Tiara Rado Golf Course
Grand Junction’s Tiara Rado Golf Course sits at the foot of the red cliffs of the Colorado National Monument. The locals translate Tiara Rado as Red Crown. Framed by the red rock cliffs of the National Monument, Tiara Rado has an awesome location. It began in 1971 as a six- hole course, and is now a full 18 owned and operated by the city of Grand Junction. It plays 6400 yards and is a real “walk in the park” as you enjoy the surrounding red cliffs and experience the wide variety of bird species. We even had an encounter with the resident kitty, who greeted us on the third hole by batting my ball across the green and then bumping up against my leg and putter. After we moved on, he gave the foursome behind us the same treatment.
This course is in wonderful condition. IN THIS GRAPH I THINK YOU NEED TO SAY MORE ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE COURSE ITSELF—YOU’RE NOT REVIEWING REAL ESTATE The homes on the front 9 are pretty average homes. The course changes dramatically on the back where there is water on several holes and more contemporary homes lining the course. The sign over the desk in the pro shop says “No work boots and no cowboy boots,” which tells you all you need to know about the neighborhood.
Green fee: $43.75 weekdays and $50.75 weekends, including cart. Tiara Rado is open ten months a year. Phone: 970-254-3830
Golf Club at Redlands Mesa
“Positioned beneath the slopes of jagged buttes south of Grand Junction, Colorado, in the shadow of the towering pink and red sandstone face of the Colorado National Monument, Redlands Mesa is like playing golf along the bottom of the Grand Canyon, with a couple of sojourns to the Garden of the Gods thrown in.” –Golf Digest
Redlands Mesa, a few miles down the road from Tiara Rado, also sits at the base of the Colorado National Monument. This mountain masterpiece by architect Jim Engh has won many accolades, including Top 30 Public from Golf Digest five years running. It was also voted #1 Best New Affordable Public Golf Course in America. It deserves all this and more.
Engh, who has three courses on the Top 100 list, may be the king of mountain golf course architects. He has an incredible ability to take dramatic mountain terrain and place golf holes on it that look like they belong there. When I asked Engh about his design philosophy, he said, “I am in the entertainment business. I want to delight, entertain, fully engage and inspire golfers who play my courses. I hope they have gone on an emotional ride from frustration to complete intrigue when they play Redlands Mesa.”
The mounding on Redlands Mesa echoes the surrounding mountain terrain, and hidden among those mounds are some bunkers—a modest 41 in all—that you just don’t want to get in. In this mountainous environment, almost every hole plays down hill, some dramatically, as in tee boxes that are 100-150 feet above the fairway. It’s just a spectacular golf course. I did learn from Engh that, as much as golfers love down hill tee shots, they are more likely to drift off line than uphill tee shots because of the extended time the ball is in the air. That may be the one respect in which uphill tee shots are easier.
The views are dramatic enough that you may forget you came here to play golf. The greens have more movement in them than a bowl of jelly and are almost all uniquely shaped. The good news is many of them are actually bowls, so if you hit around the edges, you will probably get a favorable roll. But miss the edges by a few yards and you have a very challenging chip shot, down hill from a down hill lie, one of the toughest shots in golf. “Golf is a gathering game,” said Engh, “The question is, ‘Is your ball gathered onto the quadrant of the green where the pin is placed that day?’”
Here are a few examples of the kinds of holes that will launch you on the “emotional ride” Jim Engh wants you to take at Redlands Mesa. Number 17 may be the most memorable tee shot on the course—218 yards from the back tees with a 150-foot plus drop from tee to green.
Redlands Mesa is a par 72 playing from tees ranging from 4890 to 7007 yards. At 6000 feet of elevation these yardages will play shorter. This example of wonderful golf is easily the centerpiece of a golf trip to Grand Junction.
Green fee: $89.00
Devil’s Thumb Golf Course
Devil’s Thumb is 40 miles down the road in Delta, Colorado, and it’s another must-play on your Grand Junction golf trip. The course is surrounded by foothills which are basically volcanic mud. This landscape has an almost lunar look and in some cases comes right down next to the fairways. Grand Mesa, the largest mesa in the U.S., looms large in the background. There are five holes, all featuring dramatic downhill elevation changes, which could serve as signature holes at Devil’s Thumb: 3, 4, 5, 13 and 14. A few of the holes on the back nine even have streams and ponds running through them. This is a very good golf course in a stunning setting and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Green fee: $25 weekdays and $31 weekends, plus cart.
