HITTING INTO THIN AIR
"My master's thesis analyzed the effects of altitude on golf. Some points to consider:
First of all, the higher up you are, the less dense the air is. A struck ball thus meets with less resistance than it would at sea level and will therefore travel farther--an increase of about seven percent at five thousand feet for the average player.
Altitude also affects the amount of lift and drag on the ball, resulting in shots with less curvature and less height. On tee shots that would normally call for a driver, I often advise players to hit a three-wood. This generates a higher launch angle and more carry.
Thinner air means thinner wind--it won't knock shots down the way it does at sea level. Also, you'll see more roll and less spin, so better players should play a lower compression ball for better control."
--TOM APPLE, PGA Master Professional, Country Club of the Rockies
WHAT'S PLAYING AT KEYSTONE
Carving eighteen good holes out of a mountain presents tremendously daunting problems of scale, routing and, above all, expense. Where the grades are steep, everything from cart-path construction to grass cutting is fabulously pricey--which is why many believe the great mountain course remains unbuilt.
The new River course at Keystone could change that. Opening June first, this course gives you at least seven opportunities to feel like an altitude-aided Zeus with the driver. Designers Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry cleverly balanced the need for a lot of landing area with mounding that keeps the fairways from looking like forty-acre fields. Bring a camera. You can fill your frame with the cold, clear, trout-filled water of the Snake River on the front nine, mountain vistas on the back nine and the mind-boggling mix of flax, daisies, poppies and lupine framing most of the holes.
The River course stands in majestic contrast to the Ranch course, Keystone's other track, which was built below the hills in1980 on flatland (with a low budget) and could just as easily be in Iowa--if Iowa had views of distant peaks. Call 970-496-4250.--CURT SAMPSON
CAPTURING THE FLAGS
Judy Topol opened Little Annie's Eating House in 1972 as a haven for hungry skiers, snowshoers and hikers. All are still welcome, though current owner John Hamwi and his customers are less concerned with slopes than strokes. The restaurant, a rustic "upscale diner," boasts not only Aspen's best barbequed ribs but also the largest collection of golf-hole flags west of St. Augustine--about two hundred hang from the rafters. Hamwi, an eight-handicap, has collected the flags from courses that he has played all over the world, including Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. Although the flags are generally donated, Hamwi admits to bribing a groundskeeper occasionally. In addition to boosting business, the flags, says Hamwi, afford him the opportunity to play some of the world's most exclusive courses. "The then-owner of Deering Bay stopped in to eat here and asked where his flag was. I said, 'I haven't played your course.' Two months later, a round-trip ticket to Miami arrived."
Hamwi was married at the turn of Fox Hollow, in Denver, shooting a forty-one on the front and, after the nuptials, a thirty-eight. "I knew then," he jokes, "that I'd married the right woman."
You'll find Little Annie's at 517 East Hyman Avenue, but get there early--there's always a wait, and they don't have a starter. --TODD JANSEN