Rifle Creek Golf Course –fun near the Rifle Gap

Rifle Creek Golf Club
Rifle Creek Golf Club

Rifle, Colorado was not our original destination. Our plans to spend a mid-summer weekend in Glenwood Springs changed because of the lack of hotel rooms. Having never visited Rifle before, we decided to check out the town and the golf course.

The Rifle Creek Golf Course is about three miles outside of town on State Highway 325, on the way to Rifle Gap State Park. The course is in a pretty valley, at the base of the Grand Hogback Range. We had set up our tee time on Golf Now, so check-in at the desk was quick and easy. The staff were very nice and efficient. Soon, we were in our cart and at the first tee.

The course is 6, 267 from the back tees, and 5,127 from the fronts. There are three sets of tee boxes, allowing the more novice players to keep up with the better golfers.

The front nine

Hole #1 is a mid-range par 4 at 358 from the backs and 323 from the front. From this elevated tee box it looks like the ball is going a mile. The dogleg turn is almost exactly half way down the fairway. Unless you’re quite the power hitter, it would be tough to carry the trees on the left. Once past the bend, the approach to the green is easy. We were off!

It was a beautiful morning, and as we teed up on #2, we marveled at the beauty of the mountains around us. Number 2 is a par 5 at 346 from the tips and 450 from the fronts. It’s lined with trees, but pretty straight. The fairway tends to slope downward and you do need to watch for the creek that runs in front of the green. There was a sand trap hiding in the shadows to the right of the green, but it really wasn’t in play for us.

Moving on to #3, my husband sighed as he climbed up to the tee box and saw that he would be shooting over creek and the bushes lining the bank. Since I was on the forward tee boxes, I had a clear shot. This is a shorter par 4, with 261 to the green from the reds. It’s a very slight dogleg right. What makes this interesting are the trees lined up on the right side of the fairway. If you avoid getting in those trees, the approach to the green is pretty easy.

We finished up and motored to #4. This hole is at the back of the course, with native grasses to the right. It’s a par 5, and the longest on the course for the back tees, at 512 from the tips, and 478 from the whites. It’s downhill and a slight dogleg right. When teeing off the back tees, the approach to the fairway seemed tight. With the mountain and native grasses right and the trees left, it looked intimidating to me. Luckily, the forward tee box is a bit closer and aiming to the center of the fairway was easy. There’s a huge pine tree at the bend in the dogleg. Once past that, the downhill fairway funnels the ball to the green.

Number 5 is a short part 3 over the pond and behind the clubhouse. The back tees shoot through the trees to the elevated green. A wayward shot may end up under a tree. Be accurate here

Hole #6 is a par 5 for the red tees and par 4 for the back tees. If you’re shooting from the tips, you’ll be shooting through the trees and back over the creek to a wide fairway. The creek follows the fairway, but really isn’t in play. This is a slight dogleg right to a slightly elevated green. The views from the green are beautiful.

On number 7, the back tees shoot over the creek onto a pretty straight fairway. No hazards here.

On #8, players shoot down a straight fairway with a large pond on the left. A berm guards the pond, so you have to work at getting the ball in the water. The green can’t really be called an island green, but the creek surrounds it on three sides. Of course, with the creek comes big cottonwood trees. The green has a definite right to left slope, so getting a ball to stick could be a challenge.

The final hole on this side is a straight par 3, ending up back at the clubhouse. The pond is on the left, but it’s really not in play.

I really liked the front of this course. It’s pretty flat and straight, making it easier for the high handicapper to get to the green without too much trouble. The better players can work on shot placement, and maybe drive the shorter par 4’s.

The back nine

The back nine at Rifle Creek is completely different from the front. The back of the course is more a mountain course, with more elevation changes and excellent views.

Hole #10 is across the street, not far from the driving range. It’s a dogleg left at 389 from the tips and 312 from the front, with a pond next to the tee boxes. It’s pretty straight and flat, with a large sand trap on the left about half way down the fairway.

Number 11 is the first par 3 on this side. At 200 from the tips and 118 from the fronts, it’s not that far. Players are shooting to a slightly elevated green sheltered by a large hill on the right and a deep bunker on the left. Keep right here – use the hill on the right to roll the shot towards the center of the green.

