Devil’s Thumb Golf Club * * * *
This lesser-known layout wends and scuttles through the stark, almost lunar landscape southeast of Grand Junction. Named after a distant butte, Devil’s Thumb indeed delights in the diabolical. Holes straddle plateaus, demand carries across ravines and lakes and play up canyons to split fairways with hidden greens flanked by gnarly bunkers. In other words, there’s plenty of drama even without the awesome elevation changes found at so many other Colorado courses. Architect:Rick Phelps, 2001. Yardage: 7,176. Par: 72. Slope: 132. Greens Fee: $42. Contact: 9900 Devil’s Thumb Road, Delta; 970-874-6262, deltagolf.org.
Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club * * * *
Another wild Jim Engh creation, Lakota Canyon Ranch roller-coasters through the striated buttes and variegated valleys near New Castle, a former coal-mining town. Almost every hole drops precipitously from tee to green, but Engh plays enough with depth perception, bunker placement and green contouring that you never feel as though you’ve played the same hole twice. The climb to each tee rewards you with breathtaking views of a landscape that includes Burning Mountain, where a coal-seam fire has smoldered for more than a century. Architect:Jim Engh, 2004. Yardage: 7,111. Par: 72. Slope: 137. Greens Fee: $85. Contact: 1000 Club House Drive, New Castle; 970-984-9700, lakotacanyonranch.com.
Best of the Rest
Framed by mountains and perched at 9,324 feet, the twenty-seven-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed Breckenridge Golf Club (breckenridgegolfclub.com) redefines municipal golf. At Fossil Trace Golf Club (fossiltrace.com), a Jim Engh layout in the Denver suburb of Golden (home of Coors Brewing Company), holes skirt huge limestone outcroppings, rusting backhoes and cranes left over from an old clay mine, and, yes, fern and dinosaur fossils. The Golf Club at Bear Dance (beardancegolf.com) in Larkspur, forty-five minutes south of Denver, embodies the quintessential elements of Colorado golf, including precipitous elevation shifts and pulse-quickening vistas. A redoubtable alpine retreat, the Club at Cordillera (cordillera-vail.com) near Vail boasts three eighteens—by Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Hale Irwin—as well as a Dave Pelz Scoring Game School.