Pictured: Fossil Trace Golf Course, taken by avid golfer and Realtor Kristina Casinelli
All things being equal, there are few other places I’d rather spend my morning than on one of the local golf courses. I’m not usually a morning person but when I have the opportunity to hit the links, it’s somehow no problem getting up at the crack of dawn.
Over the years, I’ve discovered “before 7:30 a.m.” is the best time to get in 18 holes or 9 for that matter. This time frame assures there are no crowds, the temperatures are cooler and there isn’t a cloud to be had. Mind you, there are usually groundskeeping operations and mowers crawling around this time, and visibility can be compromised from squinting into the sun slowing rising out of the eastern sky. But being able to finish in three hours is one of life’s great pleasures.
Denver residents are fortunate to have city courses with spectacular views of Colorado’s Front Range. What they may lack in numbers or history, the links make up for in scenery that can’t be matched in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles. Regardless of where you live in the Mile High City, it’s likely you live within 15 minutes of a city-owned layout. The courses are well kept, the greens are mostly fair and most offer pretty good food and drink. Most importantly, they are all “walkable,” i.e. without the huge distances between holes found on many newer courses.
People on the west side of town can take advantage of Denver owning the Evergreen Golf Course. How does that work? This executive 18-hole course lies within Dedisse Park, which is part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. Situated at an elevation of 7,220 feet, Evergreen Golf Course stands out from its counterparts by offering elk sightings and tall pines lining the fairways. The golf experience also features wonderful “nine and dine events” on Thursday evenings
Every Denver golf course has special events throughout the summer including glow ball, clinics, social mixers and junior programs. There are also 9- and 18-hole leagues for men and women.
Listed below are three of the best city courses, based on my very subjective experiences:
One of the oldest courses in Denver, this gem was designed by the venerable Donald Ross, who was also the mastermind behind the Cherry Hills Country Club and the Broadmoor courses in Colorado Springs. Wellshire was a private club until the 1950s when the operation was turned over to the city of Denver. Located in southeast Denver at Hampden and Colorado, this course features huge trees, some rolling terrain, and a beautiful old clubhouse that used to house a restaurant called the Wellshire Inn (now a special events venue). Aside from the three holes that parallel Hampden and the 18th which is next to Colorado, this is a great setting for a round of golf. Homes in the Southern Hills/Wellshire neighborhood line the back of the course and there is virtually no water with which to contend (the preponderance of trees make up for it).
This favorite among urban golfers has been revamped but the views have remained spectacular. The redesign has maintained some of the fairway corridors but many enhancements make the course feel completely new. These design changes were necessary after the City of Denver determined that retention ponds needed to be built to stem flooding that had been occurring in neighboring communities for decades. Now, the city is able to hold and slow floodwaters while protecting the course from potential damage during storms.
“After considering technical merits and community input, City Park Golf Course was selected for water detention because it will protect significantly more homes and businesses; enhances an existing city asset; reduces the need for private property acquisition; and provides for future stormwater needs,” according to the City of Denver.
Intricate water features, elevation changes and a variety of green complexes challenge even the scratch golfer. A spectacular panorama of the downtown skyline and mountains provide what most consider the best view in town while enjoying your round.
Convenient to all the downtown and central neighborhoods, City Park offers some of the best views of not only Denver but the Rocky Mountains. City Park is generally considered one of the toughest city courses. From the "tips,” it is 6,703 yards long and features two par 5s that are 558 and 601 yards long. Don't forget to check out the brand new clubhouse and the bodacious City Park Tavern where you can enjoy a fabulous burger and sensational views of the Front Range from its nifty patio!
The panoramic scenery of the Front Range is reason enough to play this course. Built in 1928, this gem in northwest Denver offers, without a doubt, the most exceptional mountain views of any course in Denver. Sloping fairways, small greens, large stands of trees and an amazing clubhouse and patio make for a memorable golfing experience. This is a short course and there are only two par 5s on the layout; hence the par 70 designation from the two back tee boxes, and par 71 for the two front tees. As a result, it almost has an executive golf course feel. Like Wellshire, the abundance of trees makes up for the lack of water. Be sure to allow yourself time to enjoy a cold one on the patio after your round. The vista is second to none.
Here are the other exceptional City of Denver courses:
Harvard Gulch (south Denver), 9 holes, par 3 course
Evergreen (west of Denver), 18 holes, executive course, par 69
Kennedy (southeast Denver), 27 holes and 9 holes, par 3 course
Overland Park (southwest Denver), 18 holes
And last but not least, a few other local golf courses that we love are: