The name Aspen evokes thoughts of black-diamond ski slopes, hot-tub parties and fur-covered UGG boots. But the popular winter resort area has an alter ego: In the summer it's one of the prettiest, most serene places on Earth, and home to some ear-popping mountain golf. The area's best-kept secret is the private, eco-friendly Snowmass Club (pictured above), which was meticulously redesigned by Jim Engh in 2004 and offers one of the greatest up-and-down rounds a golfer can face. (The club has limited tee times for the public for $185, cart included.)
Built to reward precision and imagination, the par-72, 7,008-yard layout has 400 feet of elevation changes and is 8,000 feet above sea level at its lowest point. The thin-air distance boost, about 10 to 15 percent for a well-struck shot, comes in handy on holes like the 278-yard sixth, a downhill par 3 with a very large green. The tee shot of the day is on the majestic 18th. No matter the skill level, every player should take a rip from the elevated back tee just to watch the ball descend more than 100 feet into the fairway. The uphill holes, such as the par-3 12th, test your club selection as much as they do your swing (not to mention make you glad you took a cart). Engh's signature deep bunkers with flat bottoms can be found on practically every hole, but the biggest hazard at Snowmass is distraction. Amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and long-range glimpses of elk, moose and the occasional bear provide great excuses for a bad shot.