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|The Ridge at Castle Pines North is considered by many as the premier upscale, public-access course in Colorado. (Courtesy of Troon Golf)|
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -– Some dime novelists say Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody once described the area where The Ridge at Castle Pines North sits as one of their favorite stomping grounds.
It is a beautiful slice of Colorado foothills, only a short drive from the Denver Tech Center in the south part of town. It's also minutes from heralded Castle Pines Golf Club, former home of the PGA Tour's defunct tournament, the International, and next door to the ultra-elite Sanctuary.
So for players who never experience the exclusivity of those private layouts, this golf course offers a nice alternative.
The Ridge at Castle Pines North, a Troon Golf-managed facility, is considered by many as the premier upscale, public-access golf course in Colorado. Since opening in July 1997, the Tom Weiskopf design has won awards from just about every golf publication -- national and statewide -- and was once ranked No. 49 on Golf Magazine's list of top 100 public-access golf courses.
Look west and the panorama includes Pikes Peak, Devil's Head and Mt. Evans. Look closer and you find front-range foothill scenes that feature sandstone rock formations, gambel oaks, Ponderosa pines and many varieties of wildlife. In fact, The Ridge left room to roam for migrating elk. Its double-loop layout preserves wildlife corridors.
The golf course, 7,013 yards and par 71, features contrasting nines. The front nine is open and plays through housing corridors. You know you're having a good day if you can nail it down the middle on No. 6, The Narrows. It's only 307 yards, but pines pinch the fairway.
The views widen at No. 8, a 437-yard par 4. Here you stand on top of the The Ridge, where you can see south to the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak and west to Devil's Head and Mt. Evans. To the north, it's downtown Denver.
The ninth is a downhill ski slope of 476 yards -- fittingly named Nastar -- where you might boom your longest drive ever. The approach, though, will probably start from a downhill lie, and hitting the green is iffy.
No. 17, a par-3, 175-yarder, includes as a sandstone tower formation framed behind the green and four bunkers guarding it -- a nice aesthetic setup to the 18th tee.
Most first-timers to The Ridge love the 18th tee box. The view features sandstone monoliths and a gully, with a tee-shot carry of 170 yards to a safe landing. It's a 390-yard par 4 that curves left to an elevated green in front of the clubhouse.
"That 18th tee box has to be one of the most scenic in Colorado," said visitor Bob Hudgens of Salina, Kan.
If you can't enjoy a day at The Ridge at Castle Pines North, you aren't trying. This is a superior experience with excellent conditions. The management and superintendent are dedicated to water conservation and Audubon Sanctuary principles.
It's a fact that the land here resembles Castle Pines Golf Club and Sanctuary. The aesthetic values blend with a fun Weiskopf golf design.
Most tee shots present generous landing zones, but some of the approaches are difficult. Be precise, because deep bunkers protect the elevated greens, often two tiers or rolling contours.
"The course is in outstanding shape with quick greens," said golfer Larry Domingo of Denver. "Arrowhead Golf Club is probably more scenic, but this course is in better condition. In fact, this is the best conditioned course I have seen, and I've played them all in the Denver area."
The practice facilities are spacious, and instructor Dennis Murray subscribes to the Uncomplicated Golf School theories.
"When I first started playing golf, the game seemed very complicated," said Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Glenn Frey of the Eagles. "Most of the advice received was well intended and appreciated but led to a lot of confusion and frustration."
Frey hired Murray after experiencing a taste of the instructor's work.
"He makes learning fun and simplifies the process," Frey said. "Thanks to Dennis Murray, I'm addicted to golf."
Also, the family of LPGA star Grace Park owns the golf course. Her father, Soo Nam Park, a successful restaurateur and food distributor in Korea, partnered with Troon Golf to purchase The Ridge as a family asset in support of Grace Park's career in professional golf and business.
The Ridge Restaurant is super popular, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, It attracts lots of non-golfers for the ultimate mountain views and outside patio seating.
The Doubletree Hotel Denver Tech Center in Greenwood Village (7801 East Orchard Rd.) offers an easy commute to Denver's business center and downtown. Visit DoubletreeDenverTech.com for more information or call (303) 779-6161. You will appreciate the warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in after an invigorating round of golf at The Ridge.
August 9, 2010
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 at @David_R_Holland.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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