Tee Time: (Almost) the highest tee box in North America | SummitDaily.com

Tee Time: (Almost) the highest tee box in North America

Summit County is home to dozens of the unofficial "highest (blank) in America," from Imperial Express Superchair at Breck to the Dillon Yacht Club on the shores of Dillon Reservoir.

But none are quite as intriguing as Copper Creek Golf Course's Hole 14, known for the highest tee box in North America at 9,863 feet. It even has the sign to prove it, and players from across the world come just to check it off their bucket lists. (The caveat: It's the highest tee box at a full 18 in North America. The highest tee boxes, period, are over in leadville at 9,950 feet on the Mount Massive nine-hole course.)

"I like the relaxed atmosphere we have here, the type of clientele we get," said Scott Sundeen, a longtime course superintendent who's in his second season as general manager at Copper Creek. "Copper is obviously a beautiful environment for a course, with scenic holes, and that makes it a fun yet challenging course to play."

And it shows. Designed by Perry and Pete Dye, the Par 69 course has long been a local's favorite and it has plenty to do with the laid-back atmosphere Sundeen finds so appealing. On any given day, you'll find golfers pedaling the course's fleet of golf bikes, practicing their approach in the updated driving "cage" (think an outdoor batting cage for golfing) and talking about the ski season to come. It's hard not to when the fairways and tee boxes sit right at the base of Rosi's Run and the Super Bee six-chair.

After years as superintendent, Sundeen knows every fairway and green like the back of his hand. He and Copper Creek pros weigh in on the course's signature hole.

Hole 14 | Par 4
249 yards (white tees), 332 yards (gold tees)
Naturally, the highest full-18 tee box in this hemisphere also features a daunting vertical drop: the green is roughly 100 feet below the white tees. Luckily, it's a straight shot, but when paired with regular wind gusts blowing directly across the fairway from the west, a poor drive can easily lead to a bogey — or worse.

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"It's a dramatic drop from that high tee box," former Copper PGA pro Tim Spring said. "Even though it's relatively short, it's still a challenging hole.

Elevation aside, the hole highlights everything local golfers love about the course, beginning with stunning views of the Tenmile Range and just about everything else for miles around, including the occasional bear. The course sits at the base of Copper Mountain and more than a thousand acres of forest, making it a haven for wildlife sightings.

Hazards: A massive bunker buttresses the entire right side of the green. If your ball lands in the trap, be ready to dig. Chances are it will be buried deep.

Pro tip: Skirt the bunker issue and drive straight for the green. It's nearly 300 yards, but Copper's PGA pros say the 100-foot drop makes it more than manageable for big hitters. Otherwise, play it safe to the left-hand fairway for an easy pitch onto the green.

Editor’s note: This article first printed in July 2015 and is annually updated for accuracy.

Copper Creek Golf Course
What: An 18-hole Par 69 course at the base of Copper Mountain, featuring high-alpine fairways and the highest tee box for a full 18 in North America

Where: Copper Mountain

Greens fees: $28-$89 for peak and mid-week; $23-$76 for off-peak

Phone: (970) 968-3333

Cart or golf-bike rental is now included in all greens fees. Season passes are currently $409 for unlimited play ($549 with a cart) through June 30, and four-pack passes are $169. For reservations, course cards and lesson info, see the course website at CopperColorado.com.