True Colorado mountain golf at Copper Creek Golf Course and Keystone golf club | SummitDaily.com

True Colorado mountain golf at Copper Creek Golf Course and Keystone golf club

St. Andrews has nothing on Summit County.

Not to bash the birthplace of modern golf, but even The Old Course at Scotland's most prestigious club doesn't quite compare to our duo of true ski resort clubs: Copper Creek Golf Course, an 18-hole course found at the base of Copper Mountain, and Keystone golf club, a collection of two 18-hole courses just west of Keystone Resort.

Both clubs feature wildly different styles of play — pretty typical for the Rocky Mountains — and both are challenging for golfers of any ability, from total newcomers to veterans with a three-stroke handicap. This is mountain golf at it's absolute finest. It almost makes you wish that winter would never arrive — almost.

Copper Creek Golf Course

Copper Creek has a well-earned reputation as a local's club, and it holds true. On a typical afternoon you'll run into families, ski club coaches, husband-wife duos and the occasional pro snowboarder taking a break from clinics at Woodward Copper.

That doesn't mean Copper Creek is a beat-and-battered par 3. No, the par-69 course has a little of everything spread over 18 holes: water hazards, sand bunkers, grass bunkers, elevation changes and, for the first few holes, fairways that pass right over the top of runs just above the Super Bee lift at the East Village.

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"Within Summit County we like to consider ourselves a little more family friendly," said Jeff Inouye, operations supervisor at Copper Creek who's been at Copper for 16 years. "We accept walking all day, we see lots of families in the afternoons — it's a little bit more laid-back."

Just don't let the scorecard fool you. The course seems short at par 69, but the holes are spread across a surprisingly difficult — and often unforgiving — collection of long par 3s and hazard-strewn par 4s.

"It is still a very challenging course," Inouye said. "One of the things I say to everyone is to not let the yardage fool you. Don't select your tee box based on the yardage — a lot of people get in trouble because they play from the tips. They struggle."

The first par 5, hole 6 (494 yards from the tips), is a perfect example. It's the shortest of the course's three par 5s, but it's lined by a road on the left and three water hazards on the right, including one that sits about 60 yards from the green. Feel free to go for eagle with a good drive, but only if you feel comfortable tempting the water.

Inouye's personal favorites are hole 5, a 339-yard par 4 with another water-lined green, and hole 18, a 415-yard par 4 with a difficult fairway and plenty of drop from tee box to green.

Then, of course, is Copper Creek's claim to fame: hole 16, a 332-yard par 4 with the highest tee box in North America (for a full 18, that is). It sits at an elevation of 9,863 feet on a hole that drops nearly 100 feet from the tips to the green.

Bikes on course

New this season at Copper Creek is a fleet of golf bikes. The eight bikes are built to hold clubs on a rear mount, with six gears for uphills and thick tires for riding on the fairway. The machines are relatively new — they debuted in the mountains at Vail Golf Club two years ago — and they're already winning converts, like 71-year-old Copper resident Don Sather.

"I'm sure someone who bikes a lot will find it very easy," said Sather, who's more into hiking than biking when he's not playing a round. "They'll make the hills that I don't because I'm just not a biker. It's really not a workout — it's just pretty comfortable."

Sather admits the bikes aren't quite as social as riding side-by-side with friends in a cart, but when carts aren't allowed on the grass after heavy rains or early in the season, the bikes are a perfect alternative to walking.

"There's enough diversity on the course that, even though it's not long and you don't have incredible hills like The Raven (at Three Peaks in Silverthorne), there's a little of everything," Sather said. "There's water, there's some sand, and I just enjoy getting out to practice the game in the sun, and now getting a little exercise on the bike."

Keystone Ranch

The original course at the house Max Dercum built is Keystone Ranch, a par 72 designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. that first opened for play in 1980.

The front 9 is a traditional links-style course in the alpine meadows between Keystone and nearby Summit Cove, with pine-lined hills on all sides and a large lake smack in the middle.

The back 9 is a typical mountain course, with elevation gains and drops on tough and tight par 3s and par 4s before opening up to long par 5s and par 4s that skirt the shores of the lake.

Hole 5 is one of the most challenging holes on the course — in fact, it might be one of the toughest par 3s at 190 yards from the tips — with a green that's guarded by thick wetland meadows in front and a collection of cabins in the back. They're the namesake ranch homes at Keystone Ranch, and, for a second, it's easy to forget you're playing a championship course, rather than a manicured field in the heart of alpine farm country.

The River Course

Built in 2000, this par-71 Hurdzan-Fry design is the epitome of mountain golf. The front 9 faithfully follows along the banks of Snake River before giving way to a back 9 with stunning elevation changes and rolling, lolling hills, like the 194-foot drop on hole 16, or the well-guarded green on hole 18 with views of Lake Dillon, Red Mountain and Buffalo Peak. The terrain is similar to the extreme design at the other Hurdzan-Fry course in Summit, The Raven.

The club's signature hole, hole 7, is the kind of par 3 you play with money on the line. It's relatively straightforward, with only the creek and two small bunkers guarding the large and slightly sloped green. At 195 yards from the tips, this one is made for birdies with a good tee shot — and it just might be your first ace with a perfect one.

High Fives Foundation golf tourney

What: The second annual golf scramble fundraiser for High Fives Foundation, a California nonprofit for action sports athletes with life-threatening injuries

When: Tuesday, Aug. 30

Where: Copper Creek Golf Club at Copper Mountain

Cost: $200 single, $700 foursome

The tourney is open to 36 teams of four, with prized from sponsors like GoPro, Phunkshun Wear, Kind Design, Head Skis and more. A portion of all proceeds go to athletes recovering from injuries. To register or find out more, see cogolf.highfivesfoundation.org. For questions, call tourney organizer Steve Wallace at (530) 587-4453 or email at steve@highfivesfoundation.com.

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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

Green fees: $20-$75 for peak and mid-week; $15-$62 for off-peak

Phone: (970) 968-3333

Cart or bike rental is $12 for a full 18 or $6 for 9 holes. Season passes are currently $429 for unlimited play ($579 with a cart), and four-pack passes are $179. For reservations, course cards and lesson info, see the course website at http://www.coppercolorado.com.

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Keystone golf club

What: Two 18-hole courses, The River Course (Par 71) and Keystone Ranch (Par 72), with a mix of high-alpine elevation changes and traditional links play on the west edge of Keystone Mountain

The River: River Course Drive in Keystone

The Ranch: 1239 Keystone Ranch Road in Keystone

Green fees: $55-$150 (until Sept. 5), $55-$140 (Sept. 6-25), $55-$95 (Sept. 26 to Oct. 9, River only)

Phone: (970) 496-1488

A fall “fore park” is $276 and good from Sept. 1 to Oct. 9, with four transferable rounds of 18 on both courses after 11 a.m. A standby pass for the same time period is $700 for play after 1 p.m. based on availability. To purchase a season pass, schedule a tee time or find out more, see the golf page at http://www.keystoneresort.com or email keystonegolf@vailresorts.com.

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