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Ditch the skis: Hit the golf course before the mountains at The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa in Grand Junction, Colorado

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
Senior Writer
The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa - Hole 8
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The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa's eighth is a par 3 over a pond to a tubular green. (David R. Holland/WorldGolf.com)

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa, a nationally ranked layout, is fun, scenic golf on the Western Slope of Colorado.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The drive from Denver to Grand Junction on Interstate 70 is a transforming experience. There's a progression of ski-area terrain the tourist finds around Summit County and through Vail that gradually changes as you head west toward Grand Junction, where the landscape becomes a moonscape, mixed with a verdant valley floor celebrated for orchards (best peaches in America in next door Palisade) and vineyards.

Grand Junction, at 4,600 feet in elevation, is the gateway city to the 800-foot cliffs of the Colorado National Monument and is home to one of the most scenic golf courses you will ever play - The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa, designed by Jim Engh. Everywhere one looks you see colors of the desert (the Utah border is only 30 miles away) - pinks, reds, and tawny tints.

Your panorama on 11 elevated tee boxes is stunning - it is like viewing a canvas of earth tones with shades of green bordered by jagged sandstone boulders, ochre dirt and formations of balanced rock. The vista also includes Mount Garfield and the Little Bookcliffs - areas of steep, reddish walls that plummet from atop mesas to the valley floor where the Colorado River has carved a waterway through the Colorado Plateau and dinosaurs once roamed. Farther in the distance is Grand Mesa, the world's tallest flat-top mountain.

Not insignificant is a little known fact by kids of Generation X - the Colorado River was once named the Grand River, that roiling water that keeps California fertile and the river that carved the "Grand" Canyon.

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa: Beauty and the beast

Eric Feely, Redlands Mesa general manager and PGA director of golf, hears positive comments every day about the quality of golf, but perhaps the most asked question concerns No. 14, a par 4 of 300 yards that directs you between a goal post of huge boulder piles. If you hit it far enough, you have an easy approach. If you don't, you have a blind approach.

"When we opened in 2001, No. 14 was the most controversial hole by far," Feely said. "The short, sharp dogleg right was unlike anything most golfers had ever experienced, including the raters from Golf Digest, Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Players repeatedly asked how to play the hole. The problem is most players do not have enough length to reach the ideal landing area.

"Now eight years later, the hole is considered one of the most challenging and enjoyable holes in the Western United States. Players appreciate the challenge and have found a variety of approaches to playing the hole. Some players will hit a 150-yard tee shot and play a blind approach shot over the large boulder. Others, however, will choose to grip and rip it through the gap to leave a 50-yard approach or attempt to hit the green on the blind tee shot. However you choose to play this fun and unique hole, you can be assured that it will seldom play the same way twice."

But The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa is one scenic, fun hole after another. The par 3s could be the most picturesque you have ever seen.

Brian Donahue, vice president of the Carlsbad, Calif.-BrightStar Golf Group, which just acquired Redlands Mesa likes No. 17, a 218-yard par 3 that sits in a bowl framed by rock. And the tee box is carved out of the side of a mesa. He also likes No. 8, a par 3 of 164 yards over a pond, surrounded by giant boulders. It's holes like this where you come to appreciate Engh golf - don't go over any green, or you will pay a price.

The other par 3, No. 12, has been the cover photo of a book.

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa: The verdict

After playing Redlands Mesa, a 7,007-yard, par 72, numerous times now, there's an overwhelming thought - this is a tough golf course. It's not the tee shot on the par 4s and par 5s, it's getting the ball close to the hole on approaches and chips from just off the tricky and contoured greens.

"Maybe what I like most about this layout are the short par 4s," Donahue said. "Like No. 4, a 373 yarder, where you can see an incredible panorama, and the entire right side falls off into oblivion. Some of best holes in world are short and require you to think and place your tee shot."

Redlands Mesa has won national awards from every major golf publication. Its current Golf Digest ranking is No. 27 on America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses list.

The course has an ample practice range setup, and its PGA-certified staff offers lessons and video swing analysis. The Red Canyon Grille, in the handsome Southwestern-styled clubhouse, is a popular lunch and dinner spot for locals.

After your round, the Doubletree Hotel in Grand Junction is your home for travel golf weekend getaways. Ask about their golf packages - $299 and up - includes 18 holes for two with cart, one night of accommodations and full breakfast. Tel. 970-241-8888, 800-444-2326. VisitGrandJunction.com even offers "golf and wine" packages.

More photos

The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa - Hole 13The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa - Hole 5The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa - Hole 17

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 @David_R_Holland.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Great place

    John wrote on: Aug 3, 2009

    Excellent story. One of the most scenic golf courses I've ever played and Grand Junction is an excellent vacation spot for outdoorsmen.