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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Finding a golf instructor

Golf can be a hard game to master. It sounds pretty easy – put a ball on the ground and hit it with the big end of a club. How hard could it be? The ball isn’t even moving!

Those of us who have played for a long time understand the logic and the frustration. Our advice is to find a golf instructor that can help. The golf swing is much more complicated than it looks, though not that difficult to master. A good golf instructor can help.


There are many places to find someone. One of the best ways to find someone is to ask other golfers. Other players can give you an idea of how the instructor teaches. Are they experienced and patient with a new player, or not? A good instructor asks about the golfer’s goals for the game. If your goal is to win the statewide amateur tournament or make your college team, your instructor might focus on different drills and techniques than if you’re only trying to enjoy weekend play with your friends.

Every golf course has golf professionals on staff. If they don’t have a teaching pro available, they should be able to recommend someone. Local golf shops often know of several teachers in the area. If you prefer a golf school, the Internet is a great place to start the search. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) has a list of certified instructors on its website.

In many cases, the decision is between group classes and private lessons. If you’re looking for some general direction or just starting out, a series of group lessons may give you the information that you need to get out and play your first round. Once you’ve decided to continue with the game, private lessons help by focusing on your specific abilities.

Once a teacher is found, be clear on what you hope to accomplish in the time together. Explain what the specific problem is so that the instructor can help solve that problem. When the lesson ends, you should have some drills or explanation of how to avoid or solve the problem.

The more you understand the game and learn to play it well, the more enjoyable the game becomes. Even the pros hire instructors to help them with their game. Why wouldn’t those of us who are playing for the enjoyment of it hire someone to help? Don’t continue to be frustrated – fix that problem and have a lot more fun on the course.

Fossil Trace Golf Club: Golf where the dinosaurs roamed

When the email came across offering a “Nine and Dine” at the Fossil Trace Golf Club, we quickly made our reservations. When we arrived, the 50 or so folks that were part of the group were hitting balls on the driving range, laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. We went in, claimed our cart key and chatted with the clerk behind the desk. The course was laid out behind the clubhouse, looking very inviting.

#1 Fossil Trace
#1 Fossil Trace

Fossil Trace Golf Club is in Golden, Colorado. It’s a links-style course designed by Jim Engh. Opened in July 2003, it’s nestled in the foothills just outside of Denver.


It was a shotgun start without a shotgun. The ranger led us down to the first hole and we got ready to tee off. The first hole is a dogleg left, downhill, with a surprise around the corner. It’s 575 yards from the back tees and 447 from the front tees with the bend at about the half-way point. Looking down the fairway towards the hole at the turn, a brick chimney stands in the middle of the fairway. It should be easy to miss, but for some of us it’s a magnet for our ball.

Fossil Trace #3
Fossil Trace #3

The second hole is also downhill. It’s a shorter par 4 with the tee box at the top of the hill. Hit the ball to the crest of the hill, and the ball rolls down to the green. The 3rd hole is an intimidating par 3. Long prairie grass fronts the first 5 yards, then sand traps guard the green on the left and right. If an inaccurate shot doesn’t land in the sand, it lands on the side of a hill, making the second shot much harder.

Fossil Trace #6
Fossil Trace #6

The 4th hole is long and straight with water in play near the green. Number 5 is a par 3, with wetlands in front and a slightly elevated green.


Number 7 is very interesting. It’s a short par 4 with a deep cleft of sand leading into the elevated green. Hit to the right to avoid the sand.

#7 Fossil Trace
#7 Fossil Trace

Hole #8 is a straight par 4 and finishing the front nine is a long par 5 that is 659 yards from the back tees and 458 from the front tees. It was a long way back and we were glad to finish and go in for a great dinner.

Fossil Trace is an interesting course to play. For the high handicapper, it can be a challenge to manage some of the forced carries on the short holes. For the low handicap player, thoughtful course management and the ability to place shots could insure a low score. We really liked this course and look forward to going back and playing the back nine.


Nine and Dine at Fossil Trace

M and I joined a Nine and Dine at Fossil Trace in Golden last Sunday. We had a great time and got to play a great golf course. I’ll be writing about it tomorrow.

I enjoy the playing golf, then getting a good meal afterward. This course is set in the foothills just outside of Denver, and some of the views are quite nice. We both had a good game and enjoyed ourselves. I’ll post the course review in the next few days.