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The best courses you can play in Colorado

September 08, 2022

Of all the ways to gain distance—a new driver, working out, a swing overhaul—perhaps the simplest and most effective is to play at elevation. Playing golf at altitude can be a thrilling experience, as the ball stays in the air just a little longer, giving you some of your longest drives.

Many of the must-plays in this collection of the best public courses in Colorado are situated thousands of feet above sea level, providing that exciting distance gain. These gems, though, have far more appeal than extra distance, as they take advantage of The Centennial State’s stunning landscape. Dramatic mountain views, captivating elevation changes and wispy native grasses characterize many of the tracks on this list.

Scroll on to read more about each of these public golf courses in Colorado. You’ll find past and present members of our 100 Greatest Public list, USGA championship hosts and affordable munys. Click around and explore our new, searchable Places to Play hub, complete with course reviews from our panelists.

The Broadmoor Golf Club: East
The Broadmoor Golf Club: East
Colorado Springs, CO
The Broadmoor Golf Club East is another timeless mountain course, built hard against Cheyenne Mountain with famed green contours that pose optical illusions. Many putts that look uphill are actually running downhill. Few golfers recognize that the East Course is a combination of nine Donald Ross holes (one through six and 16 through 18) and nine more added 30 years later by Robert Trent Jones (holes seven to 15). The East Course was the site of Jack Nicklaus’ first U.S. Amateur win in 1959 and Annika Sorenstam’s first U.S. Women’s Open win in 1995. It has also hosted 2011 U.S. Women’s Open won by So Yeon Ryu and the 2018 U.S. Senior Open won by David Toms, their first major victories as well.
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Red Sky Ranch & Golf Club: Norman Course
There are two 18s at Red Sky Ranch, one by Greg Norman, the other designed by Tom Fazio. Public play on each alternates on a daily basis. A ridgeline separates the two courses (the ridge is designated as a wildlife corridor), with the Norman 18 positioned on an old sheep ranch on the western slope, affording long-range views of the Rockies to the west and south as well as gorgeous sunsets. Typical of a Norman design, the greens are big but docile and the bunkering is plentiful and dramatically shaped.
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Red Sky Ranch & Golf Club: Fazio Course
The companion to the Norman Course at Red Sky, the Fazio 18 features more elevation change, with the mostly open front nine atop a bluff dotted with hand-planted sage and juniper bushes and the back nine rising in switchback fashion far up a mountain slope through groves of aspen before plunging downhill on the final three holes. The bunkers here are some of Fazio's most elaborate.
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TPC Colorado
Public
TPC Colorado
Berthoud, CO

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: I walked TPC Colorado with its architect, Art Schaupeter, during a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2019. The course is located north of Denver, south of Boulder, on highlands where the Great Plains intersects the Rocky Mountains. It's a layout serving a residential development called Heron Lakes and stretches along the east side of Lonetree Reservoir. Art explained to me that back in 2004, he'd done Highland Meadows Golf Club in nearby Windsor, Colo. for developer John Turner, who then hired him to design this course. But the project got put on hold until 2015. Art had just dusted off his 10-year-old blueprints and started staking the course when Turner informed him that he'd contracted with the PGA Tour to license the course as part of the TPC network.

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here.

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Redlands Mesa Golf Course
Public
Redlands Mesa Golf Course
Grand Junction, CO
Set against the backdrop of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, Redlands Mesa is a must-play for its topography alone. Rocky outcroppings line nearly every hole, and some tees play high above the fairway, providing scenic vistas of the surrounding lunar-like landscape. The Jim Engh design was formerly ranked on our list of 100 Greatest Public Courses, reaching as high as No. 17 from 2005-’08.
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The Broadmoor Golf Club: West
The Broadmoor Golf Club: West
Colorado Springs, CO
While the East course has hosted the majority of USGA championships played at Broadmoor, the West course got its chance when it hosted the 1967 U.S. Amateur, won by Robert Dickson over heralded lifelong amateur Vinny Giles. Compared to its sibling East course, the West plays tighter off the tee with more doglegs and steeply angled greens.
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The Bridges Golf & Country Club
Public
The Bridges Golf & Country Club
Montrose, CO
Situated about an hour southeast of Grand Junction in Montrose, The Bridges is a relatively flat layout with expansive views of the mountains in the distance. With few trees and subtle doglegs, the course gives golfers free rein to shape the ball whichever way they prefer. The course was laid out by the Nicklaus Design Group and features segmented greens with a fair amount of undulation.
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The Ridge at Castle Pines North
Public
The Ridge at Castle Pines North
Castle Rock, CO

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten: It was once said, probably first about California's Monterey Peninsula, that great golf courses breed great golf courses. That's certainly true of the foothills of the Rockies a half hour south of Denver, where The Ridge at Castle Pines North sits almost immediately next door to Sanctuary Golf Club and just to the north of The Country Club at Castle Pines, which in turn is bordered on its south by famed Castle Pines Golf Club. The Ridge, the only one of the four courses actually located in the town of Castle Pines (the others are in Castle Rock), is the only one of the four open for public play.

