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|Kentucky bluegrass-fescue blends into Antler Creek Golf Course's bunkers on the 480-yard, par-3 ninth hole. (Courtesy of antlercreekgolf.com)|
PEYTON, Colo. - Everywhere you look at Antler Creek Golf Course, just 25 minutes east of downtown Colorado Springs, there's trouble.
There are sandy arroyos left ragged and jagged. There are deep bunkers surrounded by thick Kentucky bluegrass-fescue rough that will twist a wrist in an instant. There is the steady trickle of Antler Creek and a multitude of wetlands with those "environmental area" signs. There are ponds. There are dramatic doglegs teasing you to take a bite out of a ravine.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. From the back tees Antler Creek is 8,058 yards, par 72, making it one of the longest golf courses in the world. (At 8,450 yards, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club in China is the longest.)
"You know," said Mike Wooldridge, general manager/director of golf, "I try not to even think about where we rank in the world with the longest golf courses. Since Jan. 1 we've had about 9,000 rounds and I would estimate 40 have played from the tips."
Antler Creek Golf Course is much more than length. As you traverse this "prairie-links" style course that winds through the Woodmen Hills and Meridian Ranch communities, you also have lots of native grasses, 73 bunkers and one of the more affordable daily-fee golf courses in the Colorado Springs area.
Course designer Rick Phelps, whose father Dick Phelps pioneered affordable municipal golf in Colorado and Texas, says the routing will make you think on every tee box. He said the first sightline you see might not be the best.
"Much of the difficulty," said Wooldridge, "is that on most holes you are taking a longer club into a green that has trouble in front or to the sides or behind the greens. We have lots of native areas, waste bunkers and environmentally-sensitive zones that we do not maintain."
Land in one of those areas and add some strokes.
The first hole of the White Tail nine (No. 10 on the Elk-White Tail routing) forces you to use your brain. This par 5 measures 657 yards from the back tees, but you immediately have to choose between a generous left fairway, staying away from the sandy arroyo in the middle, and a smaller island landing zone on the right. Naturally, the smaller path has the best approach.
There are no bunkers on White Tail's third (No. 12 on the Elk-White Tail combo), but who needs traps on a 538-yard par 4? An arroyo follows tee to green on the left, and the closest path to the pin on your approach will have to navigate the ravine.
Antler Creek has many difficult par 3s The White Tail nine's first par 3 is No. 4 (No. 13), a 187-yarder, but the green is hourglass shaped, meaning your going to be presented with two sections. The eighth is a 230-yard par 3 over water with bunkers bumped up against the pond front and back.
On the Elk Nine the first par 3 is No. 5, a 245-yard beast from the rear with a bailout area left and arroyo right. The final par 3 is No. 8, a 210-yarder over a pond with a huge bunker guarding the right side and a long, deep green.
Difficult? From the black tees the slope is 146, and the rating is 77.5. From the white tees the course is more manageable at 6,409 yards. The altitude is 7,000 feet, offering an extra 10 percent carry.
Phelps' cross bunkers force players to strategize before just trying to bang it down the middle. Frequently, golfers will need several trips around the layout to discover the safest path.
"What I hear daily from the better players, who are playing it over 7,000 yards, is that they have to use every club in the bag. And they like that," Wooldridge said. "They also realize the par 3s are very difficult and the biggest deterrent to scoring low."
But Antler Creek is in a group of links layouts in the high plains that will join Denver-area golf courses like Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, Murphy Creek Golf Course and Buffalo Run Golf Course as excellent examples of this style of golf.
Antler Creek has a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with restaurant, pro shop, locker room and patio with a fire pit to enjoy the view and a brew. Lessons are available on its practice facility, practice putting green and chipping green.
Antler Creek hosted the 2005 and 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifiers, the 2007 Colorado Golf Association Stroke Play Championship and the 2006 Colorado Open qualifier.
June 24, 2009
David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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