DenverSeptember 19, 2011

My Town: Mark Wiebe's Denver

The thin air and beautiful views make golf in the Mile High City a treat

Arrowhead GC is a public course with unbelievable views.

Arrowhead GC is a public course with unbelievable views.

Having grown up in Southern California, Champions Tour pro Mark Wiebe likes to joke that when he and his wife, Cathy, decided to settle in the Denver area more than 25 years ago, he traded the ocean for the mountains. To this day, he has no regrets. "I feel it was a pretty good swap," he says.

Wiebe insists the Mile High City's reputation for tough weather is overblown. Yes, there's snow in the winter, but it usually doesn't linger. And the summers are as sunny as any SoCal locale.

Playing golf in the Denver area has its advantages, most notably the chance to hit the longest drives of your life in the thin mountain air. Wiebe's advice for golfers trying to maximize the distance boost: Don't be afraid to hit the ball high. "The higher in the air, the better," Wiebe says. "Once it's up there, it keeps going. That why when you see the Colorado Rockies [baseball team] play you'll hear guys make comments like 'Gosh, I thought I popped it up' and it goes 480 feet out of the park."

COURSES

I've been a member at Cherry Hills CC

for two decades. It's got such great history. Of course, everyone remembers the 1960 U.S. Open and Arnold Palmer's victory. What stands out for me is it's a neat, old-fashioned course. When I was young and got to go play a really nice golf club, I would have drooled to go to a place like this.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw just built Colorado GC

, which hosted the Senior PGA Championship last year. It has beautiful vistas and a great view of Pike's Peak. You expect to see a cowboy come out from one of the hills, herding cattle or something. It's real Colorado looking.

Arrowhead GC

is a public course that has unbelievable views. There are these huge red rock formations thrown into the foothills. The beauty of these rocks is you play in and around them. It makes for a spectacular setting.

For a different feel, consider going to Vail. It's less than two hours away and it's a beautiful drive. There are several courses in the mountains. At the Club at Cordillera

, you play in and out of Aspen tree groves. It's a unique experience.

WHERE TO STAY

There is a boutique place downtown, Hotel Teatro, my wife is really high on. It has a restaurant, Prima Ristorante, that's top notch. It's across from the Denver Center for Performing Arts. When you stay in hotels for a living, you don't usually get excited about any of them, but this is a pretty cool spot...A Ritz-Carlton recently opened downtown. Very luxurious. Former Denver Broncos QB John Elway opened a restaurant there.

DINING

The original Elway's is in Cherry Creek. There's sports memorabilia all over. Not only might you see John but also some of the famous people from Denver having a cocktail.

For Mexican food, we love Jose O'Shea's. And for a nostalgic place to eat, there's the Cherry Cricket. You can go in, have a burger and a beer. It's been there forever, and sometimes gets on the loud side, but it has a neat atmosphere.

DON'T MISS

About 15 minutes west of Denver is Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It holds concerts all the time; the sound is incredible. Just going there to check out the scenery is worth it.

Another neat place is Rocky Mountain National Park about 90 miles northwest of Denver. There you can walk along the Continental Divide. There is also a herd of elk that hangs out in the area. You can stop your car and take pictures.

I love to fly fish, and there are plenty of opportunities to do that, particularly on the South Platte River. You can also go to Silverthorn and fish on the Blue River. There are some great spots and guides to help.