After handling number 11, Hole #12 starts up the mountain. The hole is pretty straight, with the tee boxes set on the left side. Players are hitting up the hill, 371 from the back tees and 301 from the fronts. The entire fairway slopes down, right to left so it’s prudent to try to put your shot at the far right on the fairway. There’s a creek winding through just in front of the green, so be careful here. Our shots ended up in the native areas on the right, but luckily the balls were easy to find.

Still climbing, number 13 is a dogleg right. Players are shooting from 448 from the backs and 368 from the front tee box. There’s a forced carry here over the native grasses – for the fronts it’s 145 and for the backs it’s 225. There’s plenty of fairway once you get over, with no other hazards for most of us, unless you can hit far enough to put it on the hill that lines the fairway. Once in the middle, the fairway slopes from left to right. It’s an elevated green, so you many need a bit more club to get over the sand and onto the green.

Number 14 is the signature hole here – or at least it should be. This hole is not really that long at 405 from the back and 314 from the front. Players hit from an elevated tee box that provides views of the surrounding golf course and beyond. Hit pretty straight from here or the ball finds the thick trees on the left or the native scrub areas to the right. The fairway slopes right to left so stay right, just out of the junk. This eleveated green is protected by a large, deep bunker on the left.

Hole #15 is a short par 3, but the views from the tee box are magnificent. This hole is harder than it looks, with players shooting down from elevated tee boxes to a large green. The mountain backs the green, with a couple of pot bunkers and a pond on the right. There really isn’t any fairway to speak of, so be accurate here.

Winding up the mountain, number 16 also has elevated tee boxes and wonderful views. This hole is a par 4, with 390 from the backs and 268 from the fronts. It’s a sharp dogleg left. Strong hitters might have a chance at cutting the corner to the green, though it’s over a hill and a blind shot. There is a creek that runs in front of the green at 16, so be aware with the approach shot.

Number 17 is also a dogleg left, and the longest hole on this side of the course at 509 from the tips and 435 from the front. From the elevated tee boxes many strong hitters can cut the corner. The fairway is pretty narrow, so be careful the ball doesn’t end up in the trees and rough lining the fairway. The green slopes from left to right with a large bunker on the left.

The 18th is the final par 4 here, with the fairway hugging the large pond on the right. Stay left with tee shots to avoid the water and to set up the approach shot with the water out of play. There’s a large rock formation in the middle of the fairway to aim at near the curve of the dogleg right.

We really liked this course. The back nine is different from the front, feeling like you’ve played two different courses. For the high handicapper, there are a few holes that could be frustrating because of the carries, but overall it is pretty forgiving. For the low handicapper, there’s plenty of challenge in shot placement and club selection. We’ll be back.

Rifle Creek Golf Course, 3004 Hwy 325, Rifle, Colorado 81650, www.riflecreekgolf.com, 970-625-1093.

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Tahquitz Golf Resort – front nine

During our trip to Palm Springs in May, M and I played both Tahquitz courses, the Legends and the Resort course. I put together a video of the front nine on the Resort course, using the photos that I took while we played. This course is pretty fun. For the high handicapper, it’s challenging though not discouraging. For the low handicapper, strategic placement of the ball can avoid the desert areas and the water that comes into play on several holes.

The front nine doesn’t have as many bunkers in play as the back. This is a Ted Robinson design, and allows for those of us who can’t drive the greens or place the ball easily. The water comes into play on the front, particularly on #7 and #8.  Good luck!

 

 

Growing the game

During the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last week, Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade introduced their idea for speeding up play. The 14-inch cup more than triples the target on the green from the current 4.25 inch cup, and speeds up play on the green. This idea is not a new one. Jack Nicholas talks about increasing the size of the cup in the green to an 8 inch diameter for amateurs and high-handicappers. Both men talk about the increased pace of play and more enjoyment for new and less skilled players.

The slow pace of play seems to be the biggest complaint on the course. So, how does that problem get solved? TaylorMade is hosting a blog site called Hackgolf.org, collecting ideas to make golf more attractive to new players as well as current players. Ideas range from adding leagues for young players and new adult players to creating Big Break-style competitions to attract more interest. Of course, some say that the game is perfect in its current form and folks should learn to play without any additional changes.

