at them.

For those looking to hone their short games, the facility also has an intimate little nine-hole par-3 course, 1,103 yards in all, with holes ranging from 81 to 194 yards. Maybe when they play the 2010 Senior PGA Championship here they can use the short course for a playoff.

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