Forty miles east of Grand Junction and just below the Grand Mesa, Cedaredge Lodge is an old 1950s style motel that proprietors Donna and Gary have turned into a small piece of heaven. It has quaint little rooms, all with tiny kitchenettes, and sits by a stream—open the window and let the rushing water lull you to sleep. There’s more—a clever little game room, putt-putt course, hot tub, fire pit and outdoor barbecue. Donna, in her prior life, was a massage therapist at a body building gym. She offers fantastic bodywork. This unusual motel is completely worth the stay. There is not a restaurant on the property, but Donna and Gary will gladly barbeque dinner for their guests. I ASSUME THIS IS A PLACE TO STAY WHEN PLAYING DEVIL’S THUMB—YOU MIGHT SAY THAT SO IT MAKES SENSE AT THIS SPOT IN THE ARTICLE
The Links at Cobble Creek
A river (more a stream, perhaps) runs through almost every hole of The Links at Cobble Creek in Montrose, Colorado. We are half way between Telluride and Grand Junction in the western part of the state. Cobble Creek actually runs through 15 of the 18 holes, developing into ponds and ten different lakes along the way and bringing beauty and intrigue to this wonderful layout. The course, which runs through a very nice housing development, has four sets of tees ranging from 6970 yards down to 5177. There’s a game for every player.
The front nine is three par threes, three par fours, and three par fives. Par fives and par threes are usually the most interesting holes, and that certainly is the case here. The opening par five is a sweeping dog leg right followed two holes later by another par five that sweeps left. The third par five on the front is relatively straight. Numbers two and four bring you straight on to the breathtaking views of Mt. Sneffels, one of Colorado’s towering 14,000 foot peaks You get the same view from the seventh tee, if you turn around (maybe this hole should play the other direction). There are two wonderful, short (some would say drivable) par fours that are superbly designed with plenty of trouble. ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE BACK?
This is an almost level golf course, which is unusual in a mountain setting. It has half private play and half public play, and is beautifully maintained. What I found most intriguing about Cobble Creek is that it was designed by Craig Cherry. He got the job because his father-in-law was the property developer. This was the first, last and only golf course he ever designed. Creating a golf course requires skill and art, and for someone to create one this good with no training is remarkable.
Green fee: $38.00 on weekdays and $41.00 on weekends. Carts are an additional id=”mce_marker”3.00 per player.
The Bridges Golf Club
The Bridges, in Montrose, Colorado, is a wonderful Nicklaus design that was included in the Top 10 new courses by Golf Magazine in 2005. The Bent grass fairways are generous and in terrific condition. There are too many wetlands, streams, and ponds to count, crossed by many bridges (guess how it got its name).
Number three boasts a challenging double fairway. Number five brings the San Juan Mountains into view, including Mount Buckhorn. Number six is a double dogleg, so hit your tee shot carefully. Number 13 is a devilishly designed drivable par four. Number 15 is a long par five with two different greens, which make the hole dramatically different from day to day. Number 16 is a mid-iron par three with a very shallow, well protected green. Club selection is key here. The greens have lots of undulation, making the putting very challenging.
The Bridges is private, but nearly two-thirds of its play is public and you will be warmly welcomed and feel like a member for a day. The clubhouse is 23,000 square feet, but more importantly there are four sleeping rooms (suites) upstairs that are wonderfully appointed. The rates vary from id=”mce_marker”25 per night to id=”mce_marker”75 per night. If you are headed this way, this would make a wonderful base for playing and touring.
Green fee: $72.00 plus id=”mce_marker”3.00 cart.
Black Canyon National Park
Black Canyon is just a few minutes drive from the Bridges and has some views that are as spectacular as the Grand Canyon. No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Views from Painted Wall, Chasm Point and Sunset View are as good as it gets. If you are in the area, don’t miss this.