Barney Adams, the father of Tee it Forward promotes shortening the game to make it more enjoyable and faster. The point of golf is to be outside and have fun. When it’s work for a player to get to the green, the fun starts to seep away. Adams wonders why amateurs feel the only way to play a course is from the back tees. That rule doesn’t appear in the rulebook. Players should play from tees that allow them to be on the green in regulation without any herculean efforts. The game isn’t any easier, just more enjoyable and oftentimes faster.

This topic is a perennial within the golf community. Over time, perhaps a combination of the Tee it Forward philosophy and some changes in the rules or setup for new players will help reduce the number of players that quit because it’s just not fun anymore.

What do you think would speed up play?

August 15 at the Solheim Cup

The weather has been great here this week! No rain, or even the threat of rain. It’s been hot and sunny. Hope all the flatlanders that have joined us here in Parker have used their sunscreen! I saw some pretty red faces yesterday morning at the course.

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The ladies set off on their practice rounds about 9:30 yesterday. The galleries followed like a brightly colored waterfall. I hung out on the ropes between the 3rd and 4th holes, getting autographs and taking some photos of the players. Michelle Wie and Brittney Lang were wearing red, white, and blue leggings. Not a bad look, but definitely one that looked odd from far away.

Hole #3 at the Colorado Golf Club has an interesting approach – like most of the holes on this course. The green is guarded by an arroyo across the front and around to the right. The green slopes into the arroyo, so if the ball doesn’t get to the middle of the green, it definitely will roll back into the weeds. Each lady took a couple of shots to get this one right!

The crowds were respectful. The players were generous with signing anything put in front of them. Since it’s not likely you’ll get much of a chance to get anything signed in the next few days, folks were really trying to get all the players signatures on the tee flags, visors, and hats.

I left around 11:30 and returned for the opening ceremonies in the evening. We got there an hour before the ceremony was set to start and the venue looked full already. What a great crowd! Patti Sheehan was dancing around and signing at the back of the seating area. It was quite a party through the event, with raucous cheers when the players were introduced. Meg Mallon and Liselotte Neumann gave great speeches that revved up the crowds.

We slipped out before the other thousands and managed to get back to the parking lot before the throngs arrived. We even talked about going to Germany for the next Solheim Cup. We’ll have to see about that.

I have tickets for tomorrow. Watching the teams today, Europe is up so far. Yikes! Go USA!

Applewood Golf Course – in the shadow of the foothills

From the east side of the city, we drove through two separate rain showers before we pulled up to the Applewood Golf Course with the sun shining and the clouds moving off. To the west of Denver and nestled in a Golden neighborhood, Applewood Golf Course is providing golfers with a great budget alternative.

The pro shop is down the hill and round the corner. The staff is pleasant and helpful as they made our tee time, took our money and returned our receipt. We took the code and the advice to wait for the ball machine at the driving range as it pauses between drops. Hitting a few balls on the driving range got us limbered up and ready for the first tee.

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The course is a fairly short, 6188 yards from the back tees and 5386 from the fronts. The longest hole is 529 from those back tees, which means lower handicappers may be able to reach the green in two.

The first hole is a short, straight par four with the driving range along the right side. The second hole is set up behind the green for the first hole and is a par 3. There’s a lake to the right, but it’s not in play. On the third hole, the back tees are set so that player shoot over a swamp onto the fairway. The view through the scrub was intimidating, but our group managed to get over with no problem. Once out on fairway, be aware of stray shots from the other fairways. This hole played slow for us as we waited for folks to retrieve or hit their shots to other fairways.

Applewood Golf Course Hole #1
Applewood Golf Course Hole #1

 

 

Applewood Golf Course Hole #2
Applewood Golf Course Hole #2

 

Applewood Golf Course Hole #3
Applewood Golf Course Hole #3

Hole #4 is one of the par fives on this course at 458 from the back tees. It’s pretty straight with long rough on the right and hard pack on the left. The fairway went from patchy to soggy on this hole, but there aren’t any other hazards to avoid. Hole #5 is a sharp dogleg right. There’s a large pond on the right that is fenced off and doesn’t belong to the course. There’s also a large tree that sits in the middle of the fairway. Once around the corner, the green is slightly elevated and tend to move left to right.