For our architecture editor's complete review, click here.

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Dalton Ranch Golf Club
Public
Dalton Ranch Golf Club
Durango, CO
Nestled in the Animas Valley among the San Juan Mountains, Dalton Ranch plays on flat terrain but is surrounded by towering peaks. There is plenty of water in play on this track just north of Durango, with rivers and streams running along more than half of the holes. Despite the relatively flat landscape, there are mounds and contours that create uneven lies and present variety.
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Lakota Links Golf Course
Public
Lakota Links Golf Course
New Castle, CO
Formerly known as Lakota Canyon Ranch, Lakota Links sits just off I-70 and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Many greens are quite small, and others are segmented, each requiring quality approach play to get close. Formerly ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list, Lakota Links presents a lot of elevation change, including some drops of over 100 feet from tee to fairway.
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The Golf Club at Bear Dance
Public
The Golf Club at Bear Dance
Larkspur, CO
Situated between Denver and Colorado Springs, Bear Dance plays over 753 acres of mountainous terrain. The course has a tranquil setting, with wide fairways lined with tall Ponderosa pines and the occasional creek and ravine. There is some elevation change, including at the signature par-4 16th, which from the tee offers a picturesque view of Pikes Peak in the distance.
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Rio Grande Club & Resort
Public
Rio Grande Club & Resort
South Fork, CO
Rio Grande Club and Resort offers two distinct nines, with the relatively flat front side playing along the Rio Grande River and the tree-lined back offering more elevation change. This scenic layout offers terrific views of the surrounding mountains, especially on the back nine where there are some dramatic downhill tee shots. The course, situated among the San Juan Mountains, plays at about 8,500 feet elevation.
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Sonnenalp Club
Private
Sonnenalp Club
Edwards, CO
Generally a private club, Sonnenalp’s golf course is open to guests staying at their posh accommodations right outside Vail. The course—host of the 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur won by Brett Quigley—offers stunning views of the surrounding Rockies.
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Haymaker Golf Course
Public
Haymaker Golf Course
Steamboat Springs, CO
Situated in the Yampa Valley in northern Colorado, Haymaker Golf Course plays on relatively flat terrain with views of nearby Mount Werner. The course—an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary—is owned by the City of Steamboat Springs and features large greens with subtle undulations.
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Keystone Ranch Golf Course
Public
Keystone Ranch Golf Course
Keystone, CO
Playing on land that was once a ranch, Keystone Ranch is a scenic layout about an hour-and-a-half west of Denver. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design has great variety, with the first couple holes playing in a forest before opening up to a vast expanse, where the fairways are lined with native grasses.
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Highland Meadows Golf Course
Public
Highland Meadows Golf Course
Windsor, CO
Highland Meadows is an enjoyable, player-friendly public track located just south of Fort Collins. The course, which plays through a residential community, offers wide fairways and large greens. Despite the forgiving landing areas, well-placed bunkers, deep ravines and ponds all provide intrigue and challenge.
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CommonGround Golf Course
Public
CommonGround Golf Course
Aurora, CO
Less than 10 miles east of downtown Denver, CommonGround is a public layout designed by Tom Doak. The course—home to the Colorado Golf Association—plays on relatively flat terrain, and many fairways are framed by tall native grasses, giving the track a links feel. The fairways are generous, but well-placed bunkers pinch the landing areas in at strategic places, making the course playable for the average player yet more challenging for the low handicap.
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Breckenridge Golf Club: Beaver/Bear/Elk
Public
Breckenridge Golf Club: Beaver/Bear/Elk
Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge Golf Club, about an hour-and-a-half west of Denver, offers three Jack Nicklaus-designed nines. The Bear and Beaver nines first opened in the 1980s, followed by the Elk in 2001. Set in the heart of the Colorado Rockies at over 9,300 feet elevation, the three nines present a blend of tree-lined, wooded holes and others that are more open and play among native grasslands.
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Saddle Rock Golf Course
Public
Saddle Rock Golf Course
Aurora, CO
This Aurora muny is a former host of the Colorado Open and has hosted numerous other statewide amateur and professional events. The course has a good amount of elevation change and presents some forced carries over thick native grasses. Back in 1998, we ranked Saddle Rock as one of the Best New Affordable Public Courses in the country. Today, with rates under $50, the quality public track remains a great value.
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The Club at Crested Butte
Public
The Club at Crested Butte
Crested Butte, CO
The Club at Crested Butte is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with tremendous views of the surrounding Rockies, which tower over the fairways. The course is relatively flat and has a tranquil setting, with lakes and native grasses framing many holes.
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Riverdale Golf Courses: Dunes
Public
Riverdale Golf Courses: Dunes
Brighton, CO
Perry Dye, the eldest son of Pete and Alice Dye, worked alongside his father in designing Riverdale’s Dunes course. Host of the 1993 U.S. Amateur Public Links, the Dunes course is expansive and open, but in typical Dye fashion, numerous pot bunkers, mounds and ponds lurk to punish wayward shots.
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