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Western slope abounds in golf options

Austin Richardson
File photoThe course at Battlement Mesa features stunning views and great play.
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Golf in Colorado is only getting better.

Baby boomers moving to the mountains, or relocating to the warmer climes of western Colorado’s Grand Valley, have made golf a major industry.

Being the ski-centric state that it is, the powers-that-be decided there needed to be another draw to the Columbine State. A summertime option to keep the resorts going during those pesky, fair-weather months has turned into a real selling point for the mountain resort areas.

Golf was a natural choice. Summer in the Rockies is spectacular. The occasional summer squall only lasts a few minutes, but they are a dangerous few minutes for those swinging miniature lightning rods in open fields.

The difference between golf in the High Country and in the Grand Valley is price and pomp. Ritzy linksters on vacation can afford to pay $100 per round, or more, in the Vail Valley. Those seeking a more affordable option will do well for themselves by spending a few hours on I-70 traveling west.

Battlement Mesa offers dramatic views and fairways carved out of sagebrush. Although the greens are large, they can be tough to negotiate. Amenities like condos, a weight room, swimming pool and a host of alternate outdoor activities are a welcome change from a “golf only” area. Battlement Mesa is an excellent choice for families seeking a change from the traditional camping trip to Colorado.

The back nine of the Rifle Creek Golf Club is as good as any in the state. With more than reasonable prices, the course remains one of the Grand Valley’s hidden treasures.

And since the mining events at Leadville’s Boom Days have been slowly declining in popularity since the 1980s, summertime in the mountains needed a boost.

Plenty of water is needed for golf courses. Well, the mountains have water at least. The headwaters of the Arkansas River feed agriculture in eastern Colorado, the headwaters of the Colorado feed golf courses (and California, of course).

Water flowing west is wrangled into a photosynthetic dance in the desert. This gala has its own garb. Plaid knickers, spiked shoes and funny hats with poofy balls on top.

Tiara Rado Golf Course is near Grand Junction and is a municipal course. Being a public course, it’s affordable. Golf is one of those sports that make some people feel uncomfortable because they assume only the “upper crust” is involved. Municipal courses are driving home the point that isn’t necessarily the case.

Rick Elmer, pro shop assistant, handicap 3, said Tiara Rado caters to both low handicappers and duffers alike.

“The course suits two different kinds of play,” Elmer said. “It’s truly a course for all different types of players.”

With a great risk/reward setup, players can enjoy themselves thoroughly. For the more conservative of the bunch, there are holes designed with a “lay up” shot in mind. Adventurous players can “grip it and rip it” if they so desire. The combination of styles makes for a very challenging course with lots of opportunities to either succeed or fail.

During the spring season the normal size greens are fairly hard. However, Elmer said the greens soften with weather as the season progresses, presenting an even greater incentive to come in “high and soft” into the greens.

So go west. Enjoy the dramatic vistas and scenic drives on the way to the Grand Valley. Your golfing muse will whisper in your ear for months afterward, beckoning you back to the lush fairways and rock outcroppings of the Grand Valley.


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