ARROWHEAD GOLF CLUB
10850 West Sundown Trail
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Par – 70
Excitement Level – 10/12
Difficulty – 5/12
Cost – $125 peak, $35 reduced
Yearly Memberships – No
Conditioning – ****
Value – *****
Tees Yards Rating Slope
Blue 6682 70.9 134
White 6269 68.9 129
Red 5465 71.1 127
A mere glimpse of a photo of Arrowhead in a Denver Area travel magazine, with its serene fairways lapping gently at the feet of towering, ancient flatirons is enough to rekindle even the most dormant golf spirit.
Located in Colorado’s scenic Roxborough State Park, Arrowhead’s red rock flatirons are a geological marvel 300 million years in the making. Oxidation of the plentiful iron minerals gives a warm ruddy hue to cathedral like spires and monoliths. Their color and size are truly majestic and humankind has long been drawn to the power of these rocks. Our native ancestors worshipped at the feet of these giants for centuries. Nearby Red Rocks Amphitheatre, carved from the top of a massive flatiron, has been used for Easter Sunday services for almost a hundred years. The powerful setting cannot help but move even the most jaded golf traveler – it is like playing golf in a national park.
Even rock legends U2 were so moved by the setting that they chose to release their Red Rocks performance on both video and audio. Under a Blood Red Sky has long been hailed as one of rock music’s greatest visual triumphs.
The course is not long. The course does not have a major tournament pedigree. The course does not have an affiliated amenity-laden hotel with spa and massage packages. But Robert Trent Jones routed eighteen challenging holes amidst one of the most spectacular and inspiring landscapes in the entire country. The holes are cut in and around the flatiron monuments, making one of nature’s most powerful miracles a strategic part of the course. And at sunset, the meeting of red sky, red mountains, long shadows and ribbons of fairway is as primal a golf landscape as can be found anywhere in the world.
ON THE COURSE
The course measures only 6682 yards from the back tees and plays shorter since it sits 4000 feet above sea level. But with a par of only 70, several of the par fours are still long, particularly at the start of the round. Several of the holes offer typical Jones “runway tees,” meaning the angle will be same for the expert as for the less skilled player. The middle tees and forward tees are equally challenging, yet fair. The course features thick rough, numerous bunkers parallel to the line of play, narrow fairways and several well-placed water hazards. Locals will tell out-of-towners the other critical rule – almost every putt breaks towards Denver. (Don’t worry, you’ll have an unobstructed view all day!)
Players must be sharp from the outset as the course starts with four difficult holes. In a move highly atypical of Jones, the first hole is a 427 yard par four with trouble lurking on both sides of the fairway. It is not only one of the more difficult holes on the course, but one of the toughest openers Jones ever designed, bucking his normal philosophy that the opener should not be overly taxing. The first drive of the day benefits from a pulpit tee perched high above the fairway. Play a little to the right as the fairway slopes sharply to the left. After a medium length par five to help groove the player’s swing, Jones serves up the first of the five postcard-gorgeous par threes. Red rock formations frame the back of the hole.
The fourth is the most difficult hole on the course. At over 400 yards even for amateurs, the approach is all carry over a pond. Hip high rough and brush guard both sides of the hole from tee to green, so long and straight are the only options on both shots.
Four short but picturesque par fours are next, each providing panoramic views of the desert and flatirons. Players should be able to negotiate these holes with reasonable ease. They also feature remarkable flora and fauna. A deer thought nothing of approaching my cart at the sixth tee and nuzzling my cart. The ninth is a perfect culmination to the front nine, a downhill 170 yard par 3 that may require as little a nine iron to reach, but beware the pond lurking short and right.
The back features one postcard view after another. Dramatic dropoffs, flatirons so close you can touch them, and a seamless routing combine to provide a breathtaking experience. The tenth, a short par four, cascades down from the tee box to a narrow fairway below, then around a flatiron to the green. Eleven and twelve each play around a massive red rock towering sixty feet above the fairway. Yet they are all a mere prelude to the amazing thirteenth – arguably the most beautiful par three west of the Mississippi River. The tee box is flanked on each side by flatirons and stands eighty feet above a wide but shallow green framed by a flatiron behind and a ravine in front.
As I stood on the fifteenth tee my playing partners, Denver natives and Arrowhead regulars told me about the yearly charity tournament sponsored by Denver Bronco football legend John Elway. According to them, Elway would cut the dogleg on the fifteenth by playing over the towering flatiron – a rock 187 feet high. With a little prodding, they convinced me to take a try at the same shot myself. As my ball ricocheted off the middle of the rock to a grave in the waiting ravine, one smiled, shook his head and said, “Yep – no one’s hit through that rock yet.”
A long uphill par five and long difficult par three give way to a short par five finishing hole. Water guards the fairway, and must be avoided off the tee to preserve the chance for a closing birdie.
CHIP SHOTS AND TAP-INS
Arrowhead seems frozen in time. Serene fairways stand in stark contrast to a hundred ancient razor-edged ridges which turn a million shades of red as they reflect sunset’s last faint glow. It is as if God himself seems to hypnotize the player with all the sensuous beauty of his own garden.
At a high season rate of around $80 and a twilight rate around $40, Arrowhead offers champagne quality at beer prices. It is convenient to Denver, the heartbeat of the American Rockies. Part country, part hippie, part skier-dude, part Hollywood and all comfort, the city is a rich conglomerate of sports teams, world class skiing, climbing and other outdoor activities, national landmarks, cultural centers and steak dinners.