Applewood Golf Course Hole #4
Applewood Golf Course Hole #4

 

Applewood Golf Course Hole #5
Applewood Golf Course Hole #5

 

Hole number 6 is a short par 4 and dogleg left. There’s a bunker guarding the left side of the green, so stay right on the approach. Number 7 is the short par 5 and with a dogleg right around a pond. There’s a lot of tall rough around the pond, so hit towards the tree on the right to avoid the hazard. Once you get a view of the green, notice the small water hazard guarding the green on the left. You’ll want to keep your approach shot to the right.

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Applewood Golf Course Hole #6
Applewood Golf Course Hole #6

 

Applewood Golf Course Hole #7
Applewood Golf Course Hole #7

 

Number eight was a fun hole. It’s a short par 4 with a sharp dogleg left that goes uphill after the turn. Low handicappers may be able to hit over the corner and get close to the large green. For those of us that play the fairway, on the way up the hill be aware of the large bunkers guarding the front of the green. The green is also a challenge, moving distinctly down the hill.

Applewood Golf Course Hole #8
Applewood Golf Course Hole #8

Hole #9 is a par 3 over a pond, 203 yards from the back tees and 99 from the fronts. There’s a bit of room to overshoot, but the green is large. Two of the four of us hit the green and were able to par the hole.

 

Applewood Golf Course Hole #9
Applewood Golf Course Hole #9

We only had time to play nine on this course. The back nine looks similar to the front, with number 14 another par 3 over a pond. Overall this is a nice course to play. It’s not too difficult and there aren’t a lot of hazards to worry about. For the high handicapper, this course is a good choice. For the long shooter, there are several chances to drive the green and eagle, though play might be a bit slow. The course looked a bit stressed, though the greens were in reasonable shape. It looked like the grounds team was working on replacing some tee boxes around holes 4, 11, and 12. We enjoyed the round enough that we’ll be back to play again.

Applewood Golf Course, 14001 W. 32nd Avenue, Golden, CO  80401. (303) 279-3003, www.applewoodgc.com

 

So you want to play golf?

There are plenty of people who’ll say that to play golf, you need fancy golf clubs, expensive golf balls, and lots of money to pay for greens fees. It’s not true that you need a fat bank account to play the game. If you want to play, keep these tips in mind.

 

  • You don’t need expensive equipment. You can find good used equipment at most golf stores. There are those golfers that like to have the latest and greatest equipment and turn in equipment for trade. Most of us do not need the newest driver or irons on the market. If you’re new to the game, ask your friends and family whether they know anyone that has an extra set of clubs. Borrow a set for a while in order to learn the swing and the shots. If you need new, many golf shops have starter sets with a bag for under $200. As you get better, invest in better equipment that is tailored to you and your game.

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  • Golf balls and the rest of the accessories are not costly. New golf balls can be bought at the local discount store for as little as 50¢. Used and recycled golf balls can be bought for less. Tees come in large packs of 100 or more, and can be bought for about $3. Ball markers can be coins or other small, round objects. It’s nice to have a glove if the day is hot, though I know folks who hate wearing them.

 

  • Golf courses can be inexpensive. Nearly every city has a public course and these courses usually cost less per hour than a movie with popcorn. Walk the course instead of taking the cart. When first learning, find the nearest par 3 or executive course and play there. Odds are they have group lessons as well. I’ve played the same executive course nearly every Saturday for the past four years and enjoy it every time. Once your skills improve, find the public, regulation course and try it out.

 

It’s not necessary to have irons with the latest technology, or golf balls that cost $2 each. Tees and gloves can be found at the nearest discount store, and check the closet for a hat. Find a friend or loved one that wants to spend a few hours outside in the sunshine and fresh air and play some golf.

It’s December in the Rockies

So, it’s December 1, and the golf courses on the Front Range are doing a brisk business. It’s been in the 60’s the last few days. In fact, it’s due to be near 70 on December 2.

For us near Denver, this is very unusual. Typically at this time of year, we’ve already had a major snowstorm and many of the courses close. The greens get fragile when the weather gets very cold and snowy.

So, the decision for Sunday is, “Where do we play?” instead of, “How do we stay warm?” Hope you’re able to play this late in the